The Performant: Oakland, We’re For You

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Oakland Nights….LIVE! makes a scene

Clear your calendars everybody, Oakland’s own untelevised late-night talk show has returned from a wintry hibernation and found itself some indoor digs, all the better to display their charmingly populist showcase.

The brainchild of art teacher and science nerd Julie Crossman, and sound artist Jeremy Dalmas, Oakland Nights…LIVE! is a giddy mashup of brief lectures/guest speakers, interviews, contests, music, and general goofing around, loosely adhering to a pre-determined theme. Newly located in the recently outfitted hackerspace, the Sudo Room (it used to play in Dalmas’ backyard, and once, memorably, on BART), ONL’s spartan “set” resembles a picked-over yard sale in the late afternoon: a few mis-matched chairs, a desktop crowded with knickknacks, a rotary telephone, a pile of seemingly random toys, including an old fashioned porcelain doll named Spooky Lucy, a basket of (vegan) cookies for participants. A video screen hovers behind the stage, primed for live-cam action, and a winningly upbeat house band, the Hats, stand at the ready.

After an opening monologue about hemorrhoids and hot doctors delivered by Channing Tatum (just kidding, it was Oakland comedian Channing Kennedy who also provides most of the onscreen visuals) the show begins in earnest. There were cue cards (applause, maniacal laughter, awkward cough), and the first oddience competition of the evening “Who’s New?” — the highlight of which was a video of baby goats at the Oakland Zoo, because the highlight of just about everything in this cruel world is a video of baby goats.

The theme of the evening was "The Human Body," so the first guest lecturer was a dermatologist, Ingrid Roseborough. First thing I learned over the course of the evening from the opening monologue is that there are four kinds of hemorrhoids (lovely). The second, during Roseborough’s Q&A, was about the lines of Blaschko, invisible stripes on the human body that become visible only in conjunction with certain skin conditions. Education and entertainment. It doesn’t get much better.

Except that it does. Among the guests wrangled by the impossibly buoyant Crossman and her laid-back co-conspirator Dalmas are Exploratorium Explainer Raha Behman who dissects a cow eye on the live-cam to predictable gasps and giggles, a duo of intensely-focused dancers, Christine Bonansea and Justin Morrison, whose aggressively industrial soundtrack would fit right in on a Throbbing Gristle album, swallowing expert Lauren Scheiner, who leads the room in a series of tongue exercises, and comedian David Cohen whose stated goal is to uncover  what constitutes the perfect smooch.

He raises some hackles with his San Francisco-based safari video, the popular sentiment being that Oakland should be the representative demographic at ONL, a stance that comes off sounding somewhat defensive to my own San Francisco-dwelling perspective (relax, guys, we all know you’re awesome!), but is enthusiastically supported by the general majority.

Cohen promises an Oakland edition, and the crowd settles back down just in time for the grand finale sing-along “Oakland, We’re For You,” a perfect tongue-in-cheek ending to the evening’s many shenanigans. Best of all, ONL’s quirky good fun is scheduled to continue indefinitely on each first Saturday, so plan to tune in, turn it up, and drop by soon.

 

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