The following essay was included in the Suicide Club Nooseletter, and mailed to all members in February 1977.
February 3, 1977 | By Gary Warne
This paper is an attempt at describing the succession of stunts, parodies, and put-ons that have gathered so much attention for Communiversity and, at the same time, present the ridiculous concept of organizing principles for creating chaos, anarchy and high times. Towards this end it may also be referred to as ROBERTS RULES OF DISORDER. IT is shared equally and for free to all comers in the hopes that you find the lost spirit of THE FEAST OF FOOLS and ALL HALLOWS EVE.
When Communiversity was still at S.F. State in Sept. 1974, several of us got the idea to do a practical jokes class. This event was to signal a new era for Communiversity, the Free University Movement and many of us individually. As soon as it hit the streets we were told it (the class) was “Not educational, in poor taste and probably illegal from the sound of it.” Preliminary discussions went on among the top brass at State about withdrawing our pay checks until threats and coercion failed. At the end of the year we withdrew the school from State forming a non-profit. A hundred people signed up for the practical jokes class, making it the most popular class in the history of the school (so far).
We filled a room with hundreds of large balloons, covered the floor with mattresses and pillows, covered the ceiling with a parachute and waited…. Two doormen greeted the registrants, asked them to remove their shoes, picked them up, and threw them thru the door into the room. This went on for three hours- a balloon and pillow fight culminating in a whipped cream and feather fight separated the wheat from the chaff so to speak. People left hurt, pissed, creamed & feathered, and limping.
The thirty people that stayed journeyed to North Beach in a Salvation Army bus and pulled five stunts. First the women put balloons in their blouses and tried to apply for jobs as topless waitresses. They wouldn’t let them in. We practiced carrying imaginary plate glass windows up the street sideways- it worked, people actually walked around us! Then we tried pan-handling the same people as they walked down the length of a block – thirty people asking for spare change-all acting as if they didn’t know each other. Then we tried giving money away- which didn’t work either. Finally we tried to buy a banana split and couldn’t come up with the money between us (30 of us that is). This one really didn’t work because we weren’t very good actors, the intersection of Columbus & Broadway was so choked with people the waiter couldn’t concentrate on us or even see clearly that we were together and the idea sounded much funnier in the room than it was in action.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. I: DIVEST YOURSELF OF EXPECTATIONS
Make sure the people you’re doing something with can dish it out as well as take it. If it isn’t funny when it happens to them then you’ve got sadists instead of pranksters. Initiate them to be sure they have a sense of humor about themselves. Never preconceive what the reaction to an event will be like, you are sure to be disappointed. Ergo.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. II: YOU WILL NEVER BE TOTALLY IN CONTROL
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. III: BE A FOOL NOT A SADIST. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO TAKE IT AS WELL AS DISH IT OUT.
NATIONAL CLOWN WEEK Aug 9, 1974
Twelve clowns went into the B of A at Powell & Market singing “We’re in the money.” And tried to deposit fish, flowers, juggling balls, and comics at the tellers’ windows. The guards came and they were really MAD, they were definitely going to beat up the ring leader. I was dressed as a Keystone Cop with a giant silver badge, British Bobby Hat, cane and long blue trench coat. I ran up, blew my whistle, arrested the lead clown, and dragged him away, rabid as he was, and this was a very scary moment- the other clowns had already run for the door- burst out laughing. We ran. It was scary but it was their territory, their values and their job- accept what ever response is- it’s real. The fact that the group broke ranks was really terrifying.
Again remember Principle #III.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. IV: ALLOW PEOPLE THE VALIDITY OF THEIR OWN EMOTIONS (HUMOR IS A VERY SERIOUS THING)
When you are doing what you really want to do, maybe for the first time, allow people the reality of their own emotions and the sincerity of their own responses. Don’t be shocked or bummed out if you are ignored, slugged in the mouth or arrested. People can not be expected to think your jokes are funny. Their reactions are no less valid than your own.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. V: SOLIDARITY IS A NECESSITY
Every time we changed locations in the course of the evening’s bizarity we lost people. This became a stead-fast rule of entropy in future stunts. This is not good. The people need each other for energy and support, plus it is relatively dangerous to go out as a group to do stunts – anything can happen. If you’re going to start something- finish it. Corollary- Nothing’s Ever Over When You Think It Is.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE No. VI: PLAY IT OUT TO THE END (ANYTHING GOES)
A disaster- it fulfilled it’s title but the people couldn’t trust one another because of the things each of them brought and did for and to each other without knowing one another- A common purpose or focus decided beforehand is the best- even if people still can’t go through with it- it will be an inner failing rather than paranoia. Other than initiations and despite Principle #2, Agree beforehand on what you want to do.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. VII: THE MORE EXTREME THE ACT, THE MOVE EXTREME AND VARIED THE RESPONSE WILL BE.
