He said he was going to penetrate the “salty sea” of right-wing fanatic Anne Coulter. Half the crowd gasped in awe, the other half was shocked into hysterics. It was impossible to resist: I was undoubtedly part of the latter.
The reality of sitting for more than three hours and watching a very active middle-aged, muscular, tattooed man bulldoze through such topics as politics, Hollywood red carpets and, yes, Coulter’s vagina, was evidence enough that I had to be unconscious and on hospital-grade medication. Then, in a flash, just when it seemed obvious that I was bed-ridden and in a hallucinatory coma, the man graciously thanked the crowd, took his bow and quickly left the stage amidst a roaring applause.
It was real.
“Almost three and a half hours,” I thought. “No stops, no awkward pauses, no script and no water … Henry Rollins is not human.”
Before the end, however, there was obviously the beginning, when an eclectic crowd waited patiently Jan. 29 inside Lisner Auditorium for a taste of Henry Rollins’ deliciously scandalous “Shock and Awe My Ass” spoken word tour. Sporting everything from studded leather to tailored shirts, the large crowd sat chattering amicably and listening to low-decibel levels of a punk rock soundtrack.
And suddenly, with no introduction, warm up or laser light show to indicate an appearance, Rollins surfaced on the sparsely set stage to begin what would be a close-to-three-and-a-half-hour performance.
“OK, so let me explain the idea behind how the first of these nine hours will work,” he joked. “I’ll be honest. It’s going to be pretty fucking negative.”
What ensued was an unscripted and unstoppable weave of intertwining tales sucked from the recesses of Rollins’ memory, covering all the forbidden faux pas of dinnertime conversation.
However, an audience member not already acquainted with Rollins’ spoken word approach to social commentary might very well have been confused. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” trinity of issues (politics, sex and religion) were brought up, not with screams, as one might have expected, but with the lighthearted and pointed tongue of a composed improvisational comic.
At one point, Rollins delved into the absurd nature of Hollywood film premieres, and the treacherous trek down the infamous red carpet. Amidst a sea of photographers asking him to give them a “good shot,” Rollins aptly described the results as a version of himself that resembled his sudden transformation into a person with cerebral palsy. After the red carpet treks, Rollins mentioned his obsession with stealing paper goods and sushi from every premiere he attends.
One of Rollins’ more humorous anecdotes was about the day he caught someone breaking into his house. Most people expected this story to end with a beating; however, this was not the case, as Rollins took the opportunity to have a great argument with the robber in order to convince him that he was in fact there to rob his house.
Oddly enough, despite the crowd’s hearty and frequent laughter, “Shock and Awe My Ass” is not a generic comedy show, nor is Rollins a straight comedian. He maintained a continuous ebb and flow of the humorous and the serious, seamlessly oscillating between pointed critiques and outlandish hysterics.
And yet, despite all the lighthearted critiques, the sides were not unmatched, as Rollins would always add a strong brand of self-deprecating humor to even the score. While many have come to know Rollins as a raging juggernaut, seeing the pop culture persona melt away to reveal a surprisingly vulnerable personality was one of the most endearing facets of his performance.
On the whole, Rollins never missed the opportunity to make it known that he, like anybody else, is susceptible to being lonely and having regrets. Nevertheless, as Rollins proved, just because you get humiliated and live in a time of politics you despise, you can still do something about it while having a great time.
Remember Anne Coulter’s vagina? Well, according to Henry, that’s his new crush. After reading a love letter he sent to her, Rollins admitted he would have to start working out, as getting a woman like that to orgasm would surely entail many “tongue reps.”