Harmon Leon has been plying his wares in the basement of Banshee Labyrinth a few years now – fast-paced video shows with a sub-cultural bent.
From the early autobiographical montage of TV shows he’s “infiltrated”, you might get the impression he’s a C-list reality TV sleb, but there’s purpose to his spotlight-grabbing, as well as an indecent amount of self-regard. His blurb references Louis Theroux, but he’s more Swampy-meets-Dennis Pennis, comically picking at people who take themselves too seriously, with activist intent.
For this year’s show, he’s gone undercover with groups on the right of American society – border-patrolling anti-Mexican vigilantes, a gay conversion therapy group and militant anti-abortionists. He intersperses clips of him and them in situ at whatever they’re protesting, with rapidly-delivered first-hand reportage. The brevity and editing of the clips leave you wondering how deep he got into any of these scenarios but his point is clear: this hippy is real pissed at all the rednecks, racists and reactionaries screwing up his country.
You’re called upon to holler at the screen at various points, but otherwise it’s all about him, with no danger of participation. There’s also a slight chance he’ll tread on toes. A couple of Muslims bristle and leave at the mention of the Prophet Mohammed; the joke he’s establishing isn’t worth the offence. Christians aren’t in for an easy ride either. If you don’t like Jesus radically reinterpreted, steer clear.
Leon’s an irrepressible sort who if he weren’t here ranting, he’d be on a street corner doing much the same. (In fact, he’s done his fair share of street corners in his time. He reveals one tragi-comic episode where he ended up street-flyering for the American tax authorities, dressed as Uncle Sam.) You either need to be happy to revel in this, or be glad it’s been safely contained within these four walls.