A vegetable oil-powered bus of visual artists, musicians and comedians is puttering toward Oklahoma at 50 miles per hour, tops. This french fry-scented chaos is a branch of the Baltimore-based Wham City Collective, currently in its sophomore cross-country tour.
The Wham City Comedy Tour cant be distilled to a single descriptor. The two-hour show includes a stand-up comedy, but also experimental theater, improv, sketches and videos. And if youre wondering how 11 creatives became a sort of unified entity, Ben OBrien offers an explanation.
The core of us came from Purchase College, he said. Since its so close to New York City, and its kind of an art school; you get a lot of scrappy, weird artists. Its definitely known for being a little bit off.
A few academic generations of Wham City eventually assembled in Baltimores thriving scene and morphed into the current incarnation.
Baltimore has a good art reputation. There are a lot of working artists here and also the warehouse scene, OBrien said. Thats where (Wham City) originally formed. It branched out to friends and people coming to shows who made cool stuff and wanted to collaborate. Wham City is this amorphous beast that sucks people in, spits people out and keeps moving around.
Along with performance artist Mason Ross, OBrien hosts Baltimores monthly Wham City Comedy Night, while the collectives other members participate in a variety of artistic pursuits. Suffice it to say that Wham City operates under the umbrella of individualism, and for good reason.
Thats why we work together. These people are really good and really funny, OBrien said. Because were a collective, we generally try to allow people to just do what they want, but for this tour, were trying to have some guidance.
For Wham City, however, guidance doesnt translate into predictability not by a long shot, as evidenced by recollection of a previous tour stop.
We set up in the backyard for a house show, and it was beautiful, and we had all these lights and a fire pit. Then it started raining, OBrien said. We rushed all our stuff inside and performed in a dining room while people watched from the living room. We used to start the show with a dance, and we had to do the dance completely in place, and it looked ridiculous ... but it looked ridiculous even done a 100 percent correctly.
I kind of wish we had another house show on this tour; I like how it shakes it up. Weve talked about it if were at a show with no one there, well pull parts out of a hat and switch acts like Ill do someone elses stand-up. I think thatd be really fun.
For Tuesdays Opolis stop, he has other hopes.
I hope we have a show on this tour that just blows, he said, but mostly, I hope its very well attended. But wed love it if you drive people away and tell them the show sucks. Just kidding!