BRIEF ENCOUNTER: Juggalo, What?!

By Alex Erikson, photo: BZA Photo
February 01, 2012

Performance artist Neal Medlyn tells us about “The most chaotic fucking phenomenon of the year”: his newest Show Wicked Clown Love.

Neal Medlyn, who seems to exist somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey Scale, has previously put on shows that pay homage to the works of R. Kelly, Prince, Phil Collins and Miley Cyrus. Continuing that trend, the performance artist/alt-cabaret star’s newest show at The Kitchen will rehash six Insane Clown Posse songs while also engaging in “group activities” that explore the worlds of male bonding via the Insane Clown Posse fan group, Juggalos, who paint their faces and spray each other with the soft drink Faygo.

This show sounds crazy. What exactly is going to happen?
Well, I’ve made new versions of a lot of Insane Clown Posse songs, so we’re going to abe doing the songs and some sorts of skits and group activities and stuff like that. It sort of explores the world of Juggalos and dark carnivals, and also men’s bonding movements. You know, guys that go into the woods and play drums together, talk about their feelings.

“Male bonding” sounds pretty gay. Is there an element of homoeroticism to the show?
Oh yeah, I think so. On some level the show is about male intimacy, and so there is a lot of that kind of feel and sort of aspects and imagery in the show. They’re in there and I left all of those things in on purpose and kind of mess around on those things a lot. You know, [the show asks the question], ‘what is male bonding?’ in a sort of general sense, and there is also a lot of homoeroticism to the whole idea.

But aren’t the Insane Clown Posse a bit homophobic?
There’s definitely a good deal of misogyny in some of their songs. I don’t know that they’re particularly anti-gay or anything like that. More than that the Juggalo culture is so community oriented. It’s literally this community of people that go out into the woods together and they’re just sort of wild and crazy. Not that all Juggalos are poor, but there’s a sort of class element to their community.

Are all Juggalos male?
With Juggalos the weird thing about going to the gathering, I would say that the attendees were 40% female, but there’s this kind of sameness about gender and difference. If they’re Juggalos, then they’re in the “in” group, regardless of [their physical traits]. And that’s very interesting to me, the way they’ve constructed this very particular underground world.

Does it transcend sexuality?
I think so; being a Juggalo is about being who you are and just being really fucked up. So that’s kind of the main requirement. And kind of being rejected by other people. So I think it does transcend a lot of different things. And because they’ve been so underground for so long—although more people have become aware of them in the last couple years—but for 15 years they’ve been kind of just doing their thing, they don’t have so much of a relationship with the outside world.

How do you conceive of your performances?
With a lot of my shows I take a real sort of macro approach, where I like to mix [things together] and conflate a lot of things and then present them all and try to construct like a whole, independent little world out of all of those ideas and put it up there. The audience kind of pulls from it how they see fit. There’s a lot of literary references and other stuff. It’s a big stew.

We hear the show features flashlight wrestling and Faygo showers? Explain.
We make very liberal use of the audience area. This one, more so than my last couple shows…it’s more of a performance piece with music than it is a theater piece.

Should audiences bring their ponchos?
No, I think they’ll be safe. We’ve worked it out. The theater asked me to do these forensic tests on how far the soda would go, so that we would know what the likelihood of people getting wet is. But I don’t think people will get any Faygo on them—unless they want to.

Wicked Clown Love at The Kitchen, 512 W 19th St (btwn 10th/11th Aves), Feb 3 and 4 at 8pm; $15. Visit thekitchen.org and nealmedlyn.com for more info.