Uncle Tad Baker’s Loon Show: The Movie sets up the cinematic experience to come by pointing out a few simple facts: the footage was all filmed by amateur photographer audience members with consumer VHS camcorders, the sound isn’t going to be the greatest and, finally, the performances and shows you’re about to see are unscripted, raw and real. From that point on, you’re treated to various performers as they battle for the title of most deviant and/or disgusting a*****e, all while the audience judges the performers by unloading tomatoes at the stage.
From sexual performance art to outright audience antagonists, the performers who make their way on stage are sure to offend someone, when you can understand what they’re saying or doing at least (that sound issue explicitly stated at the opening is more than a challenge; it does get easier to follow as the film goes on).
Basically, it’s the ultimate display of audience power and hatred. The performers, in all their insanity, are little more than tomato targets, and the film “treats” us to massive amounts of tomato-inflicted injuries (even though there are various “Hate List” rules of how not to behave, including throwing tomatoes at the head or genitals, obviously routinely ignored). Sometimes the anger makes its way off the stage (another “Hate List” violation), but for the most part it’s just footage after footage of people pelted with tomatoes as the audience experiences catharsis while taking out their disgust on the performers (though some, like Rob Alexander, make it off stage relatively unscathed).
For me, Uncle Tad Baker’s Loon Show is like the most brutal internet messageboard or comments page personified, with all the civility that would suggest. Had I attended one of these shows twenty years ago, I likely wouldn’t have been as surprised by much of the questionable behavior I’ve seen online at all. And like those corners of internet, you may decide to avoid them, and this.
The experience does get old rather quick, though. Knowing the existence of the show and seeing bits and pieces of it were enough for me. I will admit that, as the sound and video got better as the film went along, and the audience became less rapid in their tomato-tossing, I found myself enjoying the spirit of it all more, though not as much as I might have had I been there chucking tomatoes myself. There is something lost in the translation from live experience to videotaped voyeurism.
For those that participated in these shows, either in the audience or on stage, there’s a raw, nostalgic quality that’s to be valued. For anyone else though, it’s a curiosity at best and a home video trainwreck at worst.
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