Pranks! TV Video
Excerpt from interview with Jihad Jerry
From Pranks! 2
JIHAD JERRY is the latest project from Gerald V. Casale, a founding member of DEVO, one of the most intelligent musical groups ever to crack the best-seller charts worldwide. JIHAD JERRYıs debut album, Mine Is Not a Holy War, beautifully captures the zeitgeist of America under the illegitimate authority of George W. Bush, Inc. Interview by V.Vale
JIHAD JERRY: In a way, thereıs nothing better than a prank. Pranks should never be thought of as menial, or light, or pejorative, even. If you think about all the best things in history, they qualify as pranks, including DADA. So I never mind being associated with pranks--pranks need to be elevated.
Why? Because pranks are confrontational; pranks are creative; pranks are in that realm of transgressive art; a creative response to ludicrous situations that people find themselves in, in society, faced with illegitimate authority, illogical explanations, and mind-sets that are very, very unhealthy. A good prankster, basically through a creative act, breaks through all of that, and questions that and makes other people participate in that questioning. So, I would like to think that any good art is a prank on some level that is for the audienceıs own good. The intention isnıt evil.
VALE: I like the idea of the prank as a cultural Trojan Horse, and Iıd like to think that Devoıs songs, at best, gave people little conceptual 'barbs' that were like time bombs. People think theyıre getting something funny or light or amusing, but then it turns out youıve given them something that keeps rising up out of their subconscious, provoking them to think about things.
JJ: A good prank definitely scrambles the assumption field, and as a result youıre forced to re-think all your assumptions--which is fantastic. The latest example of that, which was great, and I hope itıs still available on-line, was the comic Stephen Colbert, from Comedy Central. Somehow--and this is a very important part of the concept of pranks, by the way--because of his fame within his little area, and because of his ability to have a voice in the marketplace due to Comedy Central, he was able to more or less sneak into the foreign correspondentsı dinner in Washington, D.C., attended by no other than George W. Bush, his wife, Tony Snow, and assorted other nefarious characters from the junta that runs our country.
Stephen Colbert got up at this traditional haha roast situation and proceeded to pretend to take on a persona of being this conservative comic whoıs on Bushıs side, and using that as a platform to ridicule and mock Bush, twelve feet away from him, for a complete 25 minutes. Nonstop, no falterings, as the laughter and titters turned to deathly silence; as it got really, really personal and really mean. And he nailed Bush in a way that nobody from the straight press could ever come close to doing, and said things that nobody else could get away with, ıcuz he was a 'comic' at a roast. And it was incredible.
It was on YouTube for awhile in three parts. It was brilliant, and I would recommend it to everyone, to watch this guy. Rarely does one get the opportunity in life to actually, in reality, get a position like that where your big fantasy would be, 'God, if I ever got to talk to Bush, I tell you, Iıd give him a piece of my mind,' and of course, thatıs just like bravado and front-porch posturing that never could happen. But this guy--not only did he get the opportunity; he didnıt squander it; he didnıt blow it; he didnıt get nervous; he wasnıt afraid--he did it. And it was stealth, and it was perfect.
V: Thatıs fantastic--
JJ: It is fantastic. You should watch it. [Google 'Stephen Colbert'] It starts with a knife to the gut and then just keeps twisting. It doesnıt even mess around. He gets up and goes, 'Wow, I am just so lucky to be here tonight. I canıt believe this. Ohmigod, whoa, lookit, here I am, ten feet away from one of my all-time heroes: George W. Bush. I canıt believe it; here I really am. Somebody pinch me--I must be dreaming.' Then he goes, 'No no no--no, Iım such a deep sleeper . . . somebody shoot me in the face! Oh . . . that guy isnıt here tonight. Gee, just when you need him for something he can do!' [he was referring to Dick Cheney, right after he shot his friend in the face.] And you watch Bush quit smiling at that point, and you never see him smile again. His lips are pursed; his brows are furled, his wife is losing it and wants this guy killed, and Bush looks ahead straight-faced--canıt look at him, and starts turning red! And the camera keeps going to him because itıs C-Span, and the coverage was just standard C-Span coverage, so theyıre cutting to him a lot. So what you see is just the actual C-Span coverage of the foreign press corps dinner. And itıs devastating. Thatıs enough on that; I just want to tell you that he is a prankster and he did a great job--I salute him; itıs his finest moment.
