The Performant: Stalking the voice of young America


Listening in at SF Sketchfest and Live Evil

Is it just me, or do you also catch yourself wondering on occasion, “I wonder what the sound of young America is today?” Where is it lurking, and how will I recognize it when I find it? Well one pretty obvious solution is to just Google “the sound of young America” -- the first hit will be Bay Area native Jesse Thorn’s podcast/radio show webpage on Maximum Fun. Delightful, irreverent, not unintelligible, and better yet, not unintelligent, "The Sound of Young America" is both talk show and time capsule. I mean, podcasts? How 2007!

But with comedy, it still works. A good joke is timeless, and a good comedian, whose primary tool is language, can generally carry off being funny, with or without additional visuals. And at the special SF Sketchfest edition of TSOYA, recorded at the Eureka Theatre  to a small but spirited afternoon crowd, funny people were in plentiful supply. LA stand-up comic Baron Vaughn, SF’s finest absurdist sketch troupe Kasper Hauser, creator of animated series “The Life and Times of Tim” Steve Dildarian. But as for the sound of “young” America, it was actually the comfortingly middle-aged “Bobcat” Goldthwait, no longer the mercurial situationist he was in his twenties, who stole the show with his affable demeanor and his relatively grounded philosophy of artistic fulfillment over monetary reward or “the usual trappings”.

Walking into Noh Space Saturday night was a little like walking into a high school Drama Club party, or Heavy Metal Karaoke in the Lower East Side, with everyone dressed up in their very best rock concert t-shirts, mullet wigs, and fingerless gloves: and that was just the oddience!

Onstage was Laurent Martini in a nerdy cardigan and his “younger self—‘Little Evil’” (Max Hartman), eagerly reenacting every past embarrassment of Laurent’s coming-of-age as an upper middle class fat kid from the Marina, with a desperate yearning to get laid, write rock songs, and be Nikki Sixx. These scenes were interspersed with “Don’t make me look too psychotic” vignettes from Martini’s now-defunct married life with desperate housewife Missy (Sara Faith Alterman) who spent a good portion of the show either bitching about Laurent’s uncool passion for hair metal, or getting frisky with “extra-curricular” construction workers, surfer dudes, and drug dealers.

Humiliation is central to the plot of “Live Evil”: it debuted appropriately enough as a share-and-tell at the Mortified story-telling series before it was written down in play form, and five years later still feels, in many ways, like a perpetually adolescent work. But actually, that’s the over-arching secret to its success. Because back when the sound of young America was “Pour Some Sugar on Me” every day was awkward embarrassment, and every desire over-wrought. And we’ve all been there—maybe not penning lyrics like “I’m gonna fuck my way across this great big land” -- but certainly harboring impossible dreams of our own. And watching even a small slice of an impossible dream come true for a fellow romanticist, whether still the voice of “young” America or not-so-much, totally rocks.

Also from this author

  • Bee true

    The documentaries of Berlin and Beyond

  • Divining the entrails

    New Last Gasp releases explore the unsettling art of Laurie Lipton and Elizabeth McGrath

  • The Performant: Epochalypse Now