Performa Film Program: Not Funny

Performa Film Program: Not Funny Crossing Over

Anthology Film Archives MAP
$9 / $7 students/seniors / $6 AFA Members

One visual artist who moved from the art world toward mainstream comedy was Michael Smith. Mike’s Talent Show, a variety show hosted by Smith and featuring a wide range of comedy, music, and performance acts, was presented at comedy clubs like Caroline’s and the Bottom Line, and later optioned by HBO. A little later, the multi-talented composer and performer Doug Skinner worked with Smith to create the hilarious Doug and Mike’s Adult Entertainment—a puppet-centered variety show, emceed by Skinner and Smith, that was performed at both downtown galleries and comedy venues. A little earlier, performer and writer Eric Bogosian (who also at one point participated in Mike’s Talent Show) had traveled an opposite route, crossing from theater to the art world and back again, beginning with his character Ricky Paul, a Lenny Bruce-inspired entertainer who spent his time on stage ranting about contemporary problems, offending audiences in art world hangouts like The Mudd Club.

Doug Skinner and Michael Smith
Excerpts from Doug and Mike’s Adult Entertainment
1991-96, approx. 30 min, video

Michael Smith
Excerpts from Mike’s Talent Show
1985-89, approx. 15 min, video

Eric Bogosian
Excerpts from The Ricky Paul Show
1979, approx. 20 min, video

Q&A with Doug Skinner after the screening!

Curated by Lana Wilson. With special thanks to Josh Kline (EAI), Jed Rapfogel (Anthology), RoseLee Goldberg, Mark Beasley, Doug Skinner, Michael Smith, and John Migliore (The Kitchen).

There are no advance sales for this event. Tickets may be purchased at Anthology Film Archives 30 minutes before showtime.

Part of the film series Not Funny: Stand-Up Comedy and Visual Artists.

About Not Funny

In the late 1960s, the one-liner style of conventional Borscht belt stand-up began to be supplanted by a radical new group of comics—performers who wrote their own material, often laced with daring social and political commentary, that  pushed the audience into uncharted territory, shaking up traditional ideas about what was funny, and about where entertainment ended and life began. Inspired by the provocative performances of Lenny Bruce, this new wave of comedians in the 1970s—including Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman—shocked audiences with everything from obscenity, to brutal personal confession, to performance art-inspired antics that left some wondering what the joke was about. Even so, they gained enormous popular followings.

At the same time, another revolution was occurring in visual art, as performance and conceptual art began to gain traction and the first consumer video cameras made it possible for artists to record themselves, often in reaction to what they saw on television, sometimes delivering deadpan routines that felt like a deconstructed version of stand-up. Some artists, such as Michael Smith, moved towards crossing over from the visual art context into the comedy world, while others, like Eric Bogosian, trained as an actor, planted the “comedy routine” firmly in the art world, with late night stands at The Mudd Club, Artists Space, and The Kitchen.

Now, at a time when the internet has led to an explosion of stand-up comedy websites and video channels, this crossover between the art world and mainstream entertainment is once again more relevant than ever. Presented by the New York performance biennial Performa 11 in conjunction with a live contemporary comedy series called Performa Ha!, Not Funny will look at some of the key works produced during this remarkable era, both in the stand-up scene and the art world, and at the artists and comedians who are still influenced by this material today.

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