A Sandbox of Weirdness (Ep. 140 - Jamie Pierce)

It takes about ten hours to produce each episode of The Sewers of Paris, so if you're enjoying the show please help support it with a pledge of a dollar or more per episode.

This Week's Guest: Jamie Pierce

How do you balance a need for solitude with a need to collaborate? This week's guest is Jamie Pierce, an actor, comedian, and dancer who's no stranger to career changes. Several years ago, he decided to transform his work and his  life after an experience onstage. And just last year, he reached another turning point in part because of this show.

I originally interviewed Jamie back in 2016, but then his episode kept moving around in the schedule and a few months went by before it was going to appear. But then Jamie contacted me to let me know that our conversation started him thinking, and eventually led to him making a pretty drastic decision about his career. So I interviewed him again about that experience. This episode starts with a chat we recorded last year, then you'll hear a new interview that we recorded more recently about how one of the pieces of entertainment that changed his life wound up being this podcast.

This Week's Recommendation: Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Big thanks to Jamie for joining me. You can follow him at JamiePierceNYC on Twitter to jeep up with his adventures, whether venturing out onstage as part of an ensemble or going it alone in a solo show. 

For this week's recommendation, take a look at another notorious loner with the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Like every Pee Wee project, it is utterly delightful, ridiculous, and queer. The plot concerns a stolen bicycle and a fever dream of a quest to recover it. Early in the movie, Pee Wee declares himself a loner and a rebel, a line that's funny enough on its own but is absolutely ludicrous given how many friends he has. At every step of his journey, Pee Wee wins over everyone, even the most hostile gang of bikers, by being completely bizarre, because that's just who he is. He is guileless, weird, not always polite but always honest about what he likes and what he doesn't. 

Back on episode 117, I recommended Pee Wee's Big Holiday and noted that he is, to be sure, a very strange boy: giddy, curious, playful, and sincere. And so is everyone else he encounters: they're all strange in their own way, from a phony psychic to a spooky truck driver to a sweet-hearted waitress. And in Pee Wee's company, they all seem completely comfortable to be strange, happy with whatever makes them weird. 

Everyone is uniquely bizarre, each a loner and rebel in their own particular oddness. But this movie has them all rebelling together -- they're loners but they're never alone.

Stuff We Talked About

Everybody Should Have Secrets (Ep. 139 - Imitation of Life)

This Week's Guest: Tim Kirkman

What are the secrets you're carrying around, and what would happen if you dropped them? This week's guest is Tim Kirkman, a storyteller with a knack for exploring the things people don't say. His film Lazy Eye is about confronting secret loves, and his documentary Dear Jesse is about his unexpected connection with America's most notorious homophobe. What Tim's found, in his work and in his life, is that the information people withhold about themselves is often the key to understanding them -- provided you can open up about yourself.

Big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon. I could not make the show without you. If you're enjoying the show, please help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support. Just go to SewersOfParis.com and click support the show on Patreon.

And you can also leave a review of the show -- thanks to DroidCX who wrote "My listenings leave me empowered" with a headling of "yasss queen" plus an emoji of a dancing red dress lady, which is a coincidence, because right now I'm wearing a red dress and dancing the flamenco.

You can also follow the show on Twitter and Facebook -- just search for The Sewers of Paris. I post clips of the stuff we talked about each week, and also chat with listeners about the entertainment that changed THEIR lives. And I love to hear from you -- you can write to sewerspodcast@gmail.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Keith Haring

Big thanks to Tim for joining me. And check out his film, Lazy Eye, on all the major streaming and video services and at LazyEye.com.

My recommendation this week is as simple as doing a google search. Type in Keith Haring, click over to the images tab, and then just keep scrolling. You'll probably recognize Haring's more famous pieces -- two figures holding up a heart, a dog-headed DJ, that sculpture outside the Moscone Center. Early in his career, Haring would ride the subways in New York and draw chalk doodles in advertising space, which brought him a sort of cult following of commuters.

But you might not be as familiar with his later political art. That takes a bit more digging to find, since it's not quite so commercial: a man with a cross confronting a television, an anti-apartheid image of a large figure crushing a smaller oppressor, two men jerking each other off with the caption "safe sex."

Haring's work looks simple, but his causes weren't -- such as the time he painted unified figures on the Berlin wall in the colors of the German flag. His later paintings link capitalism to abuse. And then there's his collage work, accusing Ronald Reagan of being a killer -- made in 1980, a decade before Haring passed away in an epidemic fueled by Reagan's inhumanity.

If not for his political work, we might still remember Haring for his bright colors, his democratic approach to exhibiting art, and his whimsical figures. That stuff's all fun -- and, importantly, marketable. But it isn't urgent, and I have a feeling it might've gotten lost among imitators if he hadn't been willing to risk alienating casual observers with statements on HIV, racism, and economic exploitation.

The Haring we know from t-shirts and tote bags is simple, appealing, and pleasant. But Haring's best work is none of those things -- it's complex, challenging, aggressive. It's sophisticated -- despite being little more than a few outlines scratched in chalk.

Stuff We Talked About

Bonus Episode! The Lost Treasure of the Neverglades

EL D&D TN.jpg

Welcome to a special bonus episode of the Sewers of Paris! Last weekend some familiar friends and I hosted a fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital, bringing together a group of gays to play a custom made Dungeons and Dragons adventure for a livestream audience. Joining me were comedian Bryan Safi, Carlos Maza from Vox.com, Anthony Oliveira, and LGBT film scholar Bryan Wuest, all-role playing a D&D quest together.

I thought you might enjoy hearing these past Sewers of Paris guests improv their way through an adventure while joking around and making deep references to queer culture. 

I know this is a little different from the usual Sewers of Paris fare, so let me know if you like having these occasional bonus episodes or if you'd rather not have them in the feed. You can get in touch @sewersofparis on twitter or sewerspodcast@gmail.com.

And patreon supporters, don't worry -- you're not getting charged for this episode. 

During this recording you'll hear occasional sound effects whenever a viewer donates. And I hope you'll join them. We're currently ninety percent of our way to our fundraising stretch fundraising goal for Seattle Children's Hospital, and there's still time to donate -- just go to bit.ly/extralifeseattle . As of recording, we're about 90% of the way to our fundraising goal of $3,456.78. 

You can also check out our live show, Dungeons and Drag Queens, where we get a bunch of drag queens up on stage to role play a D&D adventure for a live audience. Go to dungeondrag.com to watch past shows and sign up for the mailing list to find out when we're doing more.

If you'd like to hear more from these adventurers, Bryan Safi's episode of Sewers of Paris is number 64, Anthony's is 114, Carlos is 130, and I hope to bring you Bryan Wuest's in the near future.

Huge thanks to our adventurers, to James Morris who wrote the adventure with me, and to everyone who donated during the stream. 

Prefer to watch a video version? Well here you go:



Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0