Hard to explain, impossible to miss: Rave meets comedy at Crisco Theque
Mehran Khaghani is in the midst of a media frenzy in which he’s explaining being in a vortex of creativity.
What he’s trying to explain to the writers, readers, on-air personalities and listeners of The Boston Globe and WFNX-FM and everything in between is Crisco Theque, his Aug. 6 show at Oberon in Harvard Square, which will be part comedy show, part rave.
And in part it’s coming about because he craves a sense of community, and in part it’s because he’s being filmed for a documentary. In part it’s about recreating something beautiful from his youth, and in part it’s about creating something totally new.
“The people at Oberon are being very trusting with me. They basically said, ‘We know you,’ but even they don’t know too, too much about it,” Khaghani said Monday, preparing for a Wednesday meeting with his crew — comedians including Chris Fleming, Sarah Heggan and Ken Reid, DJ Caseroc and VJ Serial Krusher, to map out what’s going to happen at the event. “I think I’m the only person who has a real sense of what’s going on here.”
What’s known is that 300 people (tickets are selling well, Khaghani says, and even the list of comics keeps growing) will pack into Oberon to be assaulted, and become one with, pulsing dance beats, a video collage and cutting-edge comedy. If it’s unclear how stand-up comedy meshes with a rave, that’s okay. The ravers don’t have to know. The managers of Oberon, site of the sybaritic disco-era reimagining of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” called “The Donkey Show,” doesn’t have to know. The comedians themselves may not know.
“I’m taking these comics who I think are super talented and kind of challenging them to do something outside what they normally do. We all have our five minutes, our seven minutes, whatever, our length of time that we all know how to get up and do stand-up comedy. I want to make people do something different, something a little outside their comfort zone that shows off a certain theatricality,” Khaghani said. “That brings more fun to it, a little more troublemaking.”
Khaghani is a comic himself — famed as the gay Iranian comic who won Best Comedian in this year’s Boston Phoenix readers survey and went on to stage some woozily exciting experiments: nights at Mottley’s comedy club called Boozebag and Weed in which comedians are obliged to do their time blasted on Jaegermeister or stoned out of their heads on pot. So he knows what he’s doing.
He also knows what he’s done.
“This is my dream hybrid. I was a raver when I was a wee, happy, hallucinating thing, in my young adulthood, let’s say, late child years, and the spirit and rebellion and love and community feeling of raving was super-duper important to me, and it has had a huge impact on the person that I am,” he said. “It was this sort of beautiful, rebellious, loving, free dancing, pro-expression, thing that, for all its screwed-upness, had its morals in the right place. It was a huge chapter of my life, and I associate that with a really strong sense of community.”
“I didn’t have this really clear sense of community again until I became a comic,” he said. “It was the second coming of belonging to a tribe of people I really love and relate to deeply and importantly.”
It was his brash, daring work in comedy — the true-life tales of joyful debauchery, the sometimes surrealistically exultant celebration of sexuality — that made Khaghani perfect for “This Gay Movie,” which started filming in May and is set to wrap in August, with Khaghani as half of one of the film’s set of generational dyads. In the film, the older generation paves the way for the younger, and the younger runs with it, with Khagani being an intense example of that.
A crew led by Brian Gale, the filmmaker and a proprietor of Boston’s Calamus Bookstore, has been following Mehran (including being at Boozebag) and plans to be on hand for Crisco Theque.
“We wanted to get a sense of what Mehran does, to look at the creative process behind what he’s doing,” Gale said Monday. “I know he’s got a lot of plans about where he wants to take his comedy.”
“He was a good choice,” Gale said.
He’s a considerate subject, certainly. He said his ultimate push to do Crisco Theque came from knowing what dates Gale’s film crew would be watching what he does. He recalled thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice to throw something on film, to give them some more vibrant, exciting subject matter?”
The result, as Khaghani explains it throughout a breathless interview, will be a “superhybrid of entertainment, a fast-paced show … random, bizarre, hilarious stuff, with lots of fun surprises, and sandwiching that between a club night — a proper get-out-of-the-house, put-on-your-dancing-shoes, an authentic, real thing … really positive energy
… a rock ’em, sock ’em, hit-you-from-all-angles high-energy party night … beautiful and ridiculous …”
The explanation that seems to suit Khaghani best — and the people behind “The Donkey Show,” and probably Gale as well — is when he envisions Crisco Theque as “Something that gives you a sense you went out.”
“You’ll know you were somewhere when you leave this event,” he said.
Crisco Theque is Aug. 6 at Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. and the show runs from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. the next day, with dancing until 2 a.m. Tickets are $15 for dance-floor admission and $25 for VIP seating in advance, or $20 and $30 respectively at the door. Tickets can be bought in advance by clicking here. Buy five and get one free using the code: SIX.