Hot Talent Buffet invades UFO Factory Saturday night

Chris Butterfield's local tape label Tool and Die presents the second annual Hot Talent Buffet this Saturday, Aug. 27 at UFO Factory. Twenty separate acts perform for a top prize (a golden trophy, a bag of money, and some meat or tofu) in the spirit of Larry Bud Melman-era Letterman, the Pee Wee Herman Show, and Andy Kaufman.

Metro Times: What can people expect?
Chris Butterfield: Audience members can expect a night of controlled confusion. It is a live variety show with many moving parts that is haphazard by nature. The night showcases a diverse array of acts including live exorcism, voicemail reenactment, martial arts display, a pizza delivery and many more. Harry Artin of Howard Stern Show fame will be giving a political stump speech. And returning champ Sam Carmello defends his crown of "top ham" in a multi-media display of hyper-sexual swagger. Also, following the crowning of "top ham," funk-new wave-jazz-dance DJ Johnnie Penn will spin the night away in a dance party side to side all your favorite kooks. You will remember the night.

MT: What should they not expect?
Butterfield: Audiences should not expect a literal buffet of food. Second, audience should not expect a conceptually safe show. Every act is taking a risk to entertain. Bring your open mind — and your fun hat — and an extended family member who you haven’t spoken to in at least five years. Great ice-breaker.

MT: Tell me about this 'Freshness' character.
Butterfield: Freshness enjoys a certain kind of pop and lives to shock. He’s asked to keep his identity secret until a grand reveal – y’know, shock factor.

MT: How did the first year go?
Butterfield: First year was sort of a test run – a dress rehearsal of sorts. That was mine and Sal’s first attempt at such a thing. It takes two weirdos four months of planning. It ain’t easy! You gotta hound folks. Now I know the truth behind those caricatures of “showbiz” types – y’know, the guys with pinky rings, big shades, cigar, and biting personality. You gotta stay persistent and confident in your idea to bulldoze any barrier.

MT: How did the idea come about for this event in the first place?
Butterfield: The show was born out of need for an annual event devoted to crackpot expression. Detroit is fat with event traditions – Halloween-based cover shows, Theater Bizarre, street and music festivals. I wanted to create a space that is underserved: the conceptual miracle. Hot Talent Buffet is an event where humble folks with big ideas have a captive audience to celebrate the spirit of entertainment as a unifying force. In many instances, these performers have no other outlet due to the nature of their acts.

Also, I wanted to organize an event that I could specifically collaborate with Salvador Caramagno. Years ago, he and I worked together at Record Time and lost our minds with character bits. That friendship is why Hot Talent Buffet exists – we’d put on this show to an empty room.

MT: Why is at at the UFO this year?
Butterfield: UFO is a fine fit for many reasons: Its projector and screen are at the go. That’s key for the video portion of the night. They have a tasty kitchen (Laika Dog) that early attendees can order from in the “Dinner Time” (9 p.m.-10 p.m.) portion of the evening – that is, leading up to the 10pm-sharp opening of the show. Dinner Time will be DJ’d with a very non-offensive selection of easy listening cuts. Also, free popcorn.

Another reason is that my friends own/work at the place, and it’s been a consistently well-curated venue that was eager to host us. Most importantly, I just wanna see Dion crackup. Northern Lights Lounge was great last year, by the way. They put up with a lot!

MT: Why did you call it a buffet?
Butterfield: We’ve got about 20 diverse acts. Think of it as a buffet – mashed potatoes, green beans, cake, and "ham." Democracy is inherent in a buffet – you only pick what you want. It’s a very American thing, this freedom of choice. At the end of the night, you vote for your favorite course. That winner is crowned "top ham."

MT: In what way are the participants in pursuit of the America dream?
Butterfield: It isn’t bullshit when I say that celebrating creative independence is an exercise of the liberty promised in the Bill of Rights. Not everything is so goddamn tongue in cheek. 

MT: What is your role in this thing?
Butterfield: I wear a lot of hats, let’s just say that. I couldn’t do it without Salvador Caramagno, Johnnie Penn and the support of my sweetheart, Adrian Yonkus. Thanks also to my friends at Found Sound for lending a set piece and to Rachelle Baker for her help hemming the stage curtain.

MT: Are you performing?
Butterfield: Personally, I’ll give a brief monologue to open the show. You’ll mostly see me running around with a clipboard and drinking Topo Chico.

General admission is $10, however limited seating (26) is available for $15. This year’s event will be professionally filmed by Hound Lab Films in order to showcase Hot Talent Buffet to the internet world. If you can, I strongly encourage the seating option as it will help with costs of the production and ensure continuation of the show into the future. It’s worth it, too!