The Tickles.TV interactive digital multimedia platform was born in 2007 out of creator HaJ’s kitchen table talks with her friends about their cross-cultural moments, experiences, and ironic revelations. Starting with short sketch stories like the now-classic daishiki adorned Nubian Gangsta sticking bougie Black corporate chicks up for almond milk, among several others, the latest iteration of the Urban Chameleons with Funnel Cake Flowers show is the fruition of the Tickles.TV vision finally coming to life.
“When I first moved here [to Atlanta], I decided to get some friends to just read these stories aloud to see how people would respond to them,” HaJ shared as she remembered the large crowd packed into the Javaology coffee house (now a bar called Church) on Edgewood Avenue during her exclusive interview with rolling out. “Shortly after, I enrolled in the Alliance Theater playwriting class and began to streamline these stories into a narrative. From that, we did a performance at their Black Box Theater and people really responded to it.”
The show was later picked up for a run at Georgia College, its first predominantly White audience. Interestingly, there was a young White woman who, having seen the show in both settings, noted that the White audience didn’t know when or whether it was OK to laugh. That revelation has continued to be taken into consideration as Funnel Cake Flowers evolves.
“I want to get to the nitty-gritty of why people are uncomfortable about laughing,” HaJ revealed. “I want the show to be kind of a safe space, but also an educated space; like, if you’re laughing you’ve got to know why you’re laughing.”
In this Trumpian anti-politically-correct era, some argue that much of the recent cultural abuse and even killing of innocent Black people is an effect of White people feeling like they are losing their sense of identity and acceptability; and HaJ sees Funnel Cake Flowers playing a key role in helping society stop having non-conversations about it. She finds it important to embrace lightning-rod topics, even at the base level of the words we choose to simultaneously embrace and vilify like the F-word or the N-word, to get at the root of broader issues.
“I realized that, me personally, I have to keep calling it ‘the N-word’ because when I say the word I literally feel like I have just broken an ancestor’s heart,” HaJ laughed as she recalled her humorous internal dialogue from earlier in the day before thoughtfully revealing the upcoming show is not necessarily just about that word, but it is about that word being a vessel to so many other things. “The word is so present, and it ain’t going away … it is really kind of getting away from us … and there aren’t really conversations that can compete with how corporations are perpetuating the use of the N-word.”
As a performance artist, HaJ makes her use of satire and humor through interactive storytelling to spark dialogue look easy. Similarly, her Funnel Cake Flowers character is said to make Quantum-Leap-esque culture jumping in these streets to report the news look like a piece of cake sprinkled with powdered sugar. Invitees to the special engagement can catch her private premiere performance live on Thursday, Dec.1, 2016, at 7 p.m. An online audience will also live-stream the insightful and innovative performance on Tickles.TV, and join the discussion on Twitter using #ticklestvFCFLIVESHOW.