MOCA is taking comedy seriously these days. On Thursday evening, the museum held a cocktail reception and “world premiere” screening of a new Web comedy series debuting on MOCAtv, the YouTube channel it launched just more than a year ago.
“Ambiance Man,” created and directed by artist Alix Lambert, follows a taken-for-granted superhero, in renaissance garb, who does not aim to save the world but rather to make it a more pleasant place, with scented candles, fresh flowers or simply much-needed deodorant. Filmed at the YouTube Space LA, it stars “Saturday Night Live" alum Fred Armisen as the well-mannered superhero and features Jack Black as uber villain Unidentifiable Odor and performance artist Jibz Cameron, a.k.a., Dynasty Handbag, as the dour Buzz Kill.
“These days, you see such a resurgence of the superhero, and they’re generally these larger than life, ‘let’s save the world’ characters,” Lambert says. “And I feel like: ‘You know what I need help with? This terrible date or this horrible gas that’s happened at dinner.' ”
MOCA will officially debut episode 1 on Friday, but guests at Thursday night's screening -- artists, museum donors, filmmakers and some comedy figures -- saw a run of the first four shows. The crowd mingled in MOCA's Grand Avenue courtyard beforehand, snacking on free pizza and lemonade cocktails.
L.A. artists Gary Baseman, Ry Rocklen, Carter Mull and Samara Golden showed up -- Golden has work in MOCA's current show, "Room to Live" -- as did the performance artists Nao Bustamante and Zackary Drucker, Night Gallery's Mieke Marple, filmmakers Wyatt Troll and Aaron Rose (Rose was one of the curators of MOCA's 2011 "Art in the Streets" show) and Alia Shawkat from "Arrested Development."
Armisen -- as one of his alter egos, Ian Rubbish -- performed several punk songs, including one he called "a love story." "Hey policeman, my boot goes in your face!” he crooned in a Liverpool accent, thrashing on his steel gray electric guitar.
The evening wrapped up with a mix of stand-up and songs by Dynasty Handbag, who performed a hilarious, feminist take on the 1953 Christmas tune, "Santa Baby."
“Ambiance Man” is part of MOCAtv’s new Art + Comedy programming initiative, spearheaded by Emma Reeves, the online channel’s creative director. It will include an upcoming documentary short about Andy Kaufman as well as a short film adaptation of the book by David Robbins, “Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth Century Comedy.”
“We’re being a little bit provocative, we’re looking at art historical moments through the lens of MOCAtv, where we celebrate people who’ve been associated with comedic values but are still artists,” Reeves says. “Plus, we’re a YouTube channel, and comedy is such a natural and successful thing on YouTube. So it made sense.”
Here are sneak peeks of episodes 1 and 2.
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