By Cameron Lee
July 8, 2022
What originally started as a performance art funeral procession for the ‘80s, Blue Man Group has become a worldwide phenomenon. On that day of their first public performance in Central Park in 1988, Blue Man Group founders Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton led a kind of anti-Yuppy culture protest laying to rest items symbolic of the times of the Reagan era, like a Rambo doll and pieces of the Berlin Wall. One audience member in attendance was MTV News correspondent and famed writer, Kurt Loder, who then ran a story, propelling the avant-garde performance art concept into countless homes throughout the country.
Chris Wink– an aspiring drummer at the time– originally came up with the concept of the peculiar blue men. He created the performance art troupe with childhood friend Goldman, and aspiring actor, Stanton, who met Wink working at a catering company in New York. While the MTV News story certainly brought intrigue to the masses, the idea was still being developed. It wasn’t until 1991 they staged a full production called Tubes at the Off-Off-Broadway theater La MaMa in Manhattan’s East Village, incorporating live instrumentation and audience interaction. Soon after, they started a run at the famed Astor Place Theatre in November 1991, where you can still see the production today.
Throughout three decades, Blue Man Group have been a part of our pop culture zeitgeist, having released multiple instrumental albums, one of which (Audio, their 1999 debut album) was nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Album at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards. Many may remember the Intel commercials which starred the inquisitive blue characters at the turn of the new millennium. They even made several television appearances, quite possibly and most notably, in the sitcom Arrested Development, where David Cross’s character Tobias Funke mistakenly joins the troupe thinking it was a men’s support group.
In 2016, the Blue Man Group were featured in their own Tiny Desk Concert, the popular live musical show hosted by NPR Music’s Bob Boilen, performing an interactive three-song set with their own custom-made instruments. More recently, they covered the Stranger Things theme song with their signature PVC pipes in an illuminating YouTube video.
While music and comedy has always been an essential aspect of the show, the core theme of the production always challenged the human relationship with technology and the ever-evolving world we live in. In a 1992 interview with Charlie Rose, Wink described the Blue Man Group as “outsiders in a mundane world, it’s a familiar [storytelling] technique, [like] a mermaid, or a martian.” While society has always pushed forward technology and global communication and connection, Blue Man Group aims to bring people together through our primitive instincts to belong to a tribe or community.
With the evolution of technology and social media over thirty years, you can only imagine the natural humor that derives from the skits and performances. With more crowd interaction and props than ever before, it’s a show that almost anyone can relate to. While the Blue Man Group has been ingrained in our minds for years, the world they exist in has changed drastically, creating new and astonishing ways to reinvigorate our senses, especially in a post-pandemic world.
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