Paranoia Man in a Rat Fink Room

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Paranoia Man in a Rat Fink Room

November 8, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - February 18, 2017 @ 6:00 pm EST

Storefront for Art and Architecture, in collaboration with the New York Comedy Festival (NYCF), has commissioned Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe to create Paranoia Man in a Rat Fink Room at Storefront’s gallery space. The exhibit will open on November 8, 2016, with special preview performances from November 2 – 6, 2016 during the NYCF. Paranoia Man in a Rat Fink Room will continue after the festival with events and discussions curated by Storefront through February 18, 2017.  

Paranoia Man In A Rat Fink Room follows a tradition of spatial experimentation at Storefront where the boundaries between architecture, art, and the subject are dissolved into one continuous environment. The installation is a historical pastiche of urban and architectural experiences linked through a mise-en-scène comprised of three architectural environments – a Canal Street style kiosk filled with the leftover DVDs and VHSs from Jungle Video (a now defunct media superstore in Los Angeles); a comedy club partially inspired by the original Rat Fink Room (the world’s first dedicated stand-up comedy club, which opened in 1963); and a bathroom that has been converted into surveillance headquarters that will keep audio/video recordings of the last days of Storefront.


Storefront for Art and Architecture is closing its doors for good. The real estate vultures have descended to feed on the malnourished carcass of its signature Kenmare Street space. Its replacement will most likely be a Juice Press supplement administered through fiber-optic eyeliner. The official announcement is that it will be something called SAN SAN. A flagship store for BAMA Cosmetic Pharmaceuticals, OCTOPUS Entheobotanical Data Networks and Fata Morgana Entertainment Systems brought to you in a fancy new package designed by interior starchitect Henri Erkins. “A multