February 19th, 2007


Bob NewArt slays and dies nightly

So, there's this guy, right. He walks into an art show in New York. It's his own art show, at a place called Zach Feuer on West 26th Street. Five years later, I swear, he walks into another art show in the same gallery -- but it's on a different street. A couple of years after that this Zach guy contacts the man -- his name's Nick -- and says "Perhaps we can apply to do something as part of Performa". That's, you know, the second non-profit performance biennial, scheduled for November 2007.

So Nick has to come up with a concept quick, because the deadline for applications is, like, yesterday. Nick's been thinking a lot recently about jokes. He wants to write a book about jokes, going really seriously into the stories behind them, making tragedy out of comedy. Plus, he's done this act at the Whitney Biennial, right, that's turned, over its three month span, into a sort of comedy job. The Unreliable Tour Guide has evolved, as he's worked the crowds in the museum's halls with his slick patter, into "the Bob Newhart of new art".

So Nick says "I want to be a stand-up comedian at Performa. Bob NewArt." And he does this outline for the Performa people. In the comedic jargon, Bob both slays and dies nightly, standing up in his sleazy wig and pink tie, there on the mic. Nothing to do with Bob Newhart, by the way, except that he's deadpan, like Bob. But, whereas Newhart has "a button-down mind", NewArt is off the rails. His conscious mind is out of control. He's handed his act over to the "primitive prompter".

NewArt's jokes have the structure of jokes, but they go nowhere. Shaggy dog style. Or they're hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. There's a set-up and a punchline and so on, but it's all like what happens in your head as you're falling asleep, it doesn't quite add up, it turns surprising corners. It's like your worst nightmare of being a standup comedian, but forgetting all your lines and just trying to make it up right there in the spotlight. And, you know, you just say the first thing that comes into your head, and some of it ends up being funny, and some just bizarre.

So please put your hands together, ladies and gentlemen... HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERE'S, um, Bob. He's going to just, you know, slay you.