A Little Outside the Box
David Liebe Hart is the World’s Best Fundamentally-Religious Electro-Punk Puppeteer on Cable TV
To preview punk puppeteer David Liebe Hart’s performance at Club 66 in Ashland on Tue., August 11, I had a ton of questions prepared about the nature of outsider art and whether his recent successes have more to do with cultural changes or changes in his act.
But before I can even ask any of them he’s monologuing about a recent experience at a Hollywood church.
“The pastor didn’t like it that I exchanged numbers with a girl I was helping with her TV career,” says Hart. “He got security to rough me up and throw me up.”
And he just keeps going.
“In the ’60s, Danny Thomas saw me doing a play and he was so impressed that he paid for my family to go to the LA for a screen test for The Andy Griffith Show.” … “Someone from her [Oprah’s] office sent my resume back and said ‘I don’t accept resumes from poor black peon people.’ Which is upsetting. I was a big fan.” … “A redneck assaulted me right on the stage with a beer bottle. He got arrested. but I didn’t have enough money to press charges.”
Hart wants to talk about the evils of racism, about the failings and appeals of Christian Science, about trains, and more, pretty much anything except his act. And in the finest tradition of outsider artists, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is just for show.
Aging, fanny-packed, slightly unsettling, David Liebe Hart is best known as a musician and puppeteer on the surrealist comedy program, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But he was already a fixture in the LA scene before that gig due to his longtime role as a street-performer outside the Hollywood Bowl. Hart performed songs and puppet shows, some of which he later took on stage with a band of punk musicians.
But his current tour ditches punk for electronic music.
“Things were not working out with me and Adam Papagan,” says Hart. “We were on different frequencies.”
That’s when he found Jonah Mociun.
Together, Hart and Mociun reinterpreted Hart’s oeuvre from punk to a lo-fi electronic and industrial music. Between the songs, Hart cracks jokes and does puppet shows, a trade Hart got interested in during the 1950s, when regionally targeted puppet shows ruled the airwaves. Chicago’s Garfield Goose was a big inspiration on the young Hart. And…
“I had Jim Henson as a sunday school teacher in Washington D.C. and he taught the sunday school with puppets,” says Hart.
Did he? Who knows. Henson was a Christian Science sunday school teacher in Maryland in the 1950s, so it’s possible, though Hart grew up in Illinois.
Finally, I manage to get a question in and ask Hart directly if he considers what he does outsider art.
“What is art?,” says Hart. “I do something because it’s creative. I want to make people happy. A lot of people don’t understand what I’m doing. They’re close-minded Republican people who don’t know how to laugh at life.”
And then he’s back to savaging the security guards that threw him out of the church.
“Jesus didn’t want it to be like this,” he says. “But these people have turned it into a business.”
David Liebe Hart, with Iconoplasty
8pm, Tue., August 11
Club 66, 1951 Ashland St., Ashland