Category Archives: Show

The Gong Show

All of our work in the game show field came to a stunning pinnacle with our version of the Gong Show. 18 acts competed for a grand prize: Two Burning Man tickets and the BM Kit: a handful of drugs, sunblock, a pair of shitty bongos and two gallons of water. 

The show had it all: Danger! Comedy! Abandon! And our very own Popsicle Twins, the act that got the Gong Show cancelled from NBC in 1978. Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories built a giant pneumatic gong for the show, and acted as one of three judges, Lisa Leathertongue as the second judge, and Sebastian Melmouth as the third. 18 acts competed. Many were brutally gonged. The judges didn’t like David Jesse, the ukulele player, nor did they like Don Paul Swain, the knife thrower who put the love of his life against a wooden board and threw knives at her, hitting her in the chest three times. It was so sad to see all the air deflate from her chest, her mouth open in defiance, his love will need to be patched it seems. Those inflatable love dolls are expensive! 

The judges didn’t like the BMX bike troupe, who accidently smacked an audience member. They didn’t like the Popsicle Twins, who were just two 12-year-old girls eating popsicles. Slowly. Licking. The. Popsicles. Ok, they weren’t really 12 years old but it was the act that the censors ended the real Gong Show over, so we had to do it. This is 25 years ago, we would never do that now. Or would we? 

The judges did like Roller Rex, rollerskating over a ramp through an actual flaming hoop doing a flip into the crowd! They loved Mikl-Em and Seth trashing a hotel room. They adored the arial stylings of Sadie Masochista and the Harmon-arachies. It’s all in there!

Our Unknown Comic (Eric Solmanson) got drunk before the show so you can hardly understand his jokes. You’re not missing much. Our Gene Gene the Dancing Machine played by Godd Todd was a late edition to the show, the junk we throw at him from backstage is ACTUALLY just stuff that was around. ZERO preparation! Chaos Kitty sucking the mop has to be a historic moment in show business. 

Here is a list of the acts:

David Jessie Ukulele 

Capt. Catastrophe

Persephone

BMX bike troupe

Robert Burke the limbo king

Don Paul Swain knife thrower

Roller Rex

Popsicle Twins

Unknown Comic

Try This At Home

Unnamed Contortionist 

Harmonarahies

Sadie Masocista 

Gene Gene the Dancing Machine

Michael Pepe, monologist 

David Jessie, ukulele 

Chaos Kitties, Conjoined twin splodge act


You can watch the Gong Show video here:

30 minute edited version:


Here is the original 60 minute version, with the acts in their entirety:

Of course, this is just one of fifty game shows we did.

You can see some videos and photos here.

Some of the game shows were ones that you know, like Hollywood Squares:

Or Jeopardy:

But some of them were brand new ones that we wrote. Which isn’t easy!

Here is a photo from the show “Is It Art?”

Here Bill the friendly junkman gets a new look on “The Iron Barber”:

Here is one from my personal favorite: “What’s Up My Butt!”

I did game shows for like five years. Hal became the announcer, it was perfect. He is such a wealth of talent. Lera was the perfect scorekeeper, with her Stanford education, she was the most over-qualified person in any position for 500 miles in any direction. Here we are, ready to steward game shows and disperse valueless prizes:

We also simulcast the shows. In the photos and videos, you might see that the performance space is littered with TV’s. They all work. We would video the show as it was happening, and pump that signal (with no audio) to the TV’s. They were all set to black and white. It looked like this:

That’s why we wore all those tacky 70’s clothes. So when you looked at the TV, it looked like a re-run from a 70’s game show. It worked. The audience would watch the show either live, or on the TV’s. We would use a $25 broadcasting box we got at Radio Shack. It was only good for a couple hundred feet, and we would broadcast on UHF channel 13. This is how we did porneokie, but that my friend, is another story…

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Wizard of Ass

I got pissed off at Larry, and built the ugliest thing on the playa:

Larry wanted me to do something to help him in his battle with the Bureau of Land Management, in regards to providing dumpsters for the people. But we argued, and I did this instead.

