Art For Crap's Sake - Or Vice Versa
28 March, 2005 - 08:58 — Bryan Lambert
Memo to Angry Waiter 4am: YOU ARE DUMB.
Because, you know, it isn't enough that the political world is in shitty shape. That one man's meat-disposal troubles have become a national necrophilic orgy that has, at least, finally moved into that awkward phase where all the corpsefuckers are finding their socks and saying "see you next weekend" without making eye contact. That wasn't enough. Apparently, our leisure time has to be ruined as well.
You know, there used to be a time when you could trust groups of San Francisco artists. You could read the phrase "San Francisco art performance group", and have a pretty fucking reasonable idea of what you were going to get. You could also rest safely in the knowledge that whatever they did, odds are, there wasn't a chance in hell you'd ever see it in a sports bar. This is apparently no longer true, as the San Francisco art performance group "Angry Waiter 4am" has invented JOKE-E-OKE.
I can't imagine I actually need to explain it. As neologisms go, "joke-e-oke" is both horrifying and startlingly effective. You know, without me even saying it, that "joke-e-oke" is like karaoke, only with jokes instead of James Taylor songs. You know, without me telling you, that it's a phonetic and typographical nightmare just sitting there on the page like a turd on a wedding cake. And you know, without me going any farther, that it's an awful, awful idea for society. For humanity. For the planet.
But the devil is in the details, and going any further is what I do, my stock in trade, my avocation. So when I hear that people are actually standing in front of a crowd, reading "classic" routines by Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield, and Steven Wright off of a teleprompter while a packed crowd laughs along with a supplied laugh track or reads pre-programmed heckles off their own screen, I am forced, by my nature, to ask what, precisely, is your collective fucking dysfunction that would allow you to release this on an unsuspecting world?
I'm not saying that all art should be obtuse, avant-garde, or involve crosses and pee. But when you come up with something like "joke-e-oke", despite my normal left-liberal leanings, I truly believe the goverment should storm your house, kick in your door, and confiscate all your black turtlenecks and goatees, ideally for redistribution to the poor. If there's any question as to whether these people get to surrender their art credentials, allow me to perform a little piece for you. It explores man's verbal inhumanity to man through the fabric of society. I call it ACTUAL QUOTE TIME.
"We live in a reality-television age where normal people see themselves as the star. Joke-e-oke shows that everyone can be a star." - Hal Phillips of Angry Waiter 4am.
See, here's the thing. Everyone can't be a star. By definition, since if everyone were a star, how would we know? It's more accurate to say that ANYONE can be a star. That, at least, is supported by the whole "reality show" bullshit he spouted. But while anyone can be a star, let's face it. "Anyone" shouldn't be a star. William Hung shouldn't be a star. The naked Richard Hatch shouldn't be a star. The clothed Richard Hatch probably shouldn't be a star either. And the last thing we need is a bunch of anyones thinking they're stars because they read SOMEONE ELSE'S FUCKING JOKES off a teleprompter.
I mean, even within the world of "legitimate" stand-up, the idea of people coming to a show just to hear the "famous" jokes they've heard before, and laugh and cheer and hold up lighters like the Crue just went into the opening licks of "Home Sweet Home" pisses me off to no end. Nobody should have laughed at Seinfeld's airplane-food bullshit in the first place. And there damn well shouldn't be a crowd of self-proclaimed San-Fran hipsters cheering when one of their own goes into it. I mean, who are these people?
Hal Phillips isn't just a co-creator of joke-e-oke, he's also a client. Phillips took thousands of dollars worth of equipment, a public space, a stage, and all the energy of the San Francisco art scene, and used those resources to do... a Diceman impersonation. Because, you know, we needed that. The amount of ironic distance required to make an Andrew Dice Clay replica routine even remotely palatable can only be measured using the Hubble Space Telescope. Phillips managed about a foot and a half.
"It definitely felt like stepping into his shoes. People seem disposed, just for a moment, that I was Andrew Dice Clay." - What Phillips failed to mention was that, thinking he really was the Diceman, two dozen people in the crowd gave him drink orders, and another 30 or so gave him their coat check claim tickets. OH!
And lest you think you're safe, that you don't live in San Francisco, these "artists" are looking to make money off their idea, and spread it to your corner of the globe. "The performances in public are just a vehicle to get the Joke-e-oke product out there to the people to use for their own purposes, such as parties, social gatherings and home-entertainment use." They're coming. They will be here all week, and you will not be able to escape without trying the veal.