V: Well, putting this in a pranks history book helps preserve it--
JJ: This could never now be suppressed effectively; itıs out there. And of course, due to White House pressure, the very next day C-Span used a never-used tactic, because theyıre always on these Internet services, and the Internet services show everything from C-Span. They cited 'copyright infringement' to make all these sites take it off-- obviously, because they were being threatened!
V: Thatıs a whole legal arena whereby truth can be suppressed: invoking 'copyright infringement.' Now itıs used punitively, too--
JJ: All the time. None of these kind of corporate whores and corporate criminals have an ounce of humor . . . certainly no ability for introspection! And so they hide behind litigators just using pure, raw, brute power and money to just subjugate and threaten everyone so theyıre too afraid to make fun. Itıs so typical. And theyıre getting better and better at it.
Pranks used to be much easier. Today, it requires a lot more sophistication. In the case of Stephen Colbert, who booked him for the foreign press correspondentsı dinner? Who got who to agree that Stephen Colbert would be the last speaker of the night? Obviously, somebody had to see the script beforehand--see his monologue. And somehow, he was able to do this. Thatıs whatıs interesting there.
Whatıs important about the prank is the energy that goes into organizing it . . . into getting yourself into a position to do the prank. The prank itself is actually just the coup de grace; the icing on the cake. The foundation is actually more interesting to me: the planning; the energy it takes to realize the idea.
V: Right. Often, thereıs a direct relationship between the thought and preparation, in regard to how much the final prank is truly satisfying.
JJ: A lot of people have great, funny ideas, and nobody does anything about ıem. The prankster sticks his ass on the line. He actually sets about, with the time and energy, to do the deed and reap the consequences of his action.
V: Somebody sent us an email that it was kind of amazing that DEVO was able to plant subversive thoughts in people by the millions, under the guise of humor--
JJ: Well, we lucked out. They looked at us, and felt superior to us, so that was a good start! Like with JIHAD JERRY, itıs always good to leave being 'cool' to everybody else, and let people think youıre an asshole and a clown and a pathetic person . . . which is what 'they' all thought DEVO was. They came to laugh at us; then they felt very superior and condescending, and then that made ıem like us! [laughs] But then theyıve subjected themselves to you, so now you have an audience; now you have a platform.
V: A pop song can implant one-liners that you canıt get out of your head--
JJ: When you think of the fact that Bob Dylan, in 1965, had an AM hit called 'Like a Rolling Stone,' which was a scathing, incisive samurai sword to the mainstream culture and the people that were backing the Vietnam war, it was amazing.
V: We should have a history of subversive songs that became popular--
JJ: 'Like a Rolling Stone' and 'Sympathy for the Devil' are right up there, in all time.
V: Did that Stephen Colbert video reach millions?
V: I donıt have anything against the goal of trying to get a large audience, especially if youıre trying toplant subversive ideas or thoughts or memes or soundbites--whatever you call them--
JJ: In a way it used to be easier, because there wasnıt as much narrow-casting in media available to whoever, whatever subgroup wants to keep preaching to the choir, so that thereıs, like, skinheads who like Samoans, skinheads who hate Chinese people, and they all stay in their little groups. It used to be that there was a mass media and there was radio, and either you were on it or you were off it. So if you actually survived and ascended into having a voice, you were reaching millions, because there werenıt any of these little sub-markets--everybody participated in this; it was a mass experience.
Itıs very strange, but itıd be like: if the Beatles were around today--if there were somebody like the Beatles for now, that the Beatles were to their time then, itıs possible that they would have, like, a little fan base, an Internet following, and thatıs how it could stay. [laughs] And the people who ride Vespas would be into them, and they could sustain a nice life--theyıre making enough money off their 'merch' and their shows and their web-site, but thatıs it.
Today itıs almost like thereıs niche markets for everything, and nobodyıs participating in some mass experience . . . because all the content is meaningless. Thereıs just no meaningful content. So, everything has just been homogenized and stripped of any force, so that itıs not threatening. So, you have the freedom to be as weird as you want--as long as your weirdness means nothing...
Other excerpts from Pranks! 2: