West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 20 | October 17 - 23, 2007

Reverend Jen’s Last Slam

By Rachel Fershleiser

We were greeted by a topless woman, a man sporting stick-on satan horns, and a Chihuahua — just an ordinary Wednesday night at Mo Pitkins, though not for long.

Tonight, October 17th, is the final installment of Reverend Jen’s Anti-Slam, the twelve-year-old open mike event hosted by the Lower East Side’s favorite performance artist, writer, painter, public access star, elf, and troll-museum proprietor. Rev. Jen started the weekly performance as an alternative to hip, pretentious poetry slams where performances were judged and graded. Here every “artstar” gets a perfect score.

The penultimate Anti-Slam was attended by about fifty performers and fans, mostly white men over fifty. It could almost have been an Elks club meeting, if it weren’t for the content. Instead, this Elf’s meeting provided a forum for filthy pornographic stories, traditional chants accompanying nude body-drawing, and beatboxed Led Zepplin.

George Culter, 69, of Great Neck, has been trekking into the city weekly to see Rev. Jen for eleven years, since the early days on Ludlow Street. “It’s community for all the performers,” he says. “I do comedy, poetry, sketches, magic, whatever.”

His friend, “Reverend Francis McNerd,” 71, comes all the way from Philadelphia. “I’ve missed maybe one or two in all these years,” he admits, “but not more than that, I don’t think.” McNerd, who prefers to perform barefoot, values the anti-slam because “not one person here is normal. We don’t even want to be normal.”

When Reverend Jen took the stage, with pointy ears poking through her hair and canine Jen Junior straining at the leash, the mood was enthusiastic but melancholy.

“In case you haven’t picked up a newspaper in several months,” she opened,” Mo Pitkins is closing October 21st.”

She reminisced about the event’s history, from four attendees at the first to recent packed rooms, and some of the acts. “I’ll never say I’ve seen everything, though,” she vowed. “Because just when I do, someone gets up here and drinks douche. No, really.”

There were some performers in this vein, but most wanted to speak about Reverend Jen and what the anti-slam has meant.

Robert Pritchard, formerly of Surf Reality, who now runs a venue in Queens (a “hipster-free, douche-free zone”, Jen says), was especially eloquent. “The reason I wanted to come to the stage tonight is to thank the Rev for filling the crevices with love and art and freedom,” he said. “Now it’s coming to an end because we did such a great job creating a community that other people wanted in. Right now, this is history: art stars are dispersing.”

And despite a history of relocating, it seems that this time the Anti-Slam will truly come to a close. Reverend Jen is focusing on new things and only considering a possible monthly show.

“Next week is the end of an era, so try to prepare something anti-slam specific,” she instructed her loyal listeners. “Or at least give me a backrub.”

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