Five dates into the Wham City Comedy Tour, everything was smooth sailing, much to the dismay of Ben O’Brien and the six other Baltimore-based performance artists onboard for the trek.
Everyone, O’Brien says, wanted something to go wrong during a show. In the event of a problem, the group had a plan they were going to stick with as a fix. (Emphasis on “stick.”)
Finally, at the tour’s sixth stop, the video projector stopped working. Visual artist Alan Resnick got on the mic and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re having a technical difficulty, but please enjoy Robby with a stick!”
Out walked Robby Rackleff with, as advertised, a wooden stick. “Robby comes out and tries to do as many things with the stick as possible, as fast as he can, and it’s very funny,” O’Brien says, laughing. Now, “we get really excited when we have technical difficulties.”
This should help you understand the comedic stylings featured on the tour, the third major outing from the humor arm of Wham City, the DIY art collective co-founded by Baltimore electronic musician Dan Deacon.
Wham City Comedy hit the road in 2010 and has grown into a slightly more organized venture with each subsequent tour. This time, the live performance — a variety show featuring stand-up comedy, skits, monologues and videos — has a director, and the shows are taking place in real venues (such as an actual comedy club in Pittsburgh), rather than just warehouses and DIY spaces.
Clearly, Wham City is not your usual comedy show. The humor is absurd, esoteric and dry. It’s the kind of show in which a stick gets as much laughter as a well-crafted punch line.
Part of that may be because none of the touring members consider themselves comedians first.
“We’re all very serious artists with comedic sensibilities we try to focus for this show,” says O’Brien, who has directed music videos for Beach House and Deacon. “I think we’re somewhat unique in that sense. You’re going to have a different experience than what you’re expecting.”
Wham City’s Ben O’Brien directed the music video for Dan Deacon’s “Crash Jam,” a synchronized mash-up of clips from Tony Horton’s P90X workout videos, which Horton approved of via Twitter. “That’s all the success I need,” O’Brien says. “I don’t need money or a legitimate job — Tony Horton liked my video.”Area 405, 405 E. Oliver St., Baltimore; Thu., 8 p.m., $5; 410-528-1968. Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW; Sun., 8 p.m., $10-$13; 202-408-3100. (Gallery Place)