Here is the best photo Larry ever took:

This is 1998. Burning  Man hadn’t turned into a rite of passage for Canadians yet. Larry and I had very different ideas of what BM was, what it could be and why. To me, the “No Spectators” thing was a command. It was top-down thinking. Them telling you what to do. The opposite of “Do Whatever You Want.”

Do Whatever You Want easily turns into Anything Can Happen. “No Spectators” is someone pushing you out on the dancefloor even though YOU HAVE SAID 20 TIMES YOU AREN’T IN THE MOOD FOR DANCING RIGHT NOW THANK YOU. 

Enjoy this video of the show I did called:

The Wizard of Ass

So as you can see, this turned into the Ask Dr. Hal Show. The premise was that the shadecloth that covered the scaffold would make it appear that the ass was floating in the night sky. People tripping balls at BM would see the ass and I would ask them to come and speak to the ass, to ask a question, perhaps. Well, what I didn’t count on was 2,000 people sitting in front of it waiting for ‘the show.’ So we lost that one aspect of it. But it worked as a ‘show’ as well. 

Come on, now. Can you see it?  Giant ass floating in space, you’re all hopped up on goofballs and the ass is talking to you? That’s pretty good, no? Talking to Hal is a trip just sitting with him at a table. I smoked a joint with him once, and he read the sports page to me from a newspaper and it was the funniest thing I ever heard. 

Last summer Hal and I did our 518th Ask Dr. Hal Show (23 years!) at the Wisteria Art and Music Festival. So something must be working… 


1998 was the year that we woke up Tuesday morning after the burn to three inches of water on the playa. 

Portable toilets overflowing. “Dome-ing,” as it were. I was still “the guy” back then, and was partially responsible for whatever went down there. I positioned my clean-up crew at the exits during the exodus, reporting to the revelers leaving that the sheriff is pulling over EVERY CAR. Best to leave your drugs with us. 

Well that was kind of a disaster. Garbage bags full of drugs. Unknown  baggies of who knows what. Weed forever. Pills. Works. Tar. It was a “go to jail forever” amount of drugs. We had enough mushrooms to fix an oil spill. Between the bounty of drugs and the rain (no one in, no one out) it was a perfect storm of bohemian slacker post-event bliss. I was elated by the screaming success of the Wizard of Ass. The video is short but we did the show for hours. It was impossibly grand.

Looking back, being trapped on the playa, all mudded in with a gaggle of freaks and dropouts on the heels of weeks of the hardest work anyone has ever done surrounded by the donations of the community was the freest I have ever felt. I mean, who’s got it better than us? NOBODY!!!!

Perez built a tower in our camp that year. It was so great to have a lookout and watch the sun set from the tower. 

The rain made clean up impossible. Everything was stuck. Had the rain come a day earlier, people would have died. No shit. The site would have been taken over by FEMA. Burning Man would have never happened again. It was a shitshow. Good times… 

Well, Hal and I sure do clean up nice. We both have fond memories of The Wizard of Ass. Larry said he watched the show, and “liked the juxtaposition of Hal’s above-the-collar and my below-the-belt.” 

chicken_hal_white_suit1

I miss Larry. The world is darker with him not in it. 

The 2007 Email Invite to: Circus Redickuless, a baker’s dozen years later

Circus Redickuless: Show and Review: 12 Galaxies
Saturday February 24th, 10:00  (2007)

In 1994 I wanted to do something that would impact culture to a degree that I couldn’t understand, using a tool that no one else was using. I couldn’t figger out how to do that, so I started a circus instead. I couldn’t have ever realized that the two would intersect in such a confluence; I ended up living my thesis of “Art for all purposes” using an interesting template…. “No content” as “the content.” I sold people on the idea of providing nothing in the form of a circus show as a way to embrace the most inspiring show we could do. We would have no talent, thereby giving access to anyone.

