As the Decatur Book Festival kicked off yesterday I must say my hopes were high. Originally slated was poet-painter-punk god Billy Childish. Unfortunately Billy came down with a kidney infection and his talk was canceled for the fair, although his booth will still be open. In his stead they found a more able-bodied, but disappointingly less articulate Kinky Friedman.
Now, for those of you who don't know Kinky Friedman he is an eccentric musician-mystery novelist who attempted to run for Governor of Texas in 2006. Friedman has promoted himself as the Jew from Texas and likes to slip in nods to this oxymoronic existence as often as possible. His country music project, Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys is merely the tip of the iceberg. He has recently begun a business venture into the cigar market after his trademark cigar constantly in mouth, although never lit. Needless to say, Kinky has a pretty stacked resume. I was actually fairly curious to go see him.
So, at 7.30pm Friday night my friend Lee Maree and I head in the direction of Agnes Scott to go see the novelist- musician- politician in action. We arrive about 15 minutes before the speech-lecture is supposed to begin and are shuffled into the overflow auditorium where we will be watching Kinky through the mediation of a large television screen. As we enter the auditorium there is an immediate sensation of discomfort. As we make our way to seats towards the front I notice the audience is comprised of Decatur residents who seem to be very proud of being at a pseudo-academic event on a Friday night and Kinky enthusiasts. Both demographics are ones I would prefer to avoid. After introductions Kinky walks onto the stage attired in cowboy hat, western-style button-down, black jeans and cowboy boots with a cigar in mouth and brown-bagged bottle in hand. First things first, Kinky goes out of his way to set the bottle down in order to make sure everyone can see his contraband item. Kinky and his piano player have a somewhat humorous exchange for to prep the audience for the unfortunate thing that is coming their way. Throughout this entire entrance Kinky has either had the cigar in his mouth or is pretending to puff on it, which considering the cigar is not lit merely comes off as a hokey facade as opposed to a promotional tool for his new company.
First things first, Kinky spends the first ten minutes promoting these cigars and mentioning where he will be to sign boxes of cigars. He then proceeded to go into a long list of one-liners he had clearly been saving up since the dawn of time. Too bad fort he audience, all of these one liners were elementary derogatory jokes that you and I have heard some version of in every kitchen we have worked in. The ones that weren't half-baked minority humor were uncomfortable asides about his non-existence but still hopeful sex life at age sixty. Now, before I go any further I should say that I like dumb humor and mean humor as much as the next person. It is not that I consider myself above these kinds of jokes; the jokes were just bad. BAD.
What was baffling though was that the entire audience was in hysterics. The woman sitting directly behind us let out an orgasmic squeal if he scratched his nose. The cult following was eating it up, so unfortunately he never moved passed the recess yard humor. After about thirty minutes we left. I don't know if it was the squealer, the bad sound emanating from speakers every time someone spoke to closely into the mic, or just Kinky but we had to get out.
Kinky Friedman is indeed a name everyone has heard more than once for his numerous accomplishments (and attempts), so the fact that he dumbed down everything that he is capable of discussing was almost insulting. He would have been exponentially more successful if he had instead taken the approach of talking about his history and inserting a few lewd jokes along the way. Oh Kinky, I hope the cigars can support you now.
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