Inspired by my crazy adventures as a performer on the road,
this is the story
of two performance artists who cook up the ultimate performance: to kidnap their
billionaire boss...and turn him into the wildest
performance artist the world's ever seen.
What a year. Coronavirus. Insane politics. Death of Justice Ruth Ginsburg. And still, in the hardest year in recent memory, so many dreamers continued making art. I’ve never been so exhausted, yet so inspired at the same time. I hope you found moments of inspiration too. Here are a few highlights for me:
Since coronavirus canceled most of my performance art shows, I decided to film all of the crazy ideas that I wanted to perform on stage in 2020. The surreal result is called It’s Almost Over, which one viewer called “David Lynch-esque” — the highest compliment for me, everrr.
Rattle Rattle, the short film I made with KayDee Kersten, made it into 9 film festivals in 2020, and our feature screenplay Dark Silo — which won Best Original Screenplay at the Burbank International Film Festival — moved us one step closer to landing an agent.
My award-winning, clown-comedian friend Natalie Palamides crushed 2020 with her new Amy Poehler-produced Netflix special, NATE. If you didn’t see the live show in Edinburgh, New York, or L.A. (or if you didn’t catch Nat back in her salad days), you’re in luck, because Netflix did an incredible job of capturing NATE’s insane and fearless magic. Don’t miss it!
2020 saw me finish a third of my Ph.D. work in parapsychology and metaphysics, with an emphasis on healing and occult practices. My studies inspired me to write a TV/streaming series pilot about a becoming-magician, with more historical realism than most other occult films or shows I’ve seen. Stay tuned!
Lastly, with my performances canceled, my primary stress release in 2020 was running up into the Verdugo Mountains that ring Burbank. I covered 1,050+ miles, with 120,000+ feet of vertical gain, which is like climbing Mt. Everest 4 times — not bad. I also did some running in the open desert around 29 Palms, where I accidentally stumbled onto a bombing range, and got chased off by a Marine helicopter ‐ see pic below. What an adventure. (P.S., if you’re a runner on Strava, come be my friend!)
Performance artists (like standup comedians) believe that performing within a day of January 1st is mandatory if you want to ensure good luck for the coming year.
I can’t remember who first handed me this superstition, but I obey it religiously, though, I’ll admit, sometimes with a last-minute scramble to find an available stage or mic with the year’s final hours dwindling. It doesn’t have to be a pro venue, mind you; performing three minutes in a watering hole or an alley for a few drunken cohorts earns you the Karma.
My 2015 started with a healthy dose of luck: the photo above was taken during Doppelganger, a performance to celebrate Year of the Sheep at the beautiful new ALoft Gallery in Ventura, California on January 2nd.
(I don’t always perform in front of mirrors, but when I do, I like to scribble WOLF on my back and dress up like a Dutch girl covered in cottonballs).
For me, the Sheep arrives right on time as a reminder of the Bruegel parades of blind leading the blind, with the most glaring example perhaps being the screaming pitch of shitty throwaway culture and memes now born, mindlessly traded, and then discarded at terrifying Internet speeds—and I’m as culpable as anyone for adding to the bright-n-shiny baubles that increasingly distract us from digging in to become something greater.
Forget mere loss of spirituality; I’m talking about the forgetting of something far more primal: what it feels like to be a living alien creature, evolved but still part animal, now imbued with the potential to imagine and dream, inventing rituals as we go, conversing with plants and stars, on a planet spinning through cold, empty space. Maybe I’m not alone. Do you feel it? Your primordial ancestors beckoning to you through your DNA to remember what magic feels like? The call to invent from the gaping maw of nothing instead of just consume?
I drove to Arizona last month. At the risk of sounding like a mid-life-crisis Burner cliché, the time I spent in that rugged expanse of desert emptiness pried me open with an irresistible call to reconnect with my primality and instincts that have been rendered barely detectable beneath the raging din of commercial, political, technological, and dilettante clutter.
Your list of resolutions for 2015 may be long, but if you’re inclined, maybe scribble somewhere near the top:
First things first: the 100 Performances for the Hole at SOMArts January 4th in San Francisco killed, with 100 consecutive performers each doing a 4-minute piece in a 4-foot concrete hole in the gallery’s floor. The crowds were amazing—half drunk and game for anything, their numbers ranged from 200 to 400 at any given moment. My inner art critic felt there wasn’t enough site-specific attention paid to the hole by the performers generally, but there were some amazing spectacles nonetheless, with one of my favorite pieces being “Bare Suit” by 100-Hole veteran, Pete Ippel.
My piece, Echolocation for the Unconscious, involved a quick rundown on the history of the mischievous Greek nymph Echo, tips for measuring echo distances in time and space (the distance from yourself to yourself), and then my following my echoes down into the concrete rabbit’s hole with the aid of a rappelling harness and rope. Fortunately, the far end of the rope was held tight by my pals Ryan and Patrick, two super-strong dudes. But unfortunately, the ground was slippery from a prior band of performers who’d sprayed the floor with tissue paper confetti. When the time came to rappel, my helpers slipped on the paper, causing me to fall 4 feet (almost) flat on my face…but it looked great. I only suffered a busted-up thumb and a pulled shoulder. And in its drunken exuberance, audience members began echoing everything I said almost from the beginning—sometimes a few people, other times hundreds—the sound was gorgeous. No doubt, somewhere Echo was laughing her ass off off off.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY: I just learned that the bound galleys for Two Performance Artists have arrived! They’re large & sexy, a full 8.5 x 11″ for easy reading, and available in E-formats also for Kindles, iPads, and all the rest. If you’re a book reviewer, hit me up for your copy! The novel comes out April 10th—just three months away!
