Mike Daisey's The Last Cargo Cult Review - Stories par Excellence

Mike Daisey, Big Guy, Bigger Stories



When we entered the theater to hear Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult, the volunteer ushers handed out paper currency with the programs.  I got a dollar bill like most everyone else, but my friend got a twenty. Some theater-goers got hundred dollar bills.  So what happened to that money? Did we walk out of the theater with it?

Mike in a calm moment



Mike Daisey bills himself as a storyteller.  That is an oversimplification.  He’s like a combination of Garrison Keillor and Michael Moore with an occasional appearance by the late Sam Kinison.  Like Keillor, he captivates with his tales.  Like Moore, he has an agenda with an edge.  Like Kinison, his decibel levels and expressions frequently go up and over the edge.

Mike points to the fake notes he doesn't use



Visualize him. Mike Daisey sat alone on a stage at a plain writing table throughout the performance.  He was wearing a simple short sleeve cotton shirt and pants. He is not tall, but he is big.  He looked like a cross between John Goodman, Chris Farley, and Vincent Gardenia.  Behind him on the stage was a 15 foot high wall of cardboard boxes from consumer products.  Hewlett Packard. Vizio.  Mr. Coffee. Sysco. Dos Equis. Zappos.  You get the picture.

Mike entertains without leaving the desk



Mike gave a bit of his own early life’s story.  He went to college, got a job, and became fond of all the “awesome stuff” you could buy (only he didn’t say stuff). We are told by our parents, pastors, and teachers to detach ourselves from the love of material goods.  However, successful lives in the Western World progress from buying “awesome stuff”, to furniture (IKEA, in Mike’s case), and on to real estate. 

Mike Daisey under the volcano in Tonga



For several hours Mike told us a semi-true story of his visit to an island in the Pacific somewhere beyond the New Hebrides in the direction of New Zealand.  Mike describes his journey to the island, Tonga, “an island just beyond the reach of money”.  He got there by flying on a plane with web seats, piloted by a man with a milky eye and wearing a machete.  Sounds like the plane ride from Romancing the Stone.

Mike Daisey spins stories about the people of Tonga



The people of Tonga wear little but penis sheaths. They live in a largely untouched material vacuum waiting for the right products to be marketed to them.  But awesome stuff changes them. When awesome stuff is marketed on Tonga, the islanders found they needed money to buy it.  They got educations to move up in the job market so they could afford more awesome stuff.  Then they became obligated to send their own kids to the best schools so they could also buy awesome stuff.  The natural bonds between humans were replaced by the bonds of fiduciary responsibility.  It’s cargo that binds us together.  That’s Mike Daisey’s message – at least that’s my take on it.

Mike advises us to think



Mike’s story moved back to the Western World where our awesome stuff often becomes astract.  Don’t we all have dread fear driving a rental car without buying all the layers of insurance!  Mike spun a fabulous story about wrecking a rental car. 

His finale featured an explanation of how bankers have become increasingly more irrational and greedy, building a global pyramid scheme the likes of which we could never have imagined twenty years ago.  When the bankers’ business model exploded they turned to the rational citizens and their governments to bail them out.  There was little choice but to do so in the face of financial terrorism.

The evening is funny, captivating, and actually informative.  For an added bonus, Mike holds court at a nearby beer hall after each performance.  If you are a finance industry professional, be advised – you will be lampooned.  Find out why we all received money on the way into the theater.  Go to see Mike Daisey at the Victory Gardens Theater  May 2- 9, 2010. Directed by Mike's collaborator, Jean-Michele Gregory. All tickets are $25. Tickets 773-871-3000 or victorygardens.org.

The Victory Gardens Theater is located at 2433 North Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Photos courtesy of Victory Gardens Theater

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