Voyage to Another Planet. We broke down into three groups and talked about how we imagined life on other planets. Then we blindfolded twenty-five people and took them to two unusual environments- one natural and one synthetic. We told them that when we took off their blindfolds they could not use proper nouns, names or earthly references for the sights they would witness. They had to decide what they were, why they were, what they did, as if they had never seen them before. Confused? For example, if we took them to a street and unblindfolded them they couldn’t use the word “concrete”, “street”, “Pavement”, “road”, etc.
We took them to the Judah street tunnel under the Great Highway and took off the blindfolds in the dark. They had to walk out the seaward side as if they were just landing on another planet and “decide” what the ocean was. The descriptions, fantasies and hallucinations were utterly incredible. I will never think of the oceans in the same way ever again! Then we reblindfolded them and took them into the belly of the monster. Alcoa plaza at midnight – to Ripple’s. A bar surely from the 21st century. TV sets two feet apart all the way down to the bar with curtains on either side of them like windows- all showing the ocean beating on the shoreline (?). Eight foot motion picture screens broadcasting a band playing while people danced- the band wasn’t there though. Women taking off their clothes in view screens over the urinals – women could enter accompanied by men but men couldn’t see what was going on in the women’s bathroom. This place was so way out on a Saturday night that no one could come up with anything farther out.
We ran joke classes every catalog for two years until our “DEATHSKOOL” catalog when people got too confused and we stopped for awhile. Someone had registered for every joke class we have ever run no matter how outrageous it was written. When the HARIKARI class asked them to kill themselves they politely asked if it was real or not. For DEMONIC POSSESSION we were asked in a whisper if we “had connections.” When we ran PARANOIA AS A STATE OF HIGHTENED AWARENESS we had to re-evaluate the whole concept of joke classes- a device as far as we know- that no other alternative university has used. SIXTEEN people signed up for Paranoia. These were the ones either cowardly or fun-loving registrars let sign up. Many more were turned away by other registrars. Some people didn’t want ANY other class but that one and as you can imagine HATED filling out the skills exchange (a program we run in which participants signing up for the school offer their skills for barter.) If you re-read the description a couple of time I think you might agree that it’s pretty horrible. But people wanted it. People in on the joke wanted it to happen but the BIG QUESTION MARK was what kind of people had signed up for it? The joke became too real- everyone who wanted to see what the registrants were like were also afraid to offer their homes to find out! The joke became very real. Eight months later someone was moving out of their house and offered to have the class the night before they gave the keys back to the landlord. We wrote and called people, had the class and had a very intense and fantastic evening of sharing what we were afraid of. Our first joke had become real. An incredible reversal.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. VIII: HUMOUR IS AS RELATIVE AS ANYTHING ELSE
NIGHT OF ADVENTURES DEATHSKOOL
CATALOG- SPRING 75
Description: Bring your ready to live adventures. Leave your pride at home if we think they’re either too dangerous or too boring. Must be in the borders of S.F. Twenty five people signed up for this class and three came with adventures. After we talked for a while people started thinking up practical jokes but I was never sure if they were fantasizing them THEN or they had brought them. There was a practical jokes class in that catalog listed without a teacher but no one signed up for it (because everyone was afraid to sign up first because then they had to offer THEIR house). We planned two of the three adventures for the first night and the third would be put together later. The first-mine-was to walk through the JUDAH STREET CAR TUNNEL from Duboce Park to Cole & Carl. Half of the group went home and never came back right then. Other people didn’t want to go through the tunnel and didn’t want to go home either so they waited for us at the other end.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. IX: FEAR IS A STATE OF MIND: THE FEAR/RISK RATIO IS NOT PROPORTIONAL
Since most fears are about things that have NOT happened to us or that we haven’t experienced but have only witnessed thru media representatives or in our fantasy states- we usually don’t know what an experience is like and our fears keep us from finding out.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE NO. X: WE HAVE MANY THINGS TO RISK BESIDES OUR LIVES
It is also possible, I won’t posit a principle here- that our adventures and fantasies are a Combination of excitement and fear and other people’s adventures are more frightening than our own because THEY have the excitement/ motivation and we don’t so we are only left with the fear. To support this I offer up that one of the people who waited outside of the tunnel was the one who organized the FUR SALE demonstration, which
terrified me and which didn’t phase him.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE No. XI: WE SUBCONSCIOUSLY BELIEVE WE HAVE EXPERIENCED THINGS WHEN WE HAVE ONLY WATCHED THEM. WE HAVE NOT.
CHAOTIC PRINCIPLE No. XII: WHEN WE TEST OUR FANTASIES OF OURSELVES WE FALL SHORT- SO WE DO NOT.