Getting fresh with Mike Daisey

In light of Whitney Pastorek’s excellent posts calling for civility on our message boards, I want to share an incident that happened — live, in front of an audience, and captured on video — up Boston way. Mike Daisey is an accomplished monologuist who, unlike Eric Bogosian or the late Spalding Gray, never does the same show twice. Instead, he charts out each night which topics he wants to cover. He’s currently starring in Invincible Summer at the American Repertory Theatre, the professional stage company in residence at Harvard. Last Thursday, 87 audience members exited a performance, en masse, objecting to his use of (heavens, no!) the good old f-word. Watch the show come to a screeching halt in the (obviously NSFW) clip after the jump, and don’t miss what went down after one guy detoured onto the stage to empty a water bottle on Daisey’s handwritten notes, destroying his original manuscript.

What’s remarkable isn’t that some extremists were rude to a guy whose job is to sit on a stage and express a strong point of view, at times in strong language, but rather how Daisey addressed his audience in the aftermath. So cool you’ll wish you could reach into YouTube and shake his hand. And, as recounted on his blog, Daisey actually dared to find the water-bottle man and discuss the incident with him, calmly.

I have no idea what it’s like to live in a country where "moral police" is more than an abstract concept, where people using some words or opinions actually get punished. If you have, do tell: Didja like it? Really? I don’t mean to be glib, I just wonder why freedom of speech is such a problem for anybody. Water bottle man, if you’re out there, what’s the deal?

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
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  • dyan

    This was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. The way he reacted afterwards was amazing. What he said was so true, why would you come if you had no idea what you were seeing????

  • Dave

    As a Christian, quite frankly I’m appalled. Mike was absolutely correct in saying that you’ve got to know what you’re going to go see! I wasn’t offended. It actually made me search for more monologues. The “protestors” did have the right to walk out, as inanely as they handled it, but they had NO RIGHT to destroy the man’s work. That’s actually a crime. You can’t just dump water on his notes because you don’t like what he’s saying. That group’s ignorance give rational, pragmatic Christians like myself a bad name.

  • j.fo

    Wow. The video was great but the blog entry was especially thoughtful and illuminating.

  • t3hdow

    Man…Mike Daisey took that a lot better than most people would have. If that was me, I probably would’ve gotten really pissed off and quit performing the show. I’d buy him dinner for his amazing conduct alone, despite the idiot who poured water over his handwritten manuscript.
    The blog was even better and much more thought provoking than anything I’ve read in the past month. If the future of Christianity includes fag bashing Christians and Catholics like the irrational and biased water bottle guy, I fear for its future. No wonder the religion gets such bad rep recently with characters like these giving it such negative press.

  • Brad

    I hate to say it, but I must ‘live in a country where “moral police” is more than an abstract concept, where people using some words or opinions actually get punished,’ Just a few weeks ago a radio commentator got fired for his use of ‘some words’.

  • Houstonian Jen in Balitmore

    That was absolutely unbelievable! As another Christian, I found David’s behavior appalling…as an artist, I was totally disgusted. Water bottle man is raising children who will be just as rude, disrespectful, and destructive as he is. If the material was too much for the high school group, their administrator should have done a better job of researching the show before checking it out. The box office told them it was strong language (maybe they thought strong language meant he would say ‘dag-nabbit’) Idiots!
    Mike Daisey’s response was priceless. I want to check out one of his shows in the future. He gained a fan tonight.

  • Brad

    Just to clarify, I do not approve of hate speech or racist speech, nor do I condone the actions of Mr. Daisey’s audience. But let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that there are no ‘moral police’ in this country.

  • Houstonian Jen in Balitmore

    Brad…here is the thing: Imus was fired (thankfully) because people who thought he had gone too far decided to get the ‘money’ involved. He is still free to say whatever ignorant things he wishes to do (on street corners, in the supermarket, at the IHOP), but MSNBC and CBS are no longer paying him for it. Just as we can expect to get reprimanded for calling our coworkers kinky-maned street walkers, he is accountable for the things he said.
    Water bottle guy destroyed someone else’s property. PERIOD. He had no right to do it. I respect the group’s right to leave the performance. I’ve exited early from some inappropriate and crappy shows in my lifetime. If he had just walked out with the other folks, this story probably would not have gone so far.
    Come to think of it, the high school group leader missed a great teaching moment for the kids. Why not voice why they were leaving the event? Even an explanation like: “See kids, his soul is tainted by Satan…”

  • Dwight

    Hey Brad, With all due respect, I think you miss the point. A corporation which was losing advertising dollars because of one broadcaster’s use of airtime made a decision to cut their losses and let him go. If you read what Daisey has to say, you’ll understand he wants people to be respectful of each other when disagreeing; he doesn’t say disagreement itself is bad. What if listeners who Imus offended, or the Rutgers girls themselves, had cornered him in a public way and thrown dog-doo at him? A very healthy, grownup debate ensued after Imus offended people. In this case, the dude who charged the stage while Mike Daisy was working was clearly trying to P*ss all over this man in a public & humiliating & personal way. He didn’t ask to converse with Mr.Daisy about his objectionable language, he didn’t organize a petition or write a letter to the editor. He saw himself as a vigilante member of some kind of moral police, and free from any obligation to treat other human beings with respect.

  • t3hdow

    Brad, that’s a load of BS comparing this to Imus’s ordeal. The only reason Imus got fired is because CBS lost advertisers, not because of his inappropriate statements. I’ve never heard of the guy before a couple weeks ago, but from my understanding, he’s said remarks just as offensive and idiotic for years. He even slandered the Clintons in a public display, yet it took an overblown case like this to fire him? It all goes back to money…he’d still have a show if CBS didn’t lose so much money in the fallout. Fox cancelled the OJ special for the same reason, knowing the special would antagonize everybody. Hypocrisy like that is the worst comparison to this honest display of character between an entertainer and the water bottle guy.

  • LaRochelle89

    I agree. The blog was powerful. As a public high school teacher though, I can understand the usage of “safety issue”. I am scared to death to show my my students a Sister Wendy art video for fear that parents will unite and call for my resignation. In that case it is a safety issue. My job safety. We need to continue the dialogue. It isn’t christian vs. atheist or liberal vs. conservative. It’s living in a litigious society. Water bottle guy didn’t want to discuss but do damage. American parents don’t want to dialogue with teachers, they’d rather get them fired. Gone is our motto “In God
    We Trust”. Now it’s “I’m Gonna Get You Suckah!”

  • gypsy

    I have a huge amount of respect for Mike and how he handled all this. I feel sad for David, that as a “Christian”, he could be so shocked at Mike’s forgiveness.

  • RayT

    Who knew those Harvard kids were such staunch defenders of Paris Hilton?!

  • Shaun G

    re: gypsy’s comment
    Bear in mind that everything we know of David is coming through Mike; something tells me that David might disagree with Mike’s assessment of their phone conversation.
    And although Mike told David he’s forgiven him, it doesn’t strike me as very much in the forgiving spirit to then basically further dress the guy down through his blog entry.

  • Jael

    As a Christian and a lover of art, I’m deeply embarrassed. Had this man offended me, I’d have tried to talk to him; however, I didn’t find him offensive. I’m offended by the sexualization of violence and perpetuation of fairytale romance that I see being fostered on children, not a guy using the f-word in a room full of adults. When will people stop thinking only of immediate image and start trying to see the innocence or danger of the underlying message? Glad he had a sold out show. Excuse me while I look for more of his work.

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