Recently, my girlfriend and I over-indulged on cheap booze and bowel-rattling snacks while recoiling in horror as scantily-clad men and women bounced on trampolines and mattresses under a massive tent in a dirty parking lot. No, it wasn’t another family bris..it was a performance by the famed Cirque du Soleil! As any wise crackhead will tell you, Cirque du Soleil (roughly translated as “Circus of Meat”) is a traveling “circus” that originated in Canada one night after a couple of inebriated ex-hockey players got into an intense tickle fight on the streets of Quebec. Years later, these astute and savvy fellas found themselves performing at backyard barbeques, bar mitzvahs, and at the grand openings of several Molson breweries. It was only a matter of time before their act expanded; transforming into the pretentious, nonsensical, and awe-inspiring spectacle that it is today (a small caveat here; most of this information was relayed to me by the wino who regularly hangs out near my apartment dumpster).
For those of you who have never witnessed a Cirque du Soleil performance in person, let me tell you, you are missing out on quite an impressive aural and visual experience. I have always found these shows to be strangely erotic, slightly uncomfortable to watch, and highly jaw-dropping; which is pretty much the way I get whenever I see Smokey and the Bandit on television. Yeah, half the time during a Cirque du Soleil show you don’t know whether to clap or stick your hand down your pants. One time I did both and was calmly escorted out of the “big top.” Anyway, over the years I have attended many Cirque du Soleil performances and, with the exception of the time I got into a slap-fight with a drag queen who may or may not have been one of the performers; all of these shows have been extraordinary and dare I say it, delightful.
Mere weeks ago I attended Cirque du Soleil’s latest traveling production, which goes by the name of “Kooza” (roughly translated as “big vagina”). As with every Cirque show, this one has a foreign-sounding name with many vowels. Past and present shows have included “Quidam,” “Poopoo,” “Barack,” “Caca,” “Koontz,” and the Las Vegas productions “Love” (pronounced “luuur-vay”) and “Taint,” which I believe is playing exclusively at Hickory Bob’s Stompin’ Testicle Casino, right off the strip. On top of this, every Cirque show is about a young boy losing his balloon and the “boy” is always played by a fifty year-old man wearing pajamas with blush painted on his cheeks. Actually, this latest production has the old man in pajamas losing his kite, so I guess the Cirque du Soleil writer’s are stretching their creative wings. Anyway, despite the always-questionable narrative of the shows, the actual performers are quite incredible and, dare I say it again, delightful.
Kooza features all kinds of death-defying acts; like high-wire, tightrope walkers, a man balancing on chairs thirty feet into the air, a couple of contortionists, acrobatic see-saw jumpers, and a pair of dudes dressed like Road Warrior extras who spin inside and atop two gigantic hamster-wheels. While this alone is worth the price of admission, there are also clowns, people dressed like Jack Skellington, and bizarre comedic interludes. Oh yeah, and a fifty year-old man dressed in pajamas searching for his missing balloon…er, I mean kite.
The whole experience is a trip and makes one wonder whether or not the performers are actually human. Which brings me to an experience I had last year during one of these shows. I ended up meeting a journalist during intermission who, like me, was pounding beers outside. After talking to her for awhile (she had just gotten back from an interview with Food Network personality Guy Fieri…apparently she found him to be quite the douchebag), she invited my girlfriend and I upfront with her. And upfront meant front row (this was significantly better than the obscured seats that we were previously sitting in).
And let me tell you, I have never felt so vulnerable and frightened in my life.
People flew overhead, clowns stomped through the aisles, and strange Canadians approached me. Have you ever been in an audience where the performer comes nearby and you get that sick anticipation in your stomach? Like you’re going to throw up or shit yourself? Every moment was like that. I kept thinking, “Is this French-Canadian bastard going to pull me up on stage?” Then I kept looking up at the performers who bounced on trampolines and dangled from tightropes and wondered if they were going to land on me. It was the most nerve-wracking 45 minutes of my life. I kept having visions of contortionists snapping bones and splattering blood all over my spiffy IZOD shirt and hula-hoop spinners tagging me in the head with one of their wayward hoops.
Maybe it was the alcohol soaking into my liver or the hotdog high I was ridin,’ but I white-knuckled my armrests like I was a Kamikaze pilot. In the end, nobody yanked me onstage and I made it out of the parking lot without having a sinewy Canadian in pajamas tumble into my lap.
Anyway, if you have extra money lying around and want to get out of the house, do yourself a favor and catch a Cirque du Soleil performance…just don’t do flavored-Vodka shots in the parking lot beforehand (trust me).
Kooza is on tour now!