Not So Innocently Abroad
Exposition House Press
★★★★★ (5 out of 5 Stars)
“Ken Richters is a Mark Twain impersonator, bringing the brash wit and razor-sharp insight of Mr. Clemens back to life, and he has a remarkable knack for not only embodying the Twain we know, but giving us a glimpse of what he might have thought of the modern era. So when Richters was given the chance to retrace the route that Twain took through Russia and Eastern Europe during Innocents Abroad, he leapt at the opportunity (after briefly considering whether it was a plot to sneakily deport him).
Not So Innocently Abroad chronicles Richters' journey across the former Soviet region, and he proves as affable, open, and genuinely appreciative of the Russian tour as Twain was. He provides fascinating local color, and always casts himself as the target of mockery, never the cultures he encounters. There's a wonderful class to Richters' affectionate observations of these far-flung locales.
Most importantly, the book is pretty darn funny. The utterly shameless opening story about his dalliance with a Russian ballerina named Svetlana is the perfect mood setter for both our narrator and his take on Twain's humor. There were plenty of chuckles to be had along the way, as Richters offered both his insights and the Twainian perspective on each city he visited.
And, like all great travelogues, it gave me a renewed appreciation for the destinations themselves. It never occurred to me that Russians would be as fond of Twain as we are, and to see such enthusiasm through the author's eyes was a marvelous experience.
As thoughtful as it is enjoyable, Not So Innocently Abroad is not only the perfect companion piece to Twain's own work, but it's a tremendous look at how much (and how little) time changes people's perspectives around the world. What a treat!”
by Ken Richters
AMAZON.COM BOOK DESCRIPTION
From award-winning actor and playwright Ken Richters comes this original, irreverent, and funny travel memoir of his month-long U.S. Department of State goodwill tour of Russia and Ukraine. Before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region, and after spending more than 30 years performing as Mark Twain (satirizing every government official and politician within earshot), the actor received a series of furtive phone calls from Hillary Clinton's State Department asking him to leave the United States for the former Soviet Union.
Richters agreed to the performance tour, but the diplomatic communiqués left him to wonder if the proposed trip was an “official” State Department trip, or sinister plot by one of the many politicians and government officials he offended during his career (including seven U.S. senators, fifteen past and present members of Congress, twenty-six state governors, countless local politicians from all fifty states and a sitting justice of the United States Supreme Court) to have him permanently “disappeared.”
Originally scheduled for two shows in Moscow, the mission was extended for nearly a month to retrace Twain's travels in Eastern Europe. The book chronicles performance stops in Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, Simferopol, Sevastopol, and the Livadia Palace in Yalta; almost causing a diplomatic incident involving the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea; hallucinating on a road trip while taking suprisingly-powerful over-the-counter Ukranian medication, seeing a naked Oprah Winfrey and matryoshka doll juggling monkey riding shotgun, after self-medicating in an attempt to cure the Crimean Croup; and how, unknowingly, making the same observation about the beauty of Ukrainian women that caused Vice President Joe Biden public ridicule, elevated Richters to a Ukrainian media cause célèbre.