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November 07, 2015

Denver Film Festival: Art of the Prank


Andrea Marini - 2015
Relight Films

There is some amusement to be found in Art of the Prank. That's inevitable when you see the younger Joey Skaggs riding around New York City, with his bicycle driven "Portofess", a mobile confessional for busy Catholics who may not have time to go to church.
Skaggs hoaxes place him somewhere between Dick Tuck, the prankster most famous for being the nemesis of another Dick, and Sacha Baron Cohen, who convinced more than enough people of his persona as Borat.

That Skaggs would appear on television claiming to be an expert of cockroaches named Dr. Gregor is yet another reminder that sometimes people are who should know better never take the time to do any research. While audience members may laugh at the gullibility of various journalists, and wonder why none of Skaggs claims in his various personas weren't viewed with more skepticism, there may perhaps be less of a distance between some of Joey Skaggs hoaxes, and the recently exposed terrorist expert featured on Fox News.

One of the more interesting aspects of Skaggs life is that he intended to be a more conventional kind of artist. It was hoaxes that first initiated media attention, after which Skaggs would find ways of making the media a co-conspirator, with such such publicized gags as a brothel for dogs, and a celebrity sperm bank.

The documentary cuts between Skaggs discussing his life, footage of past hoaxes including television appearances, and his most recent work in addressing the use of GMOs. Much of the work has been politically motivated, initially as part of anti-war activity in the late Sixties.

Marini also cuts to various people who have been involved with Skaggs work, sometimes posing as scientists or reporters. Actor Robert Forster, reportedly a friend of Skaggs, provides a bit of celebrity presence.

Explaining the joke is never as good as what you see and hear, but you have to hand it to a guy who has convinced a few people that with a few cell transplants, you can regrow teeth just like a shark, and have the choppers to prove it.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 7, 2015 03:07 PM