Photo by Kenneth Aaron.
10 pm Friday, Sept. 5 at The Works:
Part of the joke in Neal Medlyn performing as Beyonce Knowles is that while she's obviously some sort of hand-waving affirmational diva-pop cyborg created by the shark-besuited fellows at Sony BMG, he doesn't seem in any obvious way that he was ever meant to be near a stage. So when he puts on the hot pants for the first costume change and slips into a decidedly -ish version of her choreography, you can see his little erect willie poking into the fabric (and in those pants, I guess he couldn't help but be excited), not to mention the extreme pasty, hairy-but-balding, bespectacled, shirtless skinny-man's whiteness that has never seen the sun and never seen the gym. He is the accountant who wants to be fabulous.
And, well, you want to like it. You want to root for the guy up there, all unlikely and balls-out, unafraid of anything except becoming, eventually, unloved. But unlike Beyonce's version of Beyonce, Medlyn offers no high-gloss reassurances to the crowd but rather hams relentlessly for their waving hand-snaps, their belly laughs at the hip sway, etc. He needs you. The dancers are awkward, his voice unpiped, the choreography imitated at a junior-high caliber not even big enough to wound. It's an Andy Kaufman thing, the deluded schlub singing along to Mighty Mouse on the record player, except with Kauffman the point was to show the true sad desperation of an incapable performer who nonetheless felt meant for life's bright lights. The point is to implicate you in the performer's sadness.
But as for Medlyn, Medlyn just wants you to like him for liking the thing he hates, for going that uncomfortable extra step by actually choreographing the smug sarcasm of the bad karaoke singer who wants to be loved for precisely the things he can't do. It works very well, by the way—the people have spoken, and spoken loudly, in cheers—but there's something unseemly about it, something so desperate that it occurs to me that perhaps his genius is to go one step beyond Kaufman, to show you the hollowing need that was never part of the act.
So, fine, I laughed at the costume changes. I laughed at the diligent bad rhythm of the back-up dancers. I laughed at the bad singing. I laughed at Beyonce, behind the wings, for being so good at something so trivial. But I went home and I cried.
[youtube 5TOSBinXmm4] Video by allenink
The real Beyonce, falling down some stairs:
Read more diaries from the 2008 TBA Festival here.