Tuesday, May 28, 2013

After Dark, May 28, 2013

Sometimes things are just not fucking funny
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Laroquette make a podcast called Uhh Yeah Dude (UYD). On Marc Maron's sayso, I downloaded all 350-some-odd episodes and started listening from #1. As of this writing I am at #98. Every single episode has made me laugh out loud.


Also as I write this Radio-Canada has reported that Tyrone Benskin, the former artistic director of Black Theatre Workship and MP for the NDP now, has been kicked from the shadow cabinet for non-payment of provincial taxes. $58,000, says the news.

Before I even started writing this op I was in a pretty pissy mood. I am so tired of our goddam ruling class I want to flip. It is just a mountainous pile of crap that is now rolling down on all of us and threatening to make us all the hideous cynics we see every night among the poli-pundits. 

Why is this dangerous? Because art requires a certain generosity of spirit and lack of cynicism. Yes, it can comment, but when it tumbles into pure rage it can become as tedious as those pundits as a little bit of rage - on stage - goes a very long way indeed. 


During a break from work I sit on the balcony and listen to UYD. They find biting, hair-raisingly "improper" humour in real news. In a segment called "This Week in Florida" they chronicle the sunshine state's woes including the story of a door-to-door conman who passed himself off as a doctor and offered at-home breast exams. I laugh my fool ass off.


Then, of course, there's Rob Ford - a story that has lost all its humour for me and is just another depressing tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely. And WTF!, Barack, and the IRS and AP and Guantanamo and drones and sequestration! Unpotable water in Montreal! And Duffy and Wallin and Brazeau and and and and and... I mourn at all of this because things - important things - are not being taken care or. We are being devoured. Meanwhile theatres are reporting losses, weakening subscription numbers, well-reviewed plays not selling out.

But there's Twitter! There's Facebook! Surely the word about theatre is getting out there! No... Because Twitter and Facebook are relentless when it comes to stories about crack and criminal senators and right-wing governmental excess and left-wing governmental gutlessness. Twitter and Facebook are great tools but sometimes it can be as difficult to find other news I might care about there as it is to find them on CNN when they're on a Boston/Hurricane/Jodi Arias tear. 

We already suspected culture/art was low on people's priority list but - even amongst artists - it is getting lower still. Hidden by the "big" stories which come and go are stories of the working poor (most actors, playwrights and creatives fall in this class) truly struggling to continue working. Many of them - some of the best - give up.


Romatelli and Laroquette are going nuts. Their chemistry is brilliant. Romatelli is insanely quick and Laroquette laughs as madly as I do. Laroquette tells a story about being caught by his famous father, when he was a kid, masturbating. He paints the picture beautifully and I am in tears because I can almost see the reaction of Laroquette Senior. 

Here's the thing. These guys have been doing this since 2006 and, they told Maron last month, they don't make a living wage despite the absolute joy they bring to a fairly broad audience. Their listeners fall into two groups, I believe: those who expect everything for free and those who would support them if they could (as I would). The slogan on the website for UYD is "Older but poorer".

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like every theatre practitioner who can't charge a real price for the product they sell (as opposed to a price acceptable to their audience). Does this sound like the army of online workers who do it for love?

Thing is - Uhh Yeah Dude is just another quite brilliant voice lost in a true cacophony or, if you'll permit the phrase-making, Caco-phonies. Those phonies can be the moron who thinks he can do a podcast because anyone can (and can, into the bargain, get listed with UYD on iTunes). She can be the young woman who figured out iMovie and does truly miserable sketch comedy on YouTube. How about the blogger who has nothing to say but about everything! Sure!

There was a time when the best of the net rose to the top. No more. Not because there isn't a best but because instead of hearing them, we are talking about shit-bird senators, bathtub murderesses, Somali drug lords and crack-smoking mayors.

Politicians? How's that for Caco-phonies.

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