Chris Butterfield's local tape label Tool and Die presents the second annual Hot Talent Buffet this Saturday, Aug. 27 at UFO Factory. Twenty separate acts perform for a top prize (a golden trophy, a bag of money, and some meat or tofu) in the spirit of Larry Bud Melman-era Letterman, the Pee Wee Herman Show, and Andy Kaufman.
Metro Times: What can people expect?
Chris Butterfield: Audience members can expect a night of controlled confusion. It is a live variety show with many moving parts that is haphazard by nature. The night showcases a diverse array of acts including live exorcism, voicemail reenactment, martial arts display, a pizza delivery and many more. Harry Artin of Howard Stern Show fame will be giving a political stump speech. And returning champ Sam Carmello defends his crown of "top ham" in a multi-media display of hyper-sexual swagger. Also, following the crowning of "top ham," funk-new wave-jazz-dance DJ Johnnie Penn will spin the night away in a dance party side to side all your favorite kooks. You will remember the night.
MT: What should they not expect?
Butterfield: Audiences should not expect a literal buffet of food. Second, audience should not expect a conceptually safe show. Every act is taking a risk to entertain. Bring your open mind — and your fun hat — and an extended family member who you haven’t spoken to in at least five years. Great ice-breaker.
MT: Tell me about this 'Freshness' character.
Butterfield: Freshness enjoys a certain kind of pop and lives to shock. He’s asked to keep his identity secret until a grand reveal – y’know, shock factor.
MT: How did the first year go?
Butterfield: First year was sort of a test run – a dress rehearsal of sorts. That was mine and Sal’s first attempt at such a thing. It takes two weirdos four months of planning. It ain’t easy! You gotta hound folks. Now I know the truth behind those caricatures of “showbiz” types – y’know, the guys with pinky rings, big shades, cigar, and biting personality. You gotta stay persistent and confident in your idea to bulldoze any barrier.
MT: How did the idea come about for this event in the first place?
Butterfield: The show was born out of need for an annual event devoted to crackpot expression. Detroit is fat with event traditions – Halloween-based cover shows, Theater Bizarre, street and music festivals. I wanted to create a space that is underserved: the conceptual miracle. Hot Talent Buffet is an event where humble folks with big ideas have a captive audience to celebrate the spirit of entertainment as a unifying force. In many instances, these performers have no other outlet due to the nature of their acts.
Also, I wanted to organize an event that I could specifically collaborate with Salvador Caramagno. Years ago, he and I worked together at Record Time and lost our minds with character bits. That friendship is why Hot Talent Buffet exists – we’d put on this show to an empty room.
MT: Why is at at the UFO this year?
Butterfield: UFO is a fine fit for many reasons: Its projector and screen are at the go. That’s key for the video portion of the night. They have a tasty kitchen (Laika Dog) that early attendees can order from in the “Dinner Time” (9 p.m.-10 p.m.) portion of the evening – that is, leading up to the 10pm-sharp opening of the show. Dinner Time will be DJ’d with a very non-offensive selection of easy listening cuts. Also, free popcorn.
Another reason is that my friends own/work at the place, and it’s been a consistently well-curated venue that was eager to host us. Most importantly, I just wanna see Dion crackup. Northern Lights Lounge was great last year, by the way. They put up with a lot!
MT: Why did you call it a buffet?
Butterfield: We’ve got about 20 diverse acts. Think of it as a buffet – mashed potatoes, green beans, cake, and "ham." Democracy is inherent in a buffet – you only pick what you want. It’s a very American thing, this freedom of choice. At the end of the night, you vote for your favorite course. That winner is crowned "top ham."
MT: In what way are the participants in pursuit of the America dream?
Butterfield: It isn’t bullshit when I say that celebrating creative independence is an exercise of the liberty promised in the Bill of Rights. Not everything is so goddamn tongue in cheek.
MT: What is your role in this thing?
Butterfield: I wear a lot of hats, let’s just say that. I couldn’t do it without Salvador Caramagno, Johnnie Penn and the support of my sweetheart, Adrian Yonkus. Thanks also to my friends at Found Sound for lending a set piece and to Rachelle Baker for her help hemming the stage curtain.
MT: Are you performing?
Butterfield: Personally, I’ll give a brief monologue to open the show. You’ll mostly see me running around with a clipboard and drinking Topo Chico.
General admission is $10, however limited seating (26) is available for $15. This year’s event will be professionally filmed by Hound Lab Films in order to showcase Hot Talent Buffet to the internet world. If you can, I strongly encourage the seating option as it will help with costs of the production and ensure continuation of the show into the future. It’s worth it, too!