The Chatroulette Show at the Make-Out Room: Laughs, Music and Masturbation

Categories: Last Night

John Staedler hooks a fan.
The Chatroulette Show

July 22, 2010
@The Make-Out Room

Better than: Pretty much any other use of Chatroulette. (Unless you really just like looking at genitalia.)

Penises, boobs, cocks, phone sex ladies, tits, schlongs, vaginas, pubes, porn ads, and more penises. Bored-looking men staring blankly into the cold glow of their computer screens. Signs begging for boobs. And gawking teenagers. To this -- the icky scene last night on the random video chat website Chatroulette -- one Jonathan Bender, theater producer, man of letters, and Internet provocateur, decided to add a little San Francisco whimsy. 

The idea behind his Chatroulette Show, the third instance of which went down at the Make-Out Room last night, is simply to get a bunch of musical, etc., performers into a bar with a live crowd, link them with audio and video to Chatroulette, and hold a contest to see which can best hold the attention of both the people in the bar and whatever vacuous face, curious listener, or foreign phallus happens to be onscreen. The goal is to inspire, connect, and perform -- and to not get nexted. But despite charismatic performances and a good-looking S.F. crowd last night, we got nexted. A lot.

Bender isn't the first to try this idea (Ben Folds played a concert via Chatroulette and I'm sure others have as well), but that's because it's a good one. And even if the execution last night better demonstrated the Internet's place as a dustbin for unyielding human stupidity than its potential for electrifying human connection -- due to what Bender said were more vertically inclined male parts than usual -- it still provoked a lot of laughs from the throngs who witnessed it live.

The stage setup at the Make-Out Room last night.
Naturally, there was a drinking game involved. The crowd shouted keywords and took drinks each time one of several things happened: a penis appeared (frequent; we shouted one of several synonyms), breasts made a cameo (rare; we shouted "boobs!") or the website's shoddy coding caused the MacBook's browser to crash (constantly; after which we were to yell "Andrey!" -- the first name of the Russian teenager who produced the site). Did you ever play the penis game in school? It was like that, except with more words, more people, and more volume. Oh, and alcohol.
An assistant held up signs to remind the crowd when to yell and drink.
Our performers for the evening included a magician (Ryan Miller), a busking cover band (Mad Noise), an oddball Internet performance artist (John Staedler), the Ukulady, and Unwoman (aka Erica Mulkey, a busking singer-cellist). As a cute, coiffed, Victorian-clad female with a willing smile, Mulkey -- who also plays cello with Stripmall Architecture -- entered the game with a considerable advantage. On Chatroulette, males usually get nexted immediately. 
But as the artists worked through their performances (each got three, ever-shorter tries), every contender more or less made a case for themselves. The four members of Mad Noise issued untraditional arrangements of familiar covers (Weezer's "Say it Ain't So," Rihanna's "Umbrella") with an irresistible effervescence, garnering raised thumbs from the few Chatrouletters that stuck around to watch. "Hootie!" one foreign-seeming chatter typed after clicking across Mad Noise's guitar-slinging frontman, Khalil Sullivan, who is black. "Hold my hand," the chatter continued. Then the dude nexted Mad Noise. "It's hard up on Chatroulette," Sullivan mused, mid-song.
Mad Noise
Ukulady's revolving costumes and screechy chatter started off funny ("I can handle wieners from Siberia! Is that a cooter?"), but she seemed fazed each time she was nexted, which, as with all the performers, happened constantly. She later returned with a hilarious impression of an overachieving elementary schooler that exploded the eyeballs of several Chatrouletters.
Ukulady gets a dick sighting.
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