Long ago, in the days before iPhones or Blu-ray, people amused themselves with a primitive device known as a top loading video cassette recorder (VCR).
So it was in the household of Charlie Ross. He and his sisters would record television shows, movies, and music videos over and over, often on the same videocassette, partially erasing whatever was on it before.
It is fair to surmise that his penchant for Legend, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal may not have been the entertainment of choice for siblings who favored The Young and the Restless. Thus, each recording by one sibling was erased by the recording of another. Videotapes: the palimpsests of the 1980s.
What was left by the end of the decade was a jumble of sounds and images, snippets of pop culture and memories.
80s Blank Tape is a tribute to that. As Ross himself would say, it’s about the random stuff that sticks: commercial jingles you keep singing to yourself years later and images from movies that linger on.
Presented as a one-man comedy act, 80s Blank Tape relies heavily on the physical humor that Ross does so well. There are no props, costumes, or sets to work off of: what you see — Ross, dressed in black — is what you get.
The fun is in watching how he re-creates ’80s cultural touchstones as disparate as Karate Kid, Top Gun, The Muppet Show, and Dirty Dancing — as well as random commercials and music videos — using just motions and voice.
The idea that the blank tape referenced in the show’s title was caught up in a sort of sibling rivalry between Ross and his sisters provides an extra layer of fun (re-enactments of Barbie doll commercials become progressively more sarcastic throughout the performance). Who hasn’t argued with family members over what to watch and when?
Expect surprises: unanticipated moments of, ‘Oh… yeah… I remember that.’ Because it’s such a fast-paced show, if one scene doesn’t happen to click with you, it will quickly be swept aside by something else.
That’s part of the fun. I got lost more than once during the performance, but hey, back in the actual 1980s, there were entire years in which I was lost, so that’s just par for the course.