There’s no doubt in my mind that I am not the intended audience for Kim Noble’s work. But because Stewart Pringle gave it five stars (and his taste is good), I decided to go anyway, curious about a show about loneliness – figuring it would be a good bookend to Happy Days (theme: you’re born alone, you die alone) – and also interested in seeing a totally new performer.
Well, to some extent, I think there’s a little bit of buying into the Kim Noble persona required to get into this show, and I just didn’t. He’s very deadpan about everything he talks about, but I began to find most of what he was doing pretty damned creepy. Pretending to be someone else on the internet in part to provide material for a comedy show: well, kind of funny, maybe. Showing movies of these people actually showing up to meet said imaginary person: uncool. Secretly videoing a retail clerk – someone who can’t really escape due to the nature of their job – then wearing a mask of their face, stalking them to their house, pressuring them to let you in all while making videos – I found this really upsetting. I wanted it to not be real. But like so much of what he was showing to us, well, it all seemed entirely believable. I think maybe there was supposed to be a feeling of sadness about how hard he was trying to get attention or how hard he was working to get total strangers involved in his life, but by putting their lives – their phone numbers – their private conversations on screen in front of an audience night after night, that upset me. And taking a shit in a church? It seemed like a pathetic attention getting stunt and also just rude and inconsiderate. When he later flashed his own phone number and email on screen and said he was looking for a new place to live, my thought was, “Like anyone would want to be your friend after you’ve shamed, abused, and made a joke of them in front of an audience.” He got an ASBO for pulling his crap in Ikea? A miracle he doesn’t have a desk drawer full of them.
To “soften” this all, or something, Noble put in a bit about his dad. To me, it felt like an attempt to universalize or somehow provide justification for all of the other offensive stuff he’d been doing. Yes, he’s a lovely old man, he’s in a nursing home, and he’s adorable. And all I could think is, why, Kim, are you sitting around showing us pictures of you fucking a watermelon and cum shots that your “pals” on the internet have sent you when you could have been spending part of most of this day with a wonderful person that adores you no matter what you do? Are you trying to make us sad? Are you trying to provide a deeper commentary for the evening? Because it feels a stuck on as a red clown nose and it just didn’t work.
Back in Arizona in the 80s, John Waters did an obscenity trial for Pink Flamingoes that focused on whether or not the scene of someone eating shit was 1) real (experts testified it was) and 2) obscene (it failed because it was inherently gross rather than sexually inspiring). At the Soho Theater, I saw a work that would have sent the old sheriff going completely batshit, but, ultimately, the entire experience was depressing. Not because it was gross; not because Kim Noble shows a blatant disregard for the dignity of other human beings; but cause it just tried so hard to be revolting that it wasted an opportunity to say something that mattered even the least little bit. John Waters would have yawned. I know I did.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2015. It continues through Saturday.)