Tickets for THE ROUGHHAUSERS in Scotland are going fast…if you’re at the Edinburgh Fringe next week, come see our old timey sideshow at the Drill Hall in Leith Aug 26+27 at 8PM. Comedy, mentalism, limb skewering, sleight of hand, pickpocketing, burlesque, aerial, my boobs, and more as we close out the festival! Only £10! Anddddd: you can catch all the action from afar in our travelogues, which will be posted here as we go: roughhausers.blogspot.com.
Come laugh your ass off at the Comedy Store Saturday April 9 at 8PM! I’ll be doing a new bit about plastic bags and Quentin Tarantino, and I still have a few discounted tickets left…. And check back here in May, when I should have dates up for the Laugh Factory, where I was just passed into their regular rotation of comics. If you stick around after the show, who knows, you might even get to touch Kevin Nealon (see below…).
I’m also prepping for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the fall, where I’ll be performing the week of August 25 (date and venue TBD) with L.A. burlesque hottie Ridley Barlow as The Roughhausers in a madcap Victorian era sideshow with bizarre magic, vanishing clothes, Dada stunts, comedy, and more. It turns out Ridley is a direct descendant of King Robert I, so maybe they’ll let us stay in a castle while we’re there…or not…so far this week I’ve been told to fuck off three times by Scots…I’m starting to think it’s their way of saying hello…. To drum up an audience, we’ll be doing a street act during the week that includes performance art (a brand new piece I’m calling “Songs with a Brick”), stunts, sleight of hand, and maybe a little pickpocketing. If you’re coming to the Fringe, let me know!
I grew up in Fresno. Even though it’s the 6th largest city in California, it’s always had a small town feel, which might be why it’s the butt of so many jokes by Californians. Like its cousin Bakersfield to the south, Fresno’s been the punchline to every predictable zinger about inglorious cow towns, dustbowls, trailer trash, rednecks, inbreeding….
It doesn’t help that the city is culturally torn between San Francisco to the north and L.A. to the south, with generous helpings of Mexico, Tucson, and 1970s ticky-tacky thrown in. Or that the approach on highway 99 is met with the aroma of cow manure. Or that summer temperatures regularly climb to 110 degrees. Or that you’ll see trucks, cars, motorcycles, and horses with gun racks. Or that K-Fed lived there—and Jeffrey Dahmer’s mom. Or that local radio stations play music that’s 15 years behind the times. Or that smog hangs low in the sky—the county’s air quality is ranked as the third worst in the nation by the American Lung Association, with 16% of Fresno children suffering chronic asthma; I still remember coughing up brown specks of blood as a kid.
But come on. Really. Fresno’s more than the sum of its punchlines. First, it’s not a small town—it has 10 high schools, 450,000 residents, and nearly a million people in the greater metropolitan area that serves as the gateway to 1200 majestic square miles of Yosemite national park. Fresno’s ag economy was worth $4.8 billion in 2006, making it the largest in the nation. The town’s produced a long list of stunning writers (William Saroyan, Gary Soto, Philip Levine, Deborah Blum), film stars (director Sam Peckinpah, singer-actress Cher), scholars, and yes, even athletes—can you guess which cow town clinched the 2008 NCAA national baseball title? That’s right. But best of all, Fresno’s the birthplace of Popping, which every dorky-cool 70s/80s kid has tried; I still remember pop-offs in my high school parking lot where a pair of poppers would clear a space between a Pinto and a low-rider Ford and get busy on the 200-degree asphalt; hell, you had to dance or your shoes would melt.
So in my hometown’s defense, here are my favorite Fresno memories of the 70s and 80s, abbreviated for your pleasure: jumping dirt hills in the surrounding fields on my banana seat bike while listening to “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” by Hall and Oates; dumpster-diving behind St. Agnes hospital at 4 a.m. where my brother and I would find used medical syringes, fill them with water, and spray each other while giggling; playing Marco Polo in blistering heat with my sister and the occasional frog in our pool; pretending to be a mannequin in the display window at Macy’s department store; running from the cops through the grape vineyards north of Fresno State; purloining beers at rich kid Alex’s house, and accidentally setting off his alarm system that caused steel riot shades to come sliding down over all the windows; Me ‘n Eds pizza at the corner of First and Bullard—best in the whole damn world, and I’ve tried them all from L.A. to Florence; KKDJ playing Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, AC/DC, and all the rest; years of Karate at Way of Japan, where Sensei Robert Halliburton let me slug him in his rock-hard gut as hard as I wanted till my 12-year-old knuckles bled; eating so many cinnamon rolls at the Fresno Fair that I puked in the Arts and Crafts building; using a computer war dialer to get toll-free phone calls, then lying low when my older hacker friends got busted by the FBI; seeing Fleetwood Mac for the first time with my sister on a hot summer night; road-tripping to Berkeley’s hookeresque Flamingo Motel with my debate team pals where we caught roaches in our rooms, danced to New Order, and watched the underwearless ladies stroll by outside; breaking into a car, then getting chased down and wrestled to the ground by its owner, which turned out to be a female probation officer; dodging the ever-present school bullies; skipping through a dirt field with my brother and coming upon a sign that read WARNING: SOIL MAY CONTAIN RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINANTS; staying up late to watch kung fu films, then reenacting the moves in my backyard at 2 a.m. in pitch black 90-degree weather with my dad till one of us got socked in the dark; breaking windows and getting chased by dogs along my newspaper route; laughing so hard at the dinner table that milk came out my nose; getting so pissed at my sister’s eavesdropping that I threw her phone through her bedroom’s glass window; crawling under the house to collect little skeletons of insects and rats; dodging my granny Elda’s stink eye; and best of all, peeing into a plastic Spiderman cup in front of my brother as a joke…then watching his horror when my unknowing mom filled it with milk and set it down in front of him at dinner. He’s avoided Spiderman cups ever since.