They don't have a website. They don't have a regular venue. They jerry-rigged this month's show in a dirty, depressing warehouse, and the lights kept going out. I had to wait in line for an hour with a solidly homogeneous collection of twenty-something white hipsters who B-ed YOB. The show went on for more than two and half hours, all of which time I spent on a folding chair, occasionally getting chili and spunk-flavored cream thrown on me. I saw more than I wanted to see of the host's and co-host's privates. The misogyny was even more casual, with the -- inevitably young -- women in the audience encouraged to flash and grind at every opportunity. Open and covert homophobic jokes flew every which way. And there wasn't even any food.
It was awesome.
Jamie "DeWolf" Kennedy's Tourette's Without Regrets is awesome not because of its stupidity but in spite of it. The content of the show is entirely beside the point; it could be Christian values hour and it wouldn't matter. Because what Tourette's brings is a ritual as practiced and intricately designed as high mass, the deepest concentration of raw talent you're likely to see in a monthly night in the Bay, and horsepower.
Tourette's, Kennedy's performance-competition-cum-low-ring circus, has been working Benicia, Vallejo, and then Oakland for, well, I don't know how many years because they don't have a website. Nine? In all that time it's still undergroundish, and seems to like it that way.
But you can tell Kennedy and crew have been doing this a long time. They start with exactly the sort of hug-your-neighbor we used to "build community" in church, and just like in church, it loosened everyone up. Know thy audience. Rather than offering a main event with side shows, Tourette's combines variety show with game show for a balanced and rhythmic flow of high-energy scenes: the slam judges introduced themselves by mimicking psychotic animals; two previous "dirty haiku" champions faced off in three rounds; a sick beatboxing duo gave a perfectly timed set; a surreal Burlesque/performance group combined a flute, some high-flown language, and a Snow White strip-tease, etc.
None of these segments went on too long, and each one had at least one of the necessary elements: real talent, riveting weirdness, or a completely confident and unashamed person being creatively humiliated.
What would, in a lesser show, be the main events -- the poetry slam and the freestyle rap battle -- were necessarily the least controllable portions of a show that emphasizes skill. And sure enough, the slam featured too much abstraction, plus the inevitable girl in a short skirt blowing a piece about her piece; the battlers all spent half their sets thinking, to a rhythm of unconvincing "yo's." But these segments, thanks to the variety show feel, didn't have to carry more than their fair share of the burden.
While it was clear the hosts and contestants were performing a more extreme political incorrectness than they probably professed offstage, this was just as clearly being used to oil up the audience and for no other purpose. There is nothing laudable or challenging about political incorrectness for its own sake, but Tourette's is not challenging, cutting edge culture. Its purpose is pure entertainment, and within that, the showcasing of utterly accessible talent. I could see getting mighty weary of it in time, but then I'm not the target audience.
Tourette's Without Regrets is the first Thursday of every month [THIS THURSDAY, May 1, 2008] from 9 pm to midnight, although you should arrive at 8 pm if you want a seat. The show should return to its longtime venue at the Oakland Metro in June. Until then, to find out where the next show will be, email Jamie (tongueartillery at yahoo dot com) to get on the mailing list or check out the Tourette's MySpace page.