The cockroach meets his fate. “Now you got the edge on ‘im….”
I like to think that Timothy’s play The Insect Trainer is, in part, his attempt to make amends to the cockroach.
All of Carey’s collected stories to this point are borne of the humility of working class underdogs who dream of artistic expression. There’s Menudo, the 52-year-old Mexican singing cowboy from his teleplay, My Casa Is Yours, who still wants to become a pro soccer player. There’s the title character in Fiore – written with his wife, Doris – a car wash attendant who plays detective in a local murder/necrophilia case to win the reward money for a girl’s art school tuition. In Commercials, another teleplay written with his wife, an ad exec teams up with an anti-establishment, dog-loving street entertainer. Then there’s songwriter Cass Matthews from Greenwood, who finances his 25,000 acres of alligator sanctuary by recording hit pop records in Memphis.
All of these characters constitute a clear autobiography, embarking on impossible schemes, risking public ridicule and physical injury in pursuit of their personal ideals, and none more so than Carey’s alter-ego, The Insect Trainer‘s main character, Guasti Q. Guasti. Guasti represents all of Carey’s loneliness throughout his career, directly tied to the rejection he repeatedly faced amongst those whose art he shared. The booting off of location sets, the months spent developing a character only to be whittled down to a few moments by the time it hit the big screen, doing a screen test and not getting called because someone easier to work with would come in and use Carey’s test as a primer, having idea after idea shot down…these are the elements that went into creating Guasti.
– Ara Corbett, “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey – John Cassavetes Partnership,” Filmfax magazine #56 (May/June 1996)
In a letter to Carey (dated January 22, 1994), Ray Carney, a professor of film and American studies at Boston University, wrote:
“Re: The Insect Trainer script–What an extraordinary, weird, wonderful, bizarrely unclassifiable work you’ve created. In the Joycean, Swiftian, Salvador Dalian vein, you violate all of the taboos, cross all of the boundaries, break all of the rules, and–ecstatically–take us to places almost never even dreamt of in drama before. The script is a ‘gas’ in the other sense of the word: It’s hilarious–as well as humanly touching and moving. It’s a celebration of eccentric, non-homogenized, non-normalized humanity. An expression of love for the lost and forgotten feelings and impulses of life. A recognition of some of the sadness and loneliness of all originals, pioneers, inventors. In short, you break up the mental and spiritual constipation that afflicts both art and life. You free the spirit. The laughter and thoughtfulness you provoke, if we let ourselves be affected by them, shake us out of our zombie-like trances of conformity. This is an awesome piece of work. Bravo. Bravissimo!”
Prof. Carney’s letter is a fitting epitaph to the amazing talent and spirit of Timothy Carey.
— Harvey F. Chartrand, “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, Filmfax Plus magazine #102 (April/June 2004)
“First I’d take a big fart in front of them. That’s always a big help. I always thought if you really want to be a good actor, you’ve got to be able to fart in public. That, to me, is the most important. If you are so inhibited that you can’t fart, I don’t mean around your friends, I mean just a fart, out loud somewhere. I don’t mean the ‘silent creeper,’ everybody does that; I mean fart out loud! Just that you can do it and not be afraid of it. Humility is very important.”
– Timothy on preparing his cast for The Insect Trainer, as quoted by Sam McAbee in “Timothy Carey: Saint of the Underground,” Cashiers Du Cinemart #12 (2001)
This week’s quote is another that isn’t by Timothy, but about him:
“It’s very sad that Tim never got to make The Insect Trainer. It really was the pinnacle project of his life. Tim worked on it for many years. Many actors wanted to work on The Insect Trainer with Tim, because it was like going to a workshop with a great actor! You remember Tim’s great line from The Insect Trainer: ‘Live longer, live healthier, and let thy arse make wind.’ Who in his right mind would ever write a play or make a film about farting? Tim would, but it wasn’t just some sophomoric joke or adolescent regression. The Insect Trainer is rather a mature realization of the dangers of suppressing our emotions, especially for men. I mean, we cough in public. Why can’t we fart in public? Who decides these things? But Tim would ask, ‘Why would you suppress your body from functioning?’ I would call Tim a liberator of feelings, rather than an intellectual.”
– Filmmaker Gerry Fialka, from “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, Filmfax Plus magazine #102 (April/June 2004), article and interviews by Harvey F. Chartrand
Today’s pic is another from The Devil’s Gas (1987), the surreal short film written and directed by Timothy’s son Romeo. It was essentially Tim’s last film performance. He portrays Professor Petro, lecturing on Salvador Dali‘s famous essay on farting, and looking rather like Dali as well.
Timothy, always the iconoclast, took the subject of flatulence to heart. “Farting is no joke,” he often said. It was a natural function of the body, like a cough or a sneeze, and nothing to be ashamed of. His play The Insect Trainer was an expansion of this idea. “Live longer, live healthier, and let thy arse make wind!”
“In San Francisco, The World’s Greatest Sinner and Dali’s film played together so I got interested in Dali. He was like my idol. I’ve been working on the fart play, The Insect Trainer, for eight years now. It’s the first ever story about the incarceration of farting in society and one man’s struggle to free it. This guy gets arrested for accidentally killing a lady by farting and knocking her down. In jail he discovers his talents for training insects. It was the murder trial of the century where the defendant is the first person ever in criminal history charged with homicide where his ass was the lethal weapon… We should fart out loud in public. It’s good for us. The play is not really about the man on trial, it’s about the fart on trial. What would you rather do – fart in a crowd, or die alone in a corner? Live longer, live healthier, let thy arse make wind!”
– Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon
On that note, have a very Carey Christmas, everyone!