Mike Bonanno, who cofounded the anticorporate prankster duo the Yes Men, describes his group’s MO as “identity correction” — a term that smacks of Robin Hood-style poetic justice. In contrast to identity theft (i.e., stealing an honest person’s identity to get his money), identity correction happens when an individual “impersonates a big-time criminal in order to make him more honest.” In fact, the Yes Men operate by creating a circus of identity corrections: They reach into the media and manipulate it for their own ends. Bonnano started the Yes Men with his friend, Andy Bichlbaum, when the two launched a fake WTO Web site in 1999, right before the organization’s conference in Seattle. They intended merely to satirize the WTO and flout free-trade economics, but were pleasantly surprised when people who didn’t carefully scrutinize their site mistook it for the real thing. Pretty soon, a whole bevy of corporate hucksters were e-mailing the Yes Men with questions and inviting them to participate in official conferences. “So we just decided to present the WTO more honestly than they present themselves,” Bonanno recalls. The two scrounged up all their savings and traveled to conferences in several countries, spoofing the WTO in a series of high-jinks. At their most daring, the Yes Men lectured at a textile conference in Finland, where they showcased a three-foot model penis “for administering electric shocks to sweatshop employees.”
Since then, the Yes Men have smeared metaphorical egg in the faces of several other big-business kahunas, including Dow Chemical and the Bush campaign. Bonanno admits that they don’t ever directly affect policy — after all, Dow Chemical never took responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal pesticide leak in India, and Bush still got reelected, despite the Yes Men’s efforts. And granted, it might be quixotic for these little guys to think they can single-handedly overturn the world’s largest corporations. Yet, despite the obstacles, the Yes Men have managed to bring more exposure to corporate malfeasance, and come out of it with some good stories to tell. Maybe that’s good enough for the time being.
The Yes Men will appear this Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Lisser Theater at Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Free. – Rachel Swan
A one-man football musical. A human television. Jazz. Trampy clowns. All this night needs is an emcee in a gold tuxedo, dontcha think? Well, you got it — Friday night, at the Starry Plough, B-3 master Mighty Dave Pellicciaro will don the sequined monkey suit to host So Funny I Forgot to Laugh, a variety show from Paradox Media, the folks behind Epic Arts, Rosin Coven, and the Edwardian Ball. Starting at 9:30 p.m., enjoy the likes of the Towne Dandies, aka Geoff Ellsworth’s Football Town, the stand-up, stream-of-consciousness multiplicities of Will Franken, Dr. Abacus’ tweaker jazz, and the tipsy-turvy tomfoolery of the Fou Fou Ha! Dancing Girls. 21 and up, $7. 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Info: StarryPloughPub.com, 510-841-2082. — Stefanie Kalem
Since 1992, the San Francisco-based folkloric troupe known as the Likha Pilipino Folk Ensemble has actively preserved and promoted authentic Filipino traditions, especially in music and dance. Under the leadership of artistic director Rudi Soriano, Likha (it’s a Tagalog word meaning creation or creativity) has performed all over the world in places as diverse as Canada and Brazil. This Friday at 8 p.m. at Knox Center for the Performing Arts at Contra Costa College, the Likha dancers and musicians put on a free show. Donations are accepted. CCC is at El Portal Drive and Castro Street in San Pablo. Likha.org or 510-235-7800 ex. 4206. — Kelly Vance
À la Nude
Berkeley Rep’s For Better or Worse too slowly paced for you? Try Role Players Ensemble Theatre’s latest, Don’t Dress for Dinner, described as Georges Feydeau on speed. The farce, opening Friday at the Village Theatre (233 Front St., Danville), is Robin Hawdon’s adaptation of Marc Camoletti’s Pyjamas pour Six, a two-year hit in Paris. It’s like this: Bernard has booked a gourmet cook and a cozy converted farmhouse to entertain his Parisian tomato, procured a plausible alibi, and sent his wife to dear maman. But the road to farce is paved with such deceits, and you’ll need to hold on to your seats when things start going wrong. 925-314-3463. — Stefanie Kalem