Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Penny Arcade Discussion Guide

To be candid, I was taken by surprise last night at Penny Arcade's performance at St. Anne’s Theater in DUMBO. Apparently, when I buy tickets to shows, I’m more of a “look at the pictures” kind of online shopper. Here’s the show promo:


I thought we signing up for some sort of drag cabaret. I thought there might be cake. I was wrong. 

In case you are unfamiliar with the work of Penny Arcade, as I was until yestereve, let me clue you in. She’s a 60ish ingenue formerly of the Andy Warhol set. She's hell bent to rage against the machine for 90 minutes. Except it’s not a rant. It’s art. This was a thing in the early 80s downtown.

I can distill 90 minutes with Penny Arcade into four bullets, and I mention this because it’s actually my main point. But here we go:

  1. Penny Arcade considers herself in the “control group” immune from the idiocy perpetuated by uptight suburbanites and their entitled lily-livered, gay and straight children who indulge in artisanal ramen and fancy cocktails and cry great wailing sobs when someone calls them by the wrong pronoun or dares to say something the hive mind rejects.

  2. Penny Arcade is in this "control group" because she has never seen Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Arc or Sex in the City.

    Also because in the east village in the 70’s, a plus-sized, topless beatnik jabbed a meth needle in her ass, right through her clothes, and she learned a valuable lesson that night.

    And lastly, because she is very smart. Much smarter than anyone who didn’t go to Max’s Kansas City every night for a decade and have words with Patti Smith.

  3. Penny Arcade bitches about slow-walking tourists who don’t look where they’re going and run right into you. She dislikes Hummer-sized baby carriages in Park Slope. She also has a problem with hipsters and cupcake shops. She pinpoints gentrification as a problem because local communities lose their unique identity.

  4. Maybe because of her "control group" status, Penny Arcade seems unaware of the 400-500 stand up comedians and 90% of the NYC journalism community who have already beaten the tourist, baby carriage, hipster and gentrification memes into one big-ass vapid chestnut.

    I gather there’s a certain cohort who loves Penny Arcade and it’s not a crew I particularly want to upset. First, she's well-loved by your old queers (her term) who were part of the larger-than-life Lou-Reed-ish scene back in the day, or at least were part of it in their imaginations. 

    Also there’s younger white folk sporting vintage hats hooting and clapping and desperately seeking… something. It could be truth. But I thought of another audience end game. It’s possible I’m rationalizing my evening.

    I could certainly watch Penny Arcade in the same way I watched the new Twisted Sister documentary. Or that biopic on Hugo Chavez or Anthony Weiner. The point isn’t trying to find the lessons in what comes out of anyone’s mouth, but to ponder why they believe what they seem to believe about themselves and about everybody else.

    It's all about the context-- seeing the chess board top down, not taking a queens-eye view on blind faith and because she lectured you for an hour and half. 

    In an ironic twist, I'd bet money that Penny Arcade would fucking hate to be anything other than the all-star big star of her show. In another ironic twist... she did berate us endlessly to think for ourselves. So maybe in the end Penny Arcade had her masterful way with me.
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