Sunday, August 22, 2004

Home-Grown Talent

Last night B and I went to the Portland Mercury's talent show at the Aladdin.

As this seemed to be the latest incarnation of the Mrs. Portland Mercury Contests we attended the previous two years, we were expecting some unusual talents. Past contests have featured a woman reciting "Jabberwocky" and punctuating the recitation with a few squirts of breast milk and an interpretive dance done to rap music by a woman dressed up in a fuzzy giant gingerbread man suit. We were hoping for more along those lines this year.

We weren't disappointed. For a mere five bucks we got a line-up of 14 talents--both "straight" talents and "wacky" talents--and about two hours' worth of entertainment.

The evening started out with Wm™ Steven Humphrey, so-called editor of the Mercury, bounding on stage accompanied by the Pizzazz dancers, three fat women dressed in cheerleader costumes that did a rap/hip hop dance while the Hump rapped. Pretty good.

The 14 talents then all performed (no intermission) and the judges (who had no particular qualifications, with the exception of one guy who is a talent scout for some local company that casts commercials. He swilled down at least six beers during the show, which I believe interfered with his judgment) chose the winners.

And the winners were:

3rd Place: Two members of the Drag Kings who dressed sort of like heavy metal guys and lip synched and played out a little scenario about these two mulleted guys falling in love with each other over cans of Bud and a heart-shaped box of Hershey Kisses. It was much funnier than I'm making it sound.

2nd Place: Ricky Duran. This was a 15-year-old boy who did stand-up. I do think the kid maybe had some potential to eventually be a competent (never outstanding) amateur comic, but at this point in his life that potential is far from being realized. His jokes were either unfunny, age-inappropriate, or in poor taste, e.g., "I was getting too fat, so I lost 80 lbs. My anorexic girlfriend died." A lot of his jokes were about sex or drugs, and, I'm sorry, but it is painfully apparent that these jokes could not have been drawn from the kid's own experience, which I think is fundamental to good comedy. I can only assume that the judges awarded this kid 2nd place out of pity.

1st Place: Two rappers. I did not agree with this at all, but I knew that they would win because I could see the judges going crazy for their boring, repetitive, overly long performance. Here's what these two white guys did. One supplied the "music" by holding the mike very close to his mouth to achieve various sounds and noises. That was entertaining for about 15 seconds. The other guy rapped in an extremely white boy way, at one point throwing in a line from a John Mellancamp song and thus exposing their real roots. I admit that I have no tolerance for or understanding of rap, but I really don't think that any real African American rapper would have found this performance anything but laughable. But what do I know? One of the judges was African American and she seemed to be really getting into it. Whatever.

Now if I were judging the talent, things would have played out very differently.

3rd Place: Jackie Night. This was a woman with long corkscrews of red hair who looked like a cross between Tiny Tim and Sandra Bernhard. As a self-taught electric guitar player, she played an original composition that relied very heavily on reverb, harmonics, the whammy bar, and unorthodox bar chords. I don't think she even knows basic chords. I quite liked it, though. Plus, it was very clear that she was a truly strange person. She really got into her performance and had no self-consciousness about her playing even though it was really nothing more than noodling around with the fun bells and whistles on an electric guitar--something most people would be too embarrassed to do in public.

2nd Place: Leggs Malone. Leggs, a chubby late thirtyish woman dressed in torn fishnets, a black leotard, and a red fedora, did an interpretive "jazz" dance to Van Halen's "Panama." She made no attempt to do anything remotely challenging (fine with me), but she did quite a few David Lee Roth-inspired moves, which I found hilarious. At one point she incorporated a streamer flag into the mix, which was reminiscent of Edie's dance in Grey Gardens. Classic.

1st Place: The two Drag Kings. See above. These two women managed to sustain my interest throughout their performance better than any of the other talents. Also, they tossed some of their Hershey kisses out to the audience, one of which landed at my feet. That may have been a factor in their edging out Leggs Malone.

Also Rans (in no particular order):

A guy that played some '80s tunes (e.g., Hall and Oates) on the ukelele (which he totally whaled on). Quite good. I maybe would have put him in 4th place.

Black Venus. This guy was a cross-dresser in thigh-high vinyl platform boots, a corset, a long black wig, troweled-on makeup, and red bikini underwear with augmented package. His (her) main talent seemed to be strutting. He (she) was definitely the best dressed.

An African American female rapper who sang a song that was, according to her partner (a fat white guy) "all about her." Repetitious and boring (to me) like all rap. Featured a refrain that went like this: "me, me, me, me, me." One of my least favorites.

A 19-year-old girl who (seriously) sang "To Sir, with Love," which the Hump claimed was his favorite song of all time. She seemed like a sweet girl and sang the song competently enough, accompanied by the earnest guitar strummings of her boyfriend who was twice her height.

A woman who did "mental gymnastics." The Hump or the judges would give her a word and she would respell it in alphabetical order--practically instantaneously. Hard to know what to make of her talent. BTW: She refused to do supercalifragilisticexpalladocious.

A man who played "Mapleleaf Rag" on an electric keyboard. He did a reasonable job.

A guy who played the musical saw. This guy was sitting in front of us before the show started and his appearance and comments rubbed me the wrong way. He was one of those guys who wears a porkpie hat and dresses in baggy 1940s-style trousers and Converse high-tops, but doesn't realize that cultivating that look is about 20 years out of date now. Also, he felt it necessary to try to make humorous comments in response to what the Hump said. His comments were not in the least humorous. Final, nail-in-the-coffin turnoff? His stage name was "Squish." He was not particularly good at playing the saw either (if it is even possible to play the saw well).

Two really unfunny clowns. One strummed away on the banjo and the other one blindfolded him and guess what? He could still "play"! So uncreative. At one point he laid down on crushed glass while the other one stood on his chest. Huh? What's funny about that? Their whole act was tiresome and pointless.

That's all I care to comment on.

I should note that the audience was very kind, giving goodly rounds of applause to everyone--even the "straight" acts like the "Mapleleaf Rag" guy and the "To Sir, with Love" girl.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote:
"if it is even possible to play the saw well."

Please check out to listen to a great saw player. I wonder what you'll think.


10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for liking leggs. i can't believe you edged me out over some stupid hershey's kisses! ;) sorry you didn't like the rappers. they actually were very amazing. and i agree about jaquie knight. my very fave.

5:58 PM  

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