Lately, I’ve noticed an alarming trend in San Luis Obispo. I’m not referring to Poly Dollies giggling their way downtown wearing short shorts emblazoned with lovely words like “juicy” or “Cal Poly” or “desperate” on the ass. Although, really, let’s be honest, Poly Dollies: The men (or women, I’m all for thinking outside the box) you’re most likely to attract “probably can’t read” or are “drunk, horny, and drawn to shiny lettering.”
No, the trend I speak of is far more egregious than bimbos with spray tans and brain dead bros who wander Higuera Street yelling the word “fa**ot” like one of Archie Bunker’s trained parrots.
I’m more concerned about tragic displays of mediocrity from supposed local leaders. You might think I’m referring to the city council or the board of supervisors. But you don’t have to be an elected official to owe something to the community. In fact, I’d like to think we set the bar a little higher for our private sector leaders than we do for the morons who put on a button-down shirt and tie to get bitched out by every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Betty-Sue a couple times a month.
Have they no shame? Exhibit A doesn’t. In fact, lack of shame is central to this monthly event which was actually pretty exciting when it started up a year ago. In the months since … well, what happens when you give needy “look-at-me” theater-types a stage, a boozy audience, and the guarantee that no matter what they do they won’t be booed out of the room? Nothing very pretty, I assure you. As adults, aren’t we supposed to be past the phase where people pretend we won’t be judged for our behavior? And yeah, when you’re like 5 and you’re playing tee ball, the coaches and parents insist that everybody wins. Developmentally that probably makes sense. Encourage the sticky little monsters to try something new, give them space and time to determine whether they’re good at it, and whether they’d like to continue.
Just because theater is a branch of the arts doesn’t justify a sloppy performance or lack of honest feedback. If we want to be brutally honest here, the arts can’t afford not to compete. Especially not today when competition for resources is stiffer than ever before. The term “art” implies that there’s some talent, some greater insight, something to recommend a person or piece.
Instead, once a month at No Shame, the same half-dozen people submit scripts riffing off the same themes as the months before. The audience claps, calls out what are intended to be clever witticisms, and everyone goes home. The genuinely talented performers or writers are treated to the exact same reception as the bad writers and performers. The first month it was novel, the second and third month funny, and then the novelty wore off, the humor wore thin, and the lady who delivers political rants keeps on delivering political rants, and the people who write cutesy exchanges between a boy and a girl who meet at a gallery opening continue in the same vein.
And the Mickey Mouse Club trio—Kevin Harris, Katie Mack-Montenegro, and Wendy Marie-Foerster—which once deserved kudos for bravely attempting something new now ought to be considering how to tame their despicably mediocre monster. Yes, it’s brutal to tell people they can’t go onstage and say or sing whatever they want with the promise that no one will ever, ever say anything honest in response. But you’re supposed to be the city’s, if not the county’s, leading theatrical institution. You’re supposed to hold a mirror up to reality, and I doubt the real world will be as forgiving as an audience too drunk to realize the difference between a serious sketch and a comic one.
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey poop-head, why do you have to pick on the arts? They’re not fair game for shredding.”
To that, I reply: “Either you’re important enough to shred, or you’re not. I happen to think art is important.”
But don’t worry, San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, you’re in good company. The local daily’s running around town photographing trash cans and calling it investigative reporting. It’s rather cute, actually. Like giving one of those damned sticky kids a notebook and patting them on the back as they trot off to the backyard to interview the family beagle about a steak that disappeared from the kitchen. Are you celebrating your moral victory by buying all your reporters big-kid detective kits? Maybe they can run around town wearing deerstalkers and brandishing magnifying glasses at trash cans they pass on the street.
I’m gonna let the Trib and its big-kid detectives in on a little secret: It’s not the fact that you did a story about SLO city officials violating laws about trash can placement. The fact that I yawned while writing that sentence aside, it seems fair to point out hypocrisy. But, to quote my dear bubbie: Presentation is very important.
“Tribune nabs 4 of 5 elected SLO officials storing their bins illegally” gloats the subhead on the Sept. 25 article, which pretty much sets the tone for the entire piece. This is the journalistic equivalent of Clint Eastwood donning a whistle and reflective smock and going ballistic on jaywalkers.
The councilpeople’s reactions when confronted with their misdeeds pretty much sums up the magnitude of the crime.
“Uh yeah,” they said before blowing a nonchalant bubble with their gum.
I realize that the Tribune doing an actual investigation warrants a few toe-touches and some sparkler-waving, but before we bust out the Cuban cigars, let’s ask ourselves: Should we really be patting ourselves on the back for something that would make my cat look like an overachiever?
In next week’s issue, I’ll present a pie chart breaking down how Chairman Whisker spends his time so you can give an informed response to that last question.
Shredder licks itself, but only to stay clean. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.