Electric Arc Radio get awkwardly hip at the Ritz Theater
Electric Arc Radio show
Ritz Theater, November 29
By Dan Sinykin
Electric Arc Radio is like A Prairie Home Companion on shrooms, or a post-postmodern Wizard of Oz. It's eight or so people in folding chairs on stage at The Ritz in northeast, dressed casually (for the most part), drinking bottles of Grain Belt, and taking turns up front at the mikes. It's interspersed with songs from, Saturday night, guests Jeremy Messersmith and The New Standards. It's about 2,973 pop-cultural references. (I lost actual count at around 177.) It's awkwardly hip and often funny and just about the weirdest show I've ever seen.
It's also a live radio show that doesn't usually broadcast live. The premise is: there're four writers living in a squalid South Minneapolis house who're "always writing rubber checks, never writing novels or plays." Indeed, Saturday's show had nothing at all to do with writing, except in the meta-sense that these writers play buffoonish versions of themselves in a story they wrote. Basically, what happens is one morning Herbach wakes up to find a large circular plot of his abundant chest hair missing, while in the basement Brady wakes terrified to discover a long and growing ponytail on his previously bald head. After a long and difficult journey by light rail, with pit stops at Chicago-Lake Liquors and the MOA, and then by Mexican cab, the crew arrives at the Mayo Clinic where Jeremy Messersmith surgically removes Brady's now nearly seven-foot ponytail with a circular saw given to Steph in an orderly's closet by Jodie Foster and Vincent D'Onofrio. Said crew then returns to the treehouse behind their South Minneapolis home, a treehouse where Alan Greenspan used to live and play his clarinet before he ruined the economy and died, to deliver the basket of hair to Sleany McFear, exiled King of the St. Paul Irish (don't ask), who's been searching for his lost Olde Country County Ricey Cooker. Turns out the basket of hair is the missing rice cooker. No one explains how a basket of hair cooks rice.
Couple that, um, plot with the aforementioned references and allusions and in-jokes that barrage your prefrontal cortex at about mach 18 and you can understand why the crowd left looking like they just each had (and sort of enjoyed) a colonoscopy or something.
Mostly the show's supposed to be funny. The humor derives from parodic songs, puerile sex jokes, characters' ethnic ignorance, and participating in the spiderwebbed and literary matrix of intertextuality. The songs were hilarious - Herbach singing about his hair; Sleany McFear doing falsetto covers of The Cranberries - but the sex jokes were hit or miss. Upon receiving a popsicle for Christmas, Steph said, "It's like an orange . . . penis." I couldn't figure out any way how that was funny.
Also, I should mention that Jeremy Messersmith was fantastic. He slipped back and forth with ease between playing the plot's ironic hero and the passionate performance of his interspersed songs.
In sum: Electric Arc Radio = information age enema for your brain.
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