Penny Arcade has been called a force of nature. Thought provoking, subversive, she blends satire with memoir, comedy with comment.
‘If I were a man,’ she laughs, ‘I would be one of the most famous performers in the world!’
Arcade isn’t just influenced by pop culture; she was part of a generation who first made it. At 14 she climbed out of her bedroom window to join the world of queers, junkies, whores, stars, deviants and geniuses and she hasn’t looked back.
This icon of artistic resistance is clear that she’s not a standup comic.
‘I made my own work as a performance artist. It meant I could do whatever you wanted. I could speak directly to the audience. People have always thought I was a standup comedian but standup is very specific. It is a very structured form. You have to have a joke or whatever passes as a joke every eight seconds. That’s why so much is bad. It appeals to the lowest common denominator. My work has a lot of elements to it. It’s journalistic. I try to talk about things that I am curious about and I know that other people are too.’
Penny Arcade brings her new show Longing Lasts Longer to Brunswick Picture House this week.
‘It is fundamentally a refutation of nostalgia. Some of us are sick of being told we are nostalgic, that the world is changing in a way that destroys our culture and history. We are living in an ageist time; anyone older than 40 gets put in a ravine where suddenly you are not relevant.’
Longing Lasts Longer is a comedy. ‘I am talking about the difference between nostalgia and longing. It touches on so many subjects: how we are living in a cupcake culture, we are in a sugar coma; it’s about so many different things. But the important part is that it is super funny and you can dine out for a year on the one-liners! It also has an amazing sound score by Steve Zehentner, who is my longtime collaborator. He does a live mix of the best music from the past 50 years; it underlines every line in the show. One way to describe what I do is cultural criticism you can dance to!’
We chat about America. About Trump. About misogyny. When he won she remembers remarking to a friend, ‘Oh good, now you can be as miserable as I have always been’.
Arcade speaks quickly. She has a lot to say on a lot of things and a burning enthusiasm to say it all. One thing she doesn’t buy into is the age thing.
‘I don’t believe in it; so many of my friends are tortured by age. There are certainly realities in life; if you choose to acknowledge it you are going to suffer. I acknowledge it is going to exist, but it’s not part of my value system. I don’t participate in it and I stand up against it…’
Penny Arcade never set out to be an alternative artist.
‘I am an alternative presence in the mainstream,’ she says. ‘The one thing that is really missing from our culture is empathy and humanism; most of the humour that is out there is sardonic, it’s mean, sarcastic… People think I am very mean, they think I am unbelievably mean, but I think it’s funny because I tell the truth as I see it and I tell it from my point of view.’
She calls herself ‘the warm demander’.
‘Someone called me that one time. And it’s true. I make a demand on the audience in a warm way to face the truth together, and the truth is unbelievably funny!’
Come experience the warm demands of Penny Arcade when she presents her show Longing Lasts Longer at the Brunswick Picture House on Sunday at 4pm.
Tickets are $30 adult, $25 concession available at brunswickpicturehouse.com.