ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts makes its much awaited return for the fall semester with a presentation of the award-winning documentary film “Art of the Prank,” which will be screened Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in the D.P. Culp Center Auditorium.
The event continues Mary B. Martin’s collaboration with the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, an arts initiative which brings great but relatively unknown films to communities all over the South.
Directed by Andrea Marini, “Art of the Prank” focuses on the life and work of Joey Skaggs, a master prankster who has been revealed to have been behind numerous major media hoaxes going back decades. Skaggs has fooled the public on many occasions, as well as large news organizations such as CNN, Fox and CBS.
He is the mastermind behind famous media pranks like the Celebrity Sperm Bank in 1976 (for which news coverage featured women lining up down the streets of New York for the chance to bid on the sperm of rock stars), the Cathouse for Dogs in 1976 (Skaggs placed a fake newspaper ad inviting dog owners to pay $50 to have their male pets be pleasured by female dogs) and the “Portofess” mobile confessional booth in 1992 (Skaggs disguised himself as a priest and set out on a bike to provide ‘religion on the move for people on the go’). Marini’s film following this remarkable man gives viewers a chance to see Skaggs’s pranks from his perspective—a peek behind the curtain, if you will. It also allows viewers to walk through the beginning stages of a hoax as Skaggs prepares his next big joke.
The film reveals not only the hilarity of Skaggs’s work but why he does it as well. Skaggs said, “I started out as a painter and sculptor. 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. Really my work is about media literacy, not only what you believe but how’d you come to your beliefs. I ask people to question authority.”
When Marini first discovered Skaggs, he knew there was something special about him and saw the potential his story held to become a feature documentary that is not just funny but also something with deep meaning.
Marini said, “With this movie I’ve tried to create something that will inspire people as much as I have been inspired. And like Joey always says, ‘make them laugh and then make them think.”
The ETSU screening of “Art of the Prank” is free and open to the public. As an added bonus, Marini, producer Judy Drosd and subject Joey Skaggs will all be in attendance and will take part in a Q&A session and reception following the show.
Anita DeAngelis, director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, said, “Joey is coming with the film, along with the filmmakers, so that’s going to add a little bit more to our conversation. Of course, we will have to decide whether or not it’s really Joey that is coming with the film.”