As darkness fell on the evening of the Fourth of July, I left my house to join in a public spectacle that promised to involve crowds, canned beer, hot dogs and American flags. Fireworks at the Berkeley Marina? Not tonight. I was headed to the cement-floored warehouse known ironically as the Oakland Metro Operahouse to take in the underground variety show Tourettes Without Regrets.

Billing itself as “the freakfest” and “the fight club of underground art,” Tourettes is a monthly event helmed by redheaded madman Jamie DeWolf (formerly Jamie Kennedy), an Oakland-based slam poet, filmmaker, screenwriter, comedian and jack-of-all-performance-trades. Outside of Tourettes, you might know DeWolf as the slam poet who has captured Grand Slam Championships in both Berkeley and Oakland as well as nationally. If you’ve followed the Bay Area slam scene for a while, you might know him as one-third of The Suicide Kings, a spoken word performance trio, alongside Geoff Trenchard and Rupert Estanislao.

DeWolf founded Tourettes Without Regrets in 1999 to showcase the kind of raw, intensely dark-humored subject matters that were getting him kicked out of slams in Vallejo and Benicia. In Tourettes, DeWolf has created an only-in-Oakland vaudeville show where, on the first Thursday of the month for the last 13 years running, he’s been able to let his inimitable stage presence, fiery banter and wild imagination go full throttle.

Most months, “full throttle” includes some measure of burlesque, bondage, dirty haiku tournaments, lap dances, rap battles, sexual pantomiming and things being set on fire, interspersed with spoken word and stand-up comedy.

Host Jamie DeWolf lays down the ground rules before the start of the show.

Host Jamie DeWolf lays down the ground rules before the start of the show.

This last show happened to fall on the national holiday known as the Fourth of July, so an America-lovin’ theme was abundantly in order — specifically, a “F*ck ‘Murica Like You Like It” theme. The show featured a special collaboration with Hoodslam, another monthly Oakland underground sensation that is essentially a drunken WWF extravaganza, which meant that this Tourettes was held in a full-sized wrestling ring to accommodate the drunken wrestling of such Hoodslam legends as Johnny Drinko Butabi and Drugs Bunny.

As per usual, the show was co-hosted by DeWolf’s partner, Sissy DeWolf, who, interestingly enough, works the children’s party circuit as a princess and balloon-twister when she’s not conducting mayhem as the “evil Vanna White” of Tourettes.

As for the crowds, canned beer, hot dogs and American flags? Well, the crowd was sizable, considering it was the Thursday before a long weekend — sizable enough that DeWolf, amped by the turnout, instructed everyone in the audience to hug a stranger, presumably to seal the deal on the bonding experience we were about to embark on together. The canned beer made an appearance during a burlesque reenactment of the Civil War, as a female mime dressed in Confederate-flag bikini bottoms and pasties sprayed beer all over a lanky, half-dressed Uncle Sam and then all over the audience.

Ophelia Coeur de Noir hits Uncle Sam with a spray of canned beer.

Ophelia Coeur de Noir hits Uncle Sam with a spray of canned beer.

Hot dogs came into play when three couples from the audience volunteered for a competition that turned out to involve tossing cream-smeared frankfurters into each others’ open mouths and at each others’ butt cracks. Oh, and also when Wiggy Darlington, a singer dressed in a full-body hot dog costume, performed a musical number that brought down the house.

Wiggy Darlington, the "singing hot dog," brings down the house.

Wiggy Darlington, the “singing hot dog,” brings down the house.

And American flags? You’ve never seen a more patriotic show than this one. From the ‘Murica-themed mylar balloons decorating the corners of the wrestling ring to the very graphically detailed spoken word performance about hate-f*cking Sarah Palin, the Fourth of July was in the house that night. Not to mention the many hundreds of sparklers that were passed out to the audience and then lit indoors, filling the Oakland Metro Operahouse first with a truly breathtaking ocean of flying sparks, then with wreaths of thick white smoke for the rest of the show.

Indoor fun with sparklers!

Indoor fun with sparklers!

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“Well, like many things in my life, I had a really great idea and didn’t think about the consequences,” DeWolf remarked about the resultant sparkler smoke.

What this show lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in unapologetic swagger.

DeWolf is not entirely without moral code, however. There is one way in which he insists on politeness, and that is in audience participation. His reasoning is that, if he’s going to organize and emcee the show and if performers are going to get onstage to entertain (no mild feat, considering that unsatisfactory performers regularly get booed offstage before their time is up), then the audience had better be present to appreciate it and add to the mix.

Hence, in a show that would seem to have few if no rules, there are in fact several rules, which DeWolf enumerated before the madness began. The first rule: “F*ck your cell phone! You’re here, it’s live, you don’t need to f*cking record it.”

A second rule: “Get f*cked tonight!” Homework for after the show.

Another rule: “Everyone is a part of this f*cking event!” Meaning, don’t attend a Tourettes Without Regrets show expecting to be passively entertained. Instead, climb onstage when DeWolf asks for volunteers. Holler your approval and disapproval. Leave your boundaries and inhibitions at the door. Throw yourself into the fray.

As the very name of the show promises, you (probably) won’t regret it.

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MORE INFO:

Tourettes Without Regrets

WHEN: First Thursday of every month at 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland
COST: $10 at door
MORE INFO: touretteswithoutregrets.com

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Oakland Social is a weekly arts and culture column devoted to upcoming events, new places, and narratives about going out in Oakland. Have ideas for what to cover? Contact goingout@oaklandlocal.com.

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