Then, I toured the show for five years. Actually, you could say I dragged the show around for five years… kicking and screaming and biting. If you could add up the calories spent in throwing a circus, it would likely rival a small war. In the end, I guess it worked. I am proud that I and those with me ‘tipped’ the circus idea and inspired the THOUSANDS of small, independent circuses that popped up here and there shortly after we toured. And longly. And they still are. That’s in the end. But in the beginning, it was just us. And boy, was it lonely. Lemme ‘splain: I call a club to book the circus. The conversation usually went like this:

CHICKEN:

        “Hello there, my name is Chicken John, I’m the director of a small, independent traveling circus that would like to play in your club. Do you have the night of April 23d available?”

GREASY CLUB OWNER:

        “A circus? What kind of music do you play?

CHICKEN:

         “Well, we’re not a band. We’re a circus. A full variety show.”

GREASY CLUB OWNER:
          “If you’re not a band, what kind of music do you play?”

On and on it went. You would say to people that you were a circus, and they would imagine clowns playing the guitar. No, just the clown. No guitar. A 25 person circus with 5 vehicles and 3 dogs. A full three hour show with lights and sound and acrobats and it’s all terrible. We put the OOOP in TROUPE, but we haven’t any talent. It’s the show of schmoes… blab la bla… I would try to explain that we couldn’t actually do anything but that it was actually better. Higher art. That was at first. I of course stopped doing that because no one wanted to book that. I ended up prostituting the idea that, indeed, clowns play the guitar. Clown girls doing strip teases. With, of course, giant boobs. Yes, we juggle. No one got it. Not even most of the people in the troupe. Unbowed, I continued. I thought that I would crack the code. Figger it out. Collect bling. I was young. 

I’m no longer young. But the idea of the circus was an odd Zeitgeist that I participated in.  A renaissance of art. There were a small handful of people who had a proclivity for the old ways… and in 1994, if you remember, it was all about particle board and the Pontiac Fiero. Interesting thing about particle board, like plywood isn’t made of particles… but I digress. The destination was marked, and we all ran screaming towards it. But like an oasis in the desert, the destination kept getting farther instead of further… and we ended up REPLACING instead of changing culture. Capice? It’s not bad, but it’s terribly interesting. It wasn’t a hobby, something that we did while holding down jobs and paying bills. We wandered from town to town trying to get people to come see a show that championed the amateur and the improvisation of a group of idiots with no talent. Without a dollar in our pockets. Seasons melted into years. Affecting culture and living your life as art blurred into survival. It became Quixotic. 

I guess I’m still doing the same thing. Kinda. All the people of the circus were affected by it, understand it and are still contributing in some way. A lot of years have gone by. All the circus people scattered to the four winds. A few of them are gonna come out and play Saturday night, at 12 Galaxies. Why Saturday the 24th of February?

Dammit the Amazing Wonderdog is turning 17 years old. This dog is better traveled then most people I know. She has had the most attention that a dog can possibly have. 25 people to throw the stick. Adoring fans. Her image on t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs and all of Hal Robins’ artwork for the circus. We named the production company after her. She was the only star of the circus. She had a theme song. She is now old. She had a little stroke thing, and is a little crooked. Listing, actually. I want Dammit to hear her song again. I want her to hear the roar of the crowd as she absolutely refuses to jump through the hoop. I want her to take home underage girls from Orinda after the show and tie them up and… oh wait, I do that not Dammit… I want her to do it again while she still can. And she can. Barely, but yes. She can. 

Have you never seen Dammit’s act? Or Jarico’s? Did you know that the Bike Rodeo, the Black Label bike club and the Hard Times guys and Burning Man’s DPW were, at one time, soldiers that saluted one flag? That flag, ladies and gentlemen… was the Circus Redickuless. 

An insult more then a concept, we took acts that generations of people honed to perfection and obliterated them with comedy and beer. With Jim Mason’s Vegomatic of the Apocalypse in the parking lot out back. A gang of angry drunk idiots on tall bikes and clowns that were molesting your girlfriend in the toilet. We were the island of misfit toys on tour. It was an experiment in freedom. In pre-9/11 America. I don’t think you could do that today. The touring part, not the performing part. You can see the performing part in everywhere. It tipped. ‘Other’ entertainments are now the norm. 

