Ugly Parade, a conglomeration of kitsch and true-to-life gross factor, is not just a celebration in bad taste; it's a year-long Bahaman cruise. The premiere of Burbridge and Arden's soap opera Ugly Parade is also a benefit, so they can continue filming; they're hoping to shop it to Comedy Central (although they're not above cable access.) It's the episodic story of Checkers, a knock-kneed and blue-eyelinered girl who can only express her emotions through the awesome power ofrap. Pregnant and escaping from her dead-end job, she becomes the star of the mysterious, perverted Mangini Brothers' TV show, a quietly post-apocalyptic cabaret that, underneath, graces the dirtier side of seedy. Danger, intrigue, and cabaret ensue, complimented by bad acting and not much plot, but a myriad of one-liners. It's kind of like, well, Clackamas.
Most people wouldn't exactly consider the corner of SE 162 St and Division a hotbed of artistic inspiration. In fact, most of inner Portland probably don't even go to 162 and Division, unless they happen to be on a serious mission for a thrift store couch. But Burbridge and Arden think of it as a really good place to get ideas.
"I see confrontation there all the time, things that I never see anywhere else in the world. Portland's a very bizarre place. It's not Twin Peaks, and it's not Baltimore, but it's got a special style and demeanor of it's own. I hope we conveyed a little bit of that. Not necessarily its underbelly, but the back of the shin, you know? The inner thigh of Portland," says Burbridge.
If the whole thing sounds a little John Waters/Strangers with Candy, it is, and with good reason. Says Burbridge, "George Kuchar was my film teacher, which probably speaks volumes about the stuff that I dohe kind of made me realize it's not just the heavy, esoteric things in life that are important, but also peoples' base motivations: instincts, jealousy, pettiness."
Ugly Parade is very, very low budget. It adds dimension to its honesty; despite that all its dialogue is completely over-the-top, there's still an element of humanness. You pity the characters, with their buckteeth and downtrodden lives, but you can also relate to them. It's like watching a cable access dispatch from Beaverton.
"For me, cable access is a lot more fascinating than NYPD Blue or something, cause these people are funnier and more tragic at the same time. We did have intentions of making it, well, for lack of a better word, crappy, but at the same time, that's where some of the earnestness comes from," says Burbridge.
"We're using the no-budget aspect as a strength and not a weakness. Any mistake that happens makes it better," says Arden.
What's most intriguing about Ugly Parade is that, except for the fact that Arden and Burbridge are two guys in a living room filmi ng a show about a family filming a TV show in their living room, it lacks irony almost entirely. It's another parallel with the work of John Waters and Doris Wishman--it's unintentionally post-modern simply because it's intentionally bad. You're forced to sacrifice any standards you may have for the pleasure of entertainment--willing self-deception. As Arden says, "It's the same quality as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman! When I was a kid, I would watch that show and think, 'God, that's really crappy.' And now, I go, 'God, my living room looks so great on camera!'"