Joe Enright on Joey Skaggs: 60 Years of Satire, Psychic Attorneys & Mobile Confessionals

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

Joe Enright takes a walk down memory lane and reviews Joey Skaggs Satire and Art Activism, 1960s to the Present and Beyond, the new oral history series debuting at the New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, February 12, 2021


Joey Skaggs: 60 Years of Satire, Psychic Attorneys & Mobile Confessionals, by Joe Enright, Argyle Heights, February 10, 2021

In the mid-1960s, a Lower East Side artist organized crucifixion performances in the East Village on Easter Sunday, protesting social injustice and the Vietnam War. They created…wait for it…wait for it…controversy! The cops swarmed and he was busted. This inspired some Hollywood filmmakers to option his life story for a movie. To which the young man responded: “What life story? I’m only 20!” Indeed, there would be so much more to his story.

Joey Skaggs went on to become a satirist and prankster with an extraordinary history of accomplishments, only some of which were crammed into the hilarious 2015 documentary, Art of the Prank. But many scholars also consider him a progenitor of “culture jamming” and “reality hacking,” decades before such high-falutin’ terms were invented to describe his sly takeover of the language and visual trappings of American culture in order to subversively critique it. His pranks are never vicious, never illegal, but they do require a deadpan sense of humor, good acting skills, well-crafted press releases, financing for props, costumes, videos and above all, a wonderful imagination with the planning necessary to carry it all forward.

Skaggs is foremost a very versatile artist, but when pressed for a definitive occupational title I could pin on him for this profile, Joey chose “Pataphysician,” defined by the 19th century French writer Alfred Jarry as a practitioner of “the science of imaginary solutions.” Among Skaggs’ long list of solutions that have brought joy to many fellow citizens, and embarrassment to bamboozled reporters and societal gate-keepers, some stand out for their sheer audacity. Read the whole article here.