Sage Viscovi reviews Wham City Comedy’s This Tour Has People On It 2016
At the rise of the 2000’s in the wealthy (and thus, appropriately named) hamlet of Purchase, NY convened a group of college students driven by a common interest in art and performance. This passion flourished as they relocated to Baltimore and established an underground show space within the famous Copycat Building a few years later. This endeavor was founded as Wham City, a collective whose members include musicians Dan Deacon and Ed Schrader, visual artists Jimmy Joe Roche, Dina Kelberman, and Connor M. Kizer, and the creators of what would become Wham City Comedy – Robby Rackleff, Alan Resnick, and Ben O’Brien.
Resnick and O’Brien organized Wham City Comedy as an east-coast skit-comedy and stand-up tour in 2010. Aside from Wham City Comedy, its members have created a series of infomercials for Adult Swim such as Unedited Footage of a Bear, Live Forever As You Are Now with Alan Resnick, Commencement Speech, and This House Has People In It, the name of their 5th US tour as well.
Their latest tour description on their website reads as follows:
“We’re about to embark on our 5th US tour so please come and see us because we are doing very, very badly. We are slowly being crushed beneath a behemoth of responsibilities that we can’t even barely comprehend, while our mental and emotional stability hangs by a thread all so that we can ‘fulfill our dreams’ – we don’t even have dreams anymore because we don’t sleep, we just lay awake at night thinking about e- mail. We just thought it would be better than this. We thought comedy would save us, but oh god we fucked up so, so bad. We suck and we hate ourselves. Please, please, please come to our shows or watch our videos – WE ARE DYING.”
If that didn’t contain enough clues for what I was about to witness on one of the last dates of their tour, I don’t know what would’ve. Their tour’s homecoming shows were housed in Station North’s multipurpose Metro Gallery, which boasts a performance space, gallery, and bar. Since 2007, the gallery has curated shows with focus on emerging artists and featured a number of indie recording artists including The Antlers, Andrew WK, Beach House, We Are Scientists, and Future Islands. Looking around, the audience for Wham City Comedy ranged from adults in their 30’s to older adults attending with their tween children to even a few students I recognized from MICA.
Opening act Laura Webster
The show began with two opening acts. The first was Laura Webster, whose act dissertated on ideas of feminism, having children, and the unrealistic dialogue between characters on police television dramas. Her witty and sarcastic humor reminded me of the comedy of fellow Baltimorean artist Christine Ferrara, who performed a stand-up showcase at The Crown last autumn.
￼Opening act Cricket Arrison
Following her brief act was Cricket Arrison, a Baltimore-based producer, theater-maker, performance artist, and occasional journalist. She has performed with a number of Baltimore theater groups including Psychic Readings, Baltimore Theatre Project, The Annex Theater, and The Acme Corporation, and has performed solo at various venues, galleries, and festivals. Her act was done entirely while exercising dressed in active wear, and was an energetic beat-down of challenging subjects regarding politics, sexual organs, and self-empowerment. Her act was the starting point for a long night of farcical skits.
Then, the headlining act appeared onstage and almost immediately began to watch an episode of Minority Report on the large screen behind them. For a short moment, I was afraid that this was going to be the entire performance and I had somehow misunderstood the event description before arriving. After a couple minutes of viewing, however, Rackleff paused the show after noticing that the other two were actually in the background of the episode with O’Brien down on one knee proposing to Resnick. And this was only just the beginning of the comedic frenzy that would ensue.
Ben O’Brien as Scoop O’Daniels
After a terse and psychedelic video interlude, O’Brien reappeared onstage wearing a tracksuit and wielding a football with Rackleff not far behind with a large notepad. Introducing the segment as “Sport Scoop with Scoop O’Daniels”, O’Daniels (O’Brien) proceeded to instruct the audience about life success through his step-by-step training program while occasionally hinting at past child molestation accusations.
Alan Resnick on codecs and file compression
Following this, Resnick (dressed in a vibrant red sweater, football pants, and a neck brace) went into an intense PowerPoint presentation on codecs and file compression, stating that anything can be compressed if you try. He also revealed a social media prank that involved the fake publicity of his death, involving one particular Facebook post where his friends posted a video montage of him set to the tune of Green Day’s “Good Riddance” with the caption “u r dead I miss you bro”. Given that Green Day has been my favorite band for almost 12 years, this scene was up there on my list for the evening.
After this was yet another PowerPoint, this time by Rackleff and on the topic of “crumbles”: the history of crumbles, variations of crumbles, crumble hybrids… you name it. The absurd, quick-paced presentation was packed with references to Best Buy® and the occasional green-screened video of Rackleff slapping his own thighs (which apparently was meant to be solely for his wife).
Ben O’Brien as “Earth Universe”
Next, O’Brien returned to the stage under the moniker “Earth Universe” dressed with a brown vest, several bracelets, a key on a string around his head, and no shoes. He hastily encouraged the audience to join his cult, which involved cultural appropriation and an indulgence in only the most natural ingredients (such as raw eggs and Dr. Bronner’s soap, both of which he consumed live onstage at the end).
￼Alan Resnick as Officer Cranberry
In probably what was the most kooky portion of the evening, Resnick transformed himself through facial prosthetics and a hell-of-a-lot of baby powder into Officer Cranberry – a freakish, bowl-cut retired cop who collected the microphones onstage as his act went on. Not that it helped in any way, since Cranberry’s entire monologue was addressed in mumbles adding to the overall awkwardness of the character. Throughout this “monologue”, he displayed various stock pictures of women and children with before-and-after shots of him poorly drawing over their arms with penises.
Me feeding Robby Rackleff applesauce onstage
The next segment about Rackleff’s new original short play involved an audience participant, and feeling rather spontaneous… that volunteer just happened to be myself! As I made my way up the stairs, he handed me a plastic gown, gloves, paper facemask, and rubber goggles to put on and that my singular role (Carl, he called me) would be to feed him applesauce when the time was right.
He went off to go change into a hospital gown and forearm crutches, and after a long period of him struggling to walk onto the stage, his sweaty dramatic monologue commenced. He told the audience about his troubled and sickly past, hoping that “Carl” would never have to face the tragedies he has.
As I went to feed him applesauce, he smacked the container out of my hand and began yelling to the point where O’Brien lept on stage and had to hold him down with a crowbar (and then of course, stopped to take a selfie with me before running off). Once Rackleff calmed down, the monologue continued and ended with him on his knees kissing my hands and holding them against his forehead for a solid minute. End scene.￼
Ben O’Brien as Creg
In the final scene of the evening, O’Brien appeared onstage first as aspiring rapper “Creg”, and Rackleff came on shortly after as “Kid Napkins” as he proceeded to throw, as one would anticipate, napkins at the audience members. After a short audience interview, they announced the actual the main character: “Me-Mimes” (Resnick), a mime coated head-to-toe in white.
As three more audience volunteers were brought onto the stage, a game show arose, where they could guess what Me-Mimes was miming or face being (imaginarily) shot through the head. After two failed attempts, the third volunteer was challenged with guessing correctly or else Me-Mimes would commit suicide. She failed, and Me-Mimes “hung” himself onstage… ending the show on a sad but incomprehensibly charming note.
Author Sage Viscovi is a senior at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a student intern for BmoreArt.
All Photos by Sage Viscovi