By Parker Deren

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

Latex. Strippers. Threesomes.  Superheroes. Porn star. Improv. Wrester. Anal sex. Maybe the reference to anal sex would have been funny, even witty, if the pedestrian locution was replaced by the word for the sodomitic byproduct named after a Republican politician. Instead of being a scintillating fest, my experience at iO West’s Celebrity Saturdays on August the 18thfelt more like an IT nerd’s wet dream; in which the only people laughing seemed to be the casts’ friends.

My evening began with PodCRASH with That Chris Gore and ended with The Armando Show, a ninety-minute improv program that featured WWE (proclaimed) Superstar John Morrison.  Reading the descriptions of the shows on iO’s website misleads the potential viewer into thinking that the lineup might be funny, perhaps even subversive. The shows were none of the above. Instead, they reified hegemonic geekdom in which the only women on stage the whole night were part of the first show:  A porn actress, Nikki Hunter, from a video that alludes to a James Cameron flick and Gore’s nervous ex-girlfriend who recounts how she screwed three navy members in Vegas. Pun intended.

Before the evening was half way over, I found myself laughing hard — once.  Partially out of misery. Also, I remembered what a friend said: There is a reason why there is a bar in the theater.  Server, drink please….At least the bar stocked Hendrick’s. It was more than welcome after sitting through the first hour of male-centric misogynistic humor.

PodCRASH with That Chris Gore

The concept of the sounds interesting: Dude is too lazy to have his own podcast; so, he “crashes” other people’s programs. The title of the show is a misnomer, because he appears as an invited guest on hisstage. The night I caught the show, he collaborated with Caleb Bacon’s The Gentlemen’s Club; which included guests Nikki Hunter and Jordan Harbinger, co-founder The Art of Charm, a company dedicated to teaching clueless guys how to date.

The most disturbing, uncomfortable part of the night was not when Gore generalized that women are looking for men who alphabetize their CD collections or when he called his aforementioned ex-girlfriend, who he met at a porn party, onto stage. It was when he entered into a monologue about how the best way to date a stripper is to not be a customer. How does he know? Because he dated one. Gore’s story is uninteresting and cliché: He met her at Jumbo’s Clown Room, she was not bright and the best part of dating her was when her clothes came off. Leaving the intelligent person to wonder: What does this say about a forty-something-year-old man who dates vapid strippers? Gore doesn’t disclose that the owner of Jumbo’s is a woman and that some of her dancers are rumored to hold law degrees.

The Armando Show

It wouldn’t have been that torturous, if it weren’t for Chris Gore’s previous show. At the same time, I felt like I missed the punch lines and allusions of the all guy cast.  Server, another drink please…

The humor at iO West is obvious. The show begins with the cast asking the audience for suggestions to begin their performance: Rubik’s Cube. A common request. The show was filled with characters and ideas that felt recycled: An emo kid named “Darkness” to an Improv group performing in front of prisoners. Hence, a reference to anal sex becomes trite. But, still, elicits chuckles.

There were times that the cast could have stretched their craft. A cast member’s reference of a Herman Miller Aeron Chair in darkest black to the only African-American actor, Thomas Fowler, could have led to a multitude of allusions from hipsters to NPR sponsorships to a profound, politically incorrect commentary on race.  True comedy makes the esoteric humorous and universal. This is where the troupe fell short – they never took it there – the unsafe place that audiences rarely traverse on their own.

After seeing this show, I was reminded of something Henry Miller once wrote: And anything that falls short of this frightening spectacle, anything less shuddering, less terrifying, less mad, less intoxicated, less contaminating, is not art. The rest is counterfeit. The rest is human. The rest belongs to life and lifelessness.

Comedy at its most provocative creates art from bowels and stretches the parameters of the audience’s mind. By the time I left, I felt exhausted from the deluge of nondivergent frat boy humor. iO West mimics American culture and society. But, not in the tongue-in-cheek kind of way that makes life’s absurdities pee in your pants funny.

iO West is located at 6366 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, California. The themes and the lineup of Celebrity Saturdays changes weekly. Check the schedule for updates.