From Staff Reports
Is it real or a hoax? With Joey Skaggs, you can never tell – until it’s too late. Known as the godfather of the media hoax, Skaggs is famed for such media fictions as the Celebrity Sperm Bank, the Cathouse for Dogs and the Portofess, a mobile confessional booth – all reported as fact by prestigious journalists.
In “Art of the Prank,” filmmaker Andrea Marini pulls back the curtain to take filmgoers on an emotional and humorous journey, following the evolution of Skaggs as an artist who has dedicated his life to seeking social change by challenging the status quo.
The Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University will present the documentary film “Art of the Prank” with director Marini and producer Judy Drosd as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers on Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Martha Street Culp Auditorium.
Filmgoers will not only get to view the professional prankster on screen, but also get to hear from and meet him in person.
The ETSU screening is free and open to the public and will be followed by a Q&A and reception with the filmmakers and Skaggs.
“‘The Art of the Prank’ is an aesthetically striking documentary that chronicles Skaggs’ fascinating career as a professional anti-establishment prankster,” said a Beatroute review. “Having pulled off truly unbelievable stories over a large magnitude of decades, his mission to expose media bias in such a tongue-in-cheek manner is unlike anything that has yet to be offered.
“Though obviously humorous on the surface, Skaggs’ life mission is also a very important one. Skaggs warns us that we must all be skeptical of the media-dominated world.”
Skaggs, a graduate of New York’s High School of Art & Design and the School of Visual Arts and Media Communications teacher, has crafted his media hoaxes into an art form. “I started out as a painter and sculptor,” he said. “I realized there was no immediacy in doing that. I was very angry as a young man growing up in the ‘60s … so I decided I would take my art to the streets.
“I read the newspapers and watched how they twisted and torqued the content to suit their own agendas, so I decided I would use the media as a medium and create commentary.”
Skaggs’ social and political commentaries grew to include elaborate set-ups, costumes, casting, on-air “performances,” advertising, promotions, clipping services to track media hits and climaxed with the exposé. “Really my work is about media literacy, not only what you believe but how’d you come to your beliefs,” he said. “I ask people to question authority.
“Did you ever question the source of your beliefs? If not, why not? I am not trying to hurt anyone. Nice people come into my life but I know I am going to set them up and fool them.”
After 50 years, however, Skaggs is not ready to hang up the costumes or step down from his post of Godfather of the Media Hoax. “Art of the Prank” also includes “breaking news” on one of the prankster’s latest hoaxes, involving, not surprisingly, film festivals.
“Joey is coming with the film, along with the filmmakers, so that’s going to add a little bit more to our conversation,” said Anita DeAngelis, director of event sponsor Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “Of course, we will have to decide whether or not it’s really Joey that is coming with the film.”
Rich in archival footage from Skaggs’ well-documented past, the new film also includes handheld vérité footage, interviews and an up-close look at Skaggs’ process from The Hook and The Line to The Sinker finale.
“With this movie I’ve tried to create something that will inspire people as much as I have been inspired,” director Marini said. “And like Joey always says, ‘make them laugh and then make them think.’”
Director, editor and producer Marini was born in Tuscany and began studying photography, cinema and design in high school, moving to Rome in 2004 to study film and TV at Cinecitta. He began his career in 2007 working mainly in advertising and music videos and has since completed the award-winning short film “The Noise of Snow” and his first documentary “Art of the Prank” in 2015.
Reviewers have praised the film’s “mischievous glee,” “artfulness” and “fascinating … documentary.”
“Skaggs’ artistic career is captivating enough on its own,” said the Jon of All Trades blog, “but is enhanced by Andrea’s propulsive and thoughtful direction. I highly recommend this film not only for its entertainment value, but for its underlying message, as well.”
For more on the film and Skaggs, visit artoftheprank.com and joeyskaggs.com. “Art of the Prank” includes strong language.
For more information, call 439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin.