Bourdain Takes the Bayou City
A sold-out show at Jones Hall last night was enough to convince the Society for the Performing Arts that they should bring author and TV host Anthony Bourdain back for another speaking engagement -- this time with Eric Ripert, it seems -- but the question is: Will Houston come back to watch his schtick again?
Bourdain on stage last night was the embodiment of his on-screen and on-page persona: strutting, blustery, scathing, bullying, yet occasionally poignant. If you paid for a ticket to see a live version of Kitchen Confidential or Medium Raw, you got your money's worth.
And in a sense, Bourdain's act isn't that different from seeing Eddie Izzard or the Pixies (who played across the street at Verizon Wireless last night). With Izzard, you know he's going to dress like a woman, talk about cake and monkeys, and poke Python-esque fun at history. With the Pixies, you know they're going to play a bunch of random B-sides and close the show with "Where Is My Mind." It's material they take on the road, doing the same show every night to applause and acclaim.
With Bourdain, you should know that he's going to beat the dead and rotting Rachael Ray-Sandra Lee horse (complete with references to Sandra Lee's "dead shark doll eyes" and a rather misogynistic description of her as a "plastic surgery whore"), express his general disgust with vegetarians and American tourists, drop the exact same sound bites he's used in interviews and engagements for the last few months (the Wylie Dufresne farm-to-table chestnut has long gone stale now) and basically recite large portions of Medium Raw verbatim.
So you can either accept this for what it is -- a show that Bourdain is taking on the road, raking in the cash all the way back to New York City -- or mourn the fact that Bourdain didn't tailor the act to Houston, interact enough with the audience (some of whom asked entirely inane, mooning questions such as, "Your job is so coooooool! How can I get a job just like yoooooooou?") or appreciate Houston's cuisine while he was here.
That's not Bourdain's thing. Unless he's filming an episode of No Reservations, he's probably not going to camp out in the Bayou City for a day or two, no matter how good our Vietnamese food is. It's well-established that he doesn't think much of Texas, after all. The man who ate -- by his own description -- "warthog ass" in Namibia admitted last night that "up until 10 years ago, [he] was scared of Texas." His prejudices haven't seemed to wane all that much since then.
More importantly, though, he's here to make a buck and then blow through to the next town full of people willing to shell out $60 to $150 to see a man re-enact a book they could read for $19.95. It's like paying to eat at Dick's Last Resort and be bullied by the waitstaff when you could just eat at your dad's house and listen to him spew bullshit all night long for free. That's Bourdain's schtick, and it's worked so far.
So will Houston turn out for his next schtick? You bet your warthog ass. If we're gluttons for anything, it's punishment.