Last night at the Fitzgerald Theater, after Brother Ali killed it with an extended a cappella version of “Letter from the Government,” Chuck D turned to Mary Lucia and said, “I really don’t see anything this good on television anymore—it’s like a cool talk show from the sixties.”
I realize The Current’s Fakebook series is supposed to be for the kids, and even I’m not old enough to remember Merv Griffin without using YouTube, but Mr. D is right: Fakebook does seem like a throwback to an earlier format of variety show. Brother Ali and Slug were the musical entertainment last night, and after Slug performed two numbers off his latest Atmosphere record, When Life Gives You Lemons… Lucia called him over to the couch, and Slug-o proceeded to tell a hilarious story about how teaching Tom Waits’s son how to rap culminated in getting Tom Waits himself to beat box on the new Atmosphere record.
Actually, forget Merv Griffin—you’re not going to hear a story like that anywhere but Fakebook. Not on The Daily Show, not on Ferguson, not even on other local talk shows aimed squarely at younger, hipper, underserved demos, like Drinking with Ian.
Which is why I hope MPR brings the series back next fall.
Let me clear something up from my last review, where I wrote about my problems with Lucia as a host (and received anonymous hate email this morning for daring to drink beer backstage last night in lieu of said review). Despite some of my quibbling over Lucia’s hosting skills, FAKEBOOK IS THE MOST ENGAGING BOOK EVENT OUTSIDE OF A DAVE EGGERS BOOK EVENT. Ok? Look, I’m not the president of Lucia’s Hateration. I care, people. I really, really care! And now I’m worried, because there seems to be a lot of thinking going on at The Current these days—thinking on everything from the programming of the playlist to the programming at the Fitz, even thinking on how the Current fits into MPR’s proverbial “mission” itself. And while thinking is usually a good thing, let’s not overthink this one: Do you think (well, other than you, you nasty anonymous emailer) that you still want smart, hipsterish twentysomethings and thirtysomethings crossing the river to go to book events, to possibly drink beer at these book events, and to possibly return to Minneapolis to talk about books? Well if you do, bring back Fakebook next fall, please.
Now that the community consciousness-raising portion of my review is over, let’s move on…to hating on Lucia.
I kid, I kid. Kind of. Because after listening to Chuck D chop it up with Lucia last night, I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to keep this guy on topic. Lucia tried valiantly to curtail Chuck D’s half-hour rant on Chuck D’s love of geographical knowledge, only to have him veer off into a digression in which he proved how much he knows about Minnesota by telling everybody that he was the one who told Busta Rhymes to name himself after former Vikings wide receiver Buster Rhymes.
I know, that digression actually was kind of awesome. And so was Chuck’s digression about how Eddie Murphy and Dr. J lived down the street from where Chuck’s family grew up in Long Island, and about how Charlie Murphy was always the funny Murphy—already telling those stories about Rick James back in the eighties—with the only caveat being, “Charlie Murphy had a tendency to rob you.” And Chuck rambled through a précis on 1987, the first great year in rap history, and he expounded on the strange greatness of Flavor Flav, and what it was like working with Rick Rubin and Spike Lee in their respective heydays. But when it came time to cut the affable talk-show shit, and really pull a number-one-Public-Enemy-it-takes-a-nation-of-millions-to-fear-Chuck D moment and speak on what’s going on right now, in what already seems to be a pretty historical 2008, (and to be fair to Lucia, she did try to steer him towards politics), he really kind of blew it off.
It felt like a missed opportunity. Especially on a night that opened with Brother Ali dedicating an incendiary reading (well, when is the good Brother anything but incendiary?) of “Uncle Sam Goddam” to the Reverend Wright, and on a night featuring the performance of two new Atmosphere songs on which Slug’s ability to channel the bitter classes has never seemed more timely or apropos. Maybe Chuck D was just leaving the politics to the Minneapolis guys.
Shrugs. It was still better than anything on TV.