Another Bizarro Hour in Chicagoland has come and gone, gang. It’s always such a brief experience, but never fails to remind me of the magic of Bizarrocon. I go months or longer without seeing these cats, but as soon as we hook up, it’s like we’ve been best friends our whole lives. We all come from different backgrounds and influences, and it shows in our readings. No two author styles are ever the same at these events. But, in spite of that, we all get along like family meeting at a big holiday.
This one started out rough for me as my train was set to leave out of St. Louis at 8:45am which, on some long, lonely nights, is about the time I’m heading to bed, ready to bury my late night fears and existential nightmares in sweet oblivion. But not this day. This day my ass was out of bed at 7am and promptly in my car, heading to the train station early to be on top of any unforeseen nonsense that might stand between me and Bizarro Hour.
It turned out to be the train itself that wanted to slow me down.. By making me sit at the station waiting for it an extra two hours. After that nice delay, which left me with plenty of time to ponder my life choices and failures, I was finally on my way. An uneventful five hours full of lots of heavy metal blasting in my head phones followed. But again, when my train arrived, I was met with further delay. What was to be a nice afternoon in the city, hopefully with a stop at my favorite downtown Chicago pizzeria, Unos, turned out to be a frantic dash to G-Mart comics via light rail when my ride got stuck in traffic. Another forty five minute delay had me wondering if I’d in fact make it to the reading in time after all!
But as it always does in the end, love prevailed, and we made it to G-Mart with an hour to spare, giving us plenty of time to hit the El Cid Mexican restaurant next door to the comic shop. Within a few minutes, the bizarros began to arrive and suddenly it was like thanksgiving dinner for the weird! We chatted, ate AWESOME food and excitedly spoke about the reading to follow.
All this time, though, I’d managed to avoid ever picking a piece to read for the show. I’d kind of settled on my flash fiction piece SLUG BUTTS which had been featured on the Bizarro Central website as part of the Flash Fiction Friday promotion, but never bothered to read it aloud to see if it was too long for our ten minute performance limit. So while drinking margaritas with the gang,and talking about CROSSED comics, I decided I’d fuck around with a new piece and turn it into a bit of performance art instead of just a cold reading from a book or online story.
I’d submitted it as flash fiction as well, so I had it stored in my sent folder in my email which I could access from my phone. So after food and drink and talk, we headed over to G-Mart where the wonderful Eric let us take over and set up our staging area complete with rows and rows of chairs, and the backdrop of badass comic books. Suddenly all the chairs were filled. We had a nice crowd! Fuck yeah!
Michael Allen Rose, the esteemed host of Bizarrocon’s great Bizarro Showdown performance art contest, pulled triple duty as organizer, host, and performer at Bizarro Hour. Seriously, this dude is ALL class. Great human being. Strong force in bizarro. Love him like a brother (and his bombshell lady Sauda, as well!) None of these shows would happen without him.
After a bit of discussion, we got our reading order together. My pal and first time Bizarro Hour reader John Bruni elected to go up first to pop his live reading cherry. And BOY did he pop it! He set the bar so high with his extreme erotic gore story, I wasn’t sure any of us was going to be able to top it. Shit was so sick, I had to get up and walk it off! Next up was the always game Jon R. Myers, reading an interspecies erotica story from the HAMSTERS anthology.
One of my favorite people in the whole bizarro community was up next. MP Johnson! Author of The Afterlife Story of Pork Knuckles Malone and Dungeons and Drag Queens! A consumite showman, he remarked, “So we’re doing kinky?” or some such, and whipped out a story about a man summoning a giant vagina monster to eat his anoying neighbor. It was about this time I started getting nervous. I hadn’t ever read my piece out loud, and in order for it work, I needed to be able to improv the first few minutes of it. I’d also added pressure to myself by telling my friends Erika and Michelle that I’d do a shout out to them if they watched the show live via the magic of Andy Defonseca’s webcam.
One of the nicest dudes in bizarro was up next. Justin Grimbol is always great for quick, fun conversations, and his readings are always on point. Tonight was no exception, as he regaled us with the story of Poetry Man, a mythical figure who would recite poetry outside of a gas station. Andy herself was up next. Bubbly as she is beautiful, she told us the sweet story of a man who’s lost the color in his life, and made us shout every time he took a dump! Great audience participation, if you ask me!
Now I was really starting to second guess my decision to go into the evening cold. Everybody was on, all the stories had been great, and here I was about to stumble up there and pull some nonsense out of my ass. But first, Michael Allen Rose, our host was up next! He called on a bunch of us to come up and participate in his bit, which included a fake pistol and ten chocolate bullets. One of which contained an entire crushed up ghost pepper!
Hilarity ensued as an Australian dude immediately started bitching that he had the ghost pepper bullet, seemingly ruining Michael’s bit before it even started. But was he really being an asshole or was it all part of the show? He stood up and started ranting some story about rats and goth girls. I wasn’t really paying attention as I was more concerned about whether or not this guy was even supposed to be standing there yelling about headless kittens!
Eventually Eric from G-Mart walked over and ate the damn bullet (which was, in fact, the ghost pepper bullet), shutting up Australian dude and letting Michael continue on with his bit. He told a great piece of absurdist lit, we ate all our magic bullets and then it was time! Michael introduced me, I took a deep breath and apologized to the audience and everybody watching at home for not coming to the show prepared. I explained that I used to get really bad anxiety before presentations in school, and that the only thing that would calm me down was reading TV Guide synopses for movies.
I offered to read one aloud, since I hadn’t prepared any material, and then launched into my piece The TV Guide Listing for Bang Bots which starts off informative but eventually degenerates into messages inserted into the synopsis from the future, aliens, and Bill Nye Robots! It went over HUGE! I was so happy I didn’t screw the pooch by winging it like that. After screaming my head off for ten minutes, I said my anxiety had indeed been relieved by reading the TV Guide listing, and promised I’d bring something real to read next time.
Finishing up the show with some super hero satire was Chicago’s own Eric Hendrixon. He told us about heroes, villains, and even the married life of a ninja. And that’s a wrap! We brought the hour in at a brisk hour and a half (better than our Christmas 2013 show which clocked in at two hours) and called it a night! It’s never long enough, and I ALWAYS wish I had more time to spend with the bizarro family when we do these events. I can’t express enough how awesome everyone did. All the readings went over with the crowd and those watching at home. We pulled it off again! The Bizarro Hour! Huzzah!
You can watch the whole thing go down yourself via the magical video player archive of the show below: