Ian Belknap on his James Franco-centric solo show

In his new solo show, Ian Belknap explores his revulsion at James Franco's creative pursuits

  • Ian Belknap
Ian Belknap (Courtesy of Evan Hanover )
October 21, 2013|By Julia Borcherts, @JuliaBorcherts | For RedEye

Go: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 16 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Tickets: $15. 773-609-2336; brownpapertickets.com/event/446529

James Franco is everywhere. He was the subject of September's Comedy Central roast and co-starred in "Spring Breakers," "This Is the End," "Oz the Great and Powerful," "Lovelace" and several other movies in 2013 alone. And of course, he's also a multiple degree-seeking author. And poet. And memoirist. And a collaborator in the Museum of Non-Visible Art, a crowd-funded concept in which your donation buys you a description of a work of art that does not exist.

Chicago writer-performer Ian Belknap is also everywhere. In addition to creating and hosting the competitive live lit series Write Club in both Chicago and Evanston—and founding chapters in five additional cities—and curating Theater on the Lake's Live Lit on the Lake series this summer, Belknap is a frequent and popular performer at live lit shows across town.

But he's no fan of Franco, who first appeared on Belknap's radar in 2011 when he learned of Franco's museum project, which struck Belknap as "bone-deep in its pretentiousness and annoyingness" and irritated him to the point where he began researching Franco's range of creative pursuits.

"I have actually no problem with him as an actor," Belknap said. "He's not mind-blowing, but that's not my trouble. It's all this other stuff."

Belknap channeled his growing vexation with the quality—or lack thereof—in Franco's side projects into a new, evening-length solo show, "Bring Me the Head of James Franco, That I May Prepare a Savory Goulash in the Narrow and Misshapen Pot of His Skull," a comedic social commentary Power Point presentation about the public's fascination with Franco's every artistic move.

"He's the point of departure," Belknap said, "but my actual thesis is that we are complicit or entirely at fault in the making of this Franken-douche and we must stop with the electricity that makes him possible—which is our attention. ... I have zero interest in 'fixing' his creative life because I just feel like that ship has sailed and there's no hope there," Belknap continued. "The hope for me is that we can all collectively agree that we can do better."

To get some insight into the inspiration for Belknap's show, we asked him for the top five reasons why he hates James Franco.

5. In general, his douchey insistence on serving as the nation's Self-Congratulatory Art Rascal-in-Chief, a title nobody bestowed and an exasperating series of services nobody wants. It is this ludicrous and irritating garbage that makes one reflect that, in a just world, Franco would be juggling devil sticks at Burning Man and he would die in obscurity.

4. Franco the Crowd Funder. The fact that we live in a world where a millionaire can beg online to support his twee little projects and there are those slack-jawed enough to part with money that could be put to some more valid purpose should be enough to make anybody wish to beat a puppy with a pillowcase full of spark plugs.

3. Franco the Simpleton Polymath. For a guy who receives another Ph.D. or MFA every 20 minutes or so, his work remains stubbornly plucked from the Numbingly Repetitive Hog Trough of Adolescent Privilege.

2. Franco the Martyred Media Whore. He's both the stripper and the barker out front. He gives you the lap dance, then tries to convince you that it was a meta-commentary on the condition of lap-dancery. And then when your Yelp review calls his lap-dancing craft into question, he will lash out at you with the shrill and door-slamming petulance of a 13-year-old girl who's discovered you reading her journal. That she'd laid open and mashed your face into.

1. The lasting degradation to the phrase Renaissance Man. Each time it is misapplied to Franco, its meaning is further decayed and leached away. Performing many tasks is not the same as achieving. And in this case, quantity put quality in a coma a long while back.

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