Montclair theater to host comedy about public records
Sometimes people find humor in pretty unusual places.
New Jersey native Curtis Raye has found it in public records — applications for building permits, congressional dining hall menus, letters citizens have written to the president.
Raye has created a show around these records that includes bluegrass music, and he’s bringing it to Montclair’s Theater at the VTC.
“FOIA Love: A Comedy and Bluegrass Show About Public Records” runs one night only, on Saturday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m.
“It's not a play,” Raye, originally from Wantage Township, said. “It's not like you're watching Shakespeare or anything, it's like when you're watching ‘The Daily Show,’ they’re explaining and they're teaching and they're making you laugh.”
Raye uses a mix of public records to try to give his audience a fresh outlook on them.
“I've done hundreds of hours of research through real, actual public records, and I look for the most interesting and funny ones,” he said.
Raye finds creative ways to present these records by employing fellow comedians and PowerPoints to lightly poke fun at historical figures.
In a clip shared with Montclair Local, a particular skit dedicated to letters written to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover is acted out with four comedians while photos appear on the screen that combine the historical documents with modern pop culture images.
Creating a show about public records not only takes hours of research, Raye said, but also a belief he can convince audience members that they’ll find something funny about Freedom of Information Act and Open Public Records Act requests.
But he is sure that his show will have something for everyone.
“The name of the show was a night of comedy rather than, like, a night of big, big, boring research or something like that,” he said. “People like comedy, and I know that they will like public records. They just don't know it yet.”
Seeing the show is akin to watching stand-up comedy, with the performers playing off the specific characteristics of the public records, including incorporating the “redacted” information in a record and employing exaggerated accents. Among other topics, the show can include FCC complaints about “The Big Bang Theory,” FBI profiles of athletes and FTC complaints about dating profiles.
The show also doubles as a bluegrass concert with a performance by Chris Luquette, which Raye says works in his favor.
“That's why I also include music in the show, because at least I can trick people,” he said jokingly. “I can trick people into being, like, ‘Oh, I like music. I don't care about public records. But oh, banjo, cool.’”
The Theater at the VTC is at 180 Bloomfield Ave. For more information and tickets, visit foialove.com.