As with the Odeon. When I opened the Odeon (the project after the circus) I only booked things that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. By the end of the Odeon’s usefulness, I was competing with all other clubs in SF for ‘my’ acts. Problem solved, time to move on. I’m not saying we were the only ones breaking that horse… I’m just saying that we helped. We’ll have to wait until HBO does the made-for-TV-movie of Steven Raspa’s life before we find out who was REALLY responsible for the ideas that ‘broke’ fun fur and fedoras… and I am not going to be the first person to write a book about something that omits a person or two because I’m an asshole. There are books. And a lot more. 

There is a movie. Phil Glau made a 87 minute film (16mm). A tour chronicle. Tour de Farce. It won 17 film festivals. It’s hard to watch. You’re depressed when it’s done. He just put it out on DVD, with some “10 years later” footage at the end. Seeing Jarico a dozen years ago is magical. We were all children. Dannygirl, Michael Gump, Mark Miller… they will all be at the show. Also David Apocalypse, maybe Tall Who Is Paul, and if we’re lucky we may get author Brian Doherty (This is Burning Man) to do his famous “Human Human” act. Phil will be there with his new DVD. You won’t buy it, but you will feel comforted that you could Google it if ya really wanted to. It’s nice to have that kind of ‘access.’ 

The final nail in the coffin of the Circus was a 13 page spread in Spin magazine. I probably don’t have to tell you what happened after that… lets just say that we couldn’t live up to our own hype. As no one really can. Defined by a story, and no longer available to possibility, the honeymoon ended. No one could run away fast enough. 

We all likely wish we didn’t, now. 

Relevance? You want it to be relevant? You want a point to refer to, so you might understand what is so interesting about a circus with no talent that acted as a catch-all for idiots and savants with no social skills? “This is the only show of its kind!!! Do not settle for expensive imitations…” I’m not taking credit for the Daily Show here… ah fuck it. Yes I am. Incremental steps twards success. Fact is that if Scott Beale didn’t stop, drop and roll and figger out how to make a BBS board and wasn’t a fan of odd and unlikely variety arts, the new renaissance of art would have been a side dish served cold at raves and at warehouse parties that no one could find out about. Scott’s tactical advantage was not only was he presenting something new, but the device that he was using was new as well. And because he’s more interested in playing with tools than counting the money, me and you can freeze the clocks and converse here in cyberspace and huddle in our shelter safe from the machines. For now. 

The Circus Redickuless was a great thing. Come witness failure defeated, mutated into something that can be argued as a sucsess that may or may not be amusing to watch. 

Thrill!

            To the unyielding SPEEDMETAL TAPDANCE

Chill!

            The bone chilling spectacle of the GREAT SILLOUETTO, shadow puppeteer

Spill!

            Your drink, while whistling to Dylan our supple, milky REVERSE STRIPPER

Weep!

            Dr. Hal brings you the truth of the future with OUIGI RAIDO

Puke!

            Our VEGAN GEEK will bite the head off a lettuce

Gargle!

            As our JUGGLER astounds gravity

Blush!

            At our scantily clad TEMPORARALY TATTOOED MAN

Rock!

            To the sounds of the ODEON ALL STAR BAND

Hail!

            To the only star of the circus: DAMMIT THE WONDERDOG

Cringe!

            Ringmonster CHICKEN JOHN sticks stuff up his nose and pulls it out his butt

I sent this to my pal Jim Mason, to see if it was too gushy to send out. This is his response, and a good ending to my bla bla… I hope to see you at the show…

“chicken, you lying whore of black truth.  the circus was nothing like this.  there was no magic of youth and wide open fields of creative discover.  it was, in actuality, the most brutal, degrading, and generally smelly 3 weeks i’ve ever spent in my life.  easily.

nothing about it was redeeming or zeitgeist altering.  but somehow, through some typed incantations, you have proved yet again that withadequate verbal shamalama, the worst and most depressing of human degradations can be respun as high art and creative transcendence. refried bean cans scraped open on the sidewalk and all. if your mother only knew . . . go ahead send it out.

 Jim”