If ever there was a show to hammer home the urgency of the climate crisis, Planet Phuckett! from the Brooklyn Culture Jam is it. And if by the end, it leaves you feeling empty and scared, this is exactly what the fictional Dr. James Light intends. His bleak clown show is a compellingly honest, bleak examination of near-future extinction – catnip for the doomscroller. The clown medium is ironic, there being few things to laugh about in this well-written expose on just how close to the brink some scientists think we are.
Based on the research of Dr. Guy Macpherson, Dr. Light is dressed head to toe in grim reaper garb. He is a professor specialising in how climate affects evolutionary biology, and holds nothing back in his quietly harrowing explanation of how human extinction is a more plausible – and foreseeable – situation than many may otherwise think. The monologue is powerfully written, critical and foreboding. Yet the show never drags, despite the sometimes jarring mixture of light clowning and heavy spoken word. Light’s delivery is deliberate and slow, never rushing and allowing you to internally process what he has to say. It makes the reality all the more haunting.
Anybody expecting a humour-laden clown show will be disappointed. This is a bleak, downtrodden show. In fact, the few attempts at laughter can go amiss, wry smiles creeping in whenever you may be hoping for more substantial comic relief. Some moments prove more unsettling than others, perhaps unintentionally so – looking straight down the camera while pumping up a balloon is curiously creepy.
While the content makes for essential listening, you cannot help but feel the argument would be strengthened by including counters to Macpherson’s work that are based in opposing scientific theories, rather than in religion or conspiracy theories. In many ways Light is a preacher – Jehovah with a PhD. So perhaps it makes sense to counter the faith-based rebuttals of such doomsday scenarios. But in any case, you feel that despite the wealth of information, there is even more to be said.
Planet Puckett! is strange, eccentric and heavy. It tries and succeeds to get across the urgency of its message, but other shows can mix a serious topic with effective humour with more sophistication than this valiant effort. Light’s dry sense of humour will not be for everyone, but his warning most certainly affects us all.
Planet Phuckett! (the Covid edition) can be streamed for free via Online@theSpaceUK here from 8th to 31st January