In 2010 we threw the worst dinner party ever. In fact, we threw 80 of them. As "Vicky" and "Lysander," we hosted strangers in a small, pop-up storefront in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. During our show we tried, like any good hosts, to facilitate conversation among our guests, but we always found a way to turn the conversation back to the most interesting subject: ourselves and our "fabulous" lives. These dinner parties, which the NYPress labeled the "best borderline performance art" of 2010, inspired us to create a comedic Web series that is now playing on LogoTV.com.
Vicky and Lysander are married trust-fund jerks (with hearts of gold, of course) who move downtown because they simply want to be "cool" and talked-about. Their life's work is to cultivate their image. They hobnob with the rich and famous, drop names at any opportunity and have severe delusions of grandeur, all while trying to climb their way to the top of the New York social ladder. They are inappropriate, crass, racist, sexist and everything in between. One thing they are not, though, is common. They could never be mistaken for that.
To us it seemed absurd yet familiar, and that's why we liked it. Their delusion stirred us. In the tradition of screwball comedy, born during the Great Depression, we wanted to poke fun at the privileged, people so concerned with their own social status that they have no time for anything else. Today our country is dramatically polarized; glaciers are melting around us, yet Vicky and Lysander are concerned with what parties they are going to, Kimye's baby news and Justin Bieber's Bible tweets. In today's screwball comedy, though, farce is no longer reserved solely for the rich and elite.
Many articles have been written about how social media have changed our society. We update and edit our lives for our friends, for the public, for anyone who is looking or listening. Image is everything, and we have all become our own PR factories. Cute faces, fabulous places, great restaurants, pursed lips, flexed abs and figuring out the perfect camera pose are all part of it. Inadvertently, we have become characters in a real-life screwball comedy. Our own. The 2013 edition.
Vicky and Lysander embody all this and take it to the Nth degree. They are every obnoxious Facebook post you've ever read, every faux pose you've ever seen on Instagram and every tweet that has surreptitiously dropped a name. They are the worst aspects of all of us, with a fake mustache, a fedora and costume jewelry added to the mix.
As we improvised in our storefront show, we realized that although many people seemed to enjoy our off-color humor, some people would tense up when we made fun of their image. It was fine if anyone didn't like our jokes (you can't win everyone over, and some of the jokes were probably lame), but the people who sat there with scowls on their faces and their arms crossed were the ones who intrigued us the most. We realized that although they were game for jokes about religion, race or sexuality, when it came to questioning the projection of their own image, suddenly it became inappropriate. They shut down.
One girl informed us that she knew a lot of wealthy people, and that people from real money would never act like this. She said that a friend of hers who bred racing horses would never talk about money the way Vicky and Lysander so casually did.
Another group came early to set up their own tablescape. They brought in their own fine dishware, glassware and cutlery, along with candles stuck in cabbages, to decorate the table. It was a beautiful setting, but it quickly turned sour when we started our bit. As we began to brag about trips to Saint-Tropez and helicopter rides to the Hamptons, their faces started to turn ashen. We were making fun of a lifestyle that, only moments before, they had strived so tirelessly to project, and they were not about to be made fun of by two fools in a storefront.
Vicky & Lysander is not about making fun of those with money. That can be easy and sometimes not fair. There are many well-off people who are great, wonderful and comfortable with themselves. Rather, the show is about making fun of pretension. It is about enlisting humor to prick holes in the carefully created bubbles some of us spend so much valuable time constructing. It's about laughing at ourselves.
After three months of raucous dinner parties, they were over. We'd continued our day jobs while moonlighting eight times a week as members of the upper echelon, and we were tired. For us these characters disappeared the moment the guests departed and we were left to scrape dried macaroni off the plates and lock up the old, rusty gate. For us it was a performance. However, for some of our guests, it was not. The lesson we took from it is that keeping a sense of humor about oneself is paramount -- with or without a fake mustache.
Check out episode 4 of Vicky & Lysander:
Tune in to LogoTV.com every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST for new episodes of Vicky & Lysander. The first season follows the couple as they discover that their social status is at risk. You can follow them (and their live-in shaman Tatanka) on Twitter: @RealREALVicky, @TheRealLysander and @TheRealTatanka.