The Awful Truth

Laugh, Laugh, I Thought I'd Die

Published April 6, 1996 9:26AM (EST)

Recently, a crop of yellow flyers for a "comedy" show appeared all over the East Village. The photo on the flyer featured a leering woman with huge
round Coke-bottle glasses, with a caption underneath which stated "FUCK ME VERBALLY -- Alternative comedy" in a large, childish black scrawl. The flyers contained no
information as to where the show was.

My gal friend A. and I were able to
finally deduce that it was at "Surf Reality," a haphazard Lower East Side performance space where live geckos eat roaches in the bathroom. We checked it out. The emcee was a big angry girl with a crew cut wearing a thin Day-glo halter and
vinyl mini. After greeting the 15 members of the audience kindly, she proceeded to hurl acid in all directions,
watching us boil and cringe as she unfolded "komedy" about how she had a
sadomasochistic Puerto Rican coke freak boyfriend who used to tie her up and
lock her in the closet while he'd go out and bonk other women.

audience was really straining to be there for her as she sat "naturally" on her chair, inadvertently flashing her entire crotch as she spouted lines like "Like everybody says, 'Like, why are you such a bitch?'
And I say, like, I'm just like, smarter than everybody else, OK?"

Her act hurt
us all a lot. Still, it wasn't nearly as torturous as the next guy, who was
perhaps the most completely despicable human being any of us had ever been
exposed to. Even G.G. Allen, of the famously disgusting and violent punk band
G.G. Allen and the Murder Junkies, had more personal charm than this loathsome
maggot. In "Hated," the documentary about his life, Allen
waddles naked around small performance spaces in an alcoholic blackout, beating up on college women who had paid to see his show while riding the
revolving door of criminal recidivism and popping in and out of Rikers.

But even the scene during which Allen vomits on himself while being urinated on at a frat party was charming compared to this guy's act, an endless barrage of humorless, misogynistic, atheistic, xenophobic and otherwise misanthropic complaints about the Chinese family he lived with that had at least half of the
audience wanting to call the cops on him. "Mr. Wong blew a fuse and it erased half of
a new comedy act I was working on in my laptop, so I broke into his computer and
erased his thesis. Huh huh huh."

We all knew it was true. I feel completely
comfortable saying that the audience would have felt a golden glow of peace and
cleansing righteousness if we had seen this performer being beaten shitless by
hooded thugs with flaming pine clubs outside the theater after the show. He wasn't funny.

A tall girl in a big pair of boots stomped in during the set, and immediately started talking to the emcee. She was very boisterous, very young and seemingly without any safe personal boundaries -- the kind of person who has such loud energy she is impossible to ignore. She had a beautiful face, big blue eyes, a small, tight, clean nose and small French-curled lips -- an upper-middle-class Nantucket nectar gone all gonzo-Lower-East-Side-bisexual-until-I-get-out-of-Tisch-School-for-the-Arts-kind of gal. A slumming debutante in combat boots, wearing intentionally ugly boy clothes, bein' a real free-wheelin' Free Spirit. Her big eyes and little mouth immediately demanded too much attention from everybody.

"All RIGHT!" she yucked it up loudly, clapping her hands, when someone made a comment that she found funny. She probably worshipped her high-school drama teacher. She was one of those annoying children who had shamelessly forced adults to listen while she incessantly sang. Her parents were undoubtedly sexless, bloodless Republicans who lived in a bomb shelter during the late '60s, and she was doing all that cartwheeling free-love hippie stuff now to overcompensate, but she still looked a little too CLEAN, like a professional ballerina at a discotheque having a really hard time "getting down." To our horror and dismay, she was carrying a guitar.

"Too many dykes have told her she's beautiful," I told A. "They probably all sit around in her dorm room, dying to get into her ugly corduroy pants, saying 'Oh my God, Treya (or whatever "interesting" name she undoubtedly has) you're so TALENTED! You REALLY should go on stage. No I'm serious, you're so FUNNY!' She's had too much positive input -- she thinks everything she says is interesting and cute."

Although we were filled with prejudice and trepidation, we were unprepared for her act. Treya got out her guitar, whimsically painted with fluorescent swirls (Oh my GOD, Treya, you're such an ARTIST!) and proceeded to sing these reeeallly long songs. One was about a waiter scratching his balls at this popular East Village Polish restaurant. It went on for what seemed like days. Her next song was called "Bullshit Head," which was inspired by the fact that her brother had sent her a pubic hair in the mail. This was one of those dumb esoteric things that only inside family members could possibly appreciate, while stoned. Gosh, it really makes my brother laugh, so I bet it will work on stage!

I try to avoid doing walk-outs when I'm sitting in the front row of a performance space the size of a Volkswagon, but we had no choice -- we fled "Surf Reality."

The entire evening reminded me of "The Day the Clown Cried," the never-released Jerry Lewis film in which he played a clown who, actin' all kwazy, entertained small children on the way to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. "Hey, don't cry, kids! Watch me cross my eyes and talk in a little retarded duck voice! Ignore the death in the box!" An article in Spy magazine about the film had quotes from execs in Hollywood who had actually seen screenings of this thing, which Jerry had sunk an enormous amount of his own money into -- it was his project, his dream-vehicle. Years later, they were still shuddering from the experience; what on earth was Jerry THINKING?

Ever since I saw "Repo Man," I have been followed by the "Plate O' Shrimp" phenomena, which is a study in small blots of the daily miraculous. "You know how you're thinking about a Plate O' Shrimp, and then somebody says "Plate O' Shrimp" and then you see a sign that says Plate O' Shrimp?" sayeth the Repo man. Well, Treya has become my personal Plate O' Shrimp. I run into her everywhere. Every time I go out and see any comedy, she's always there, sitting Indian-style on the floor, answering back whenever the guy on stage asks a rhetorical question. I cannot escape her. To my horror, she has become inextricably bound up with Comedy Itself. A. and I know that she knows us now -- we're the girls who walked out on her act. She glances at us, we glance at her. We worry she's going to sing again. She worries we'll walk out again. And we will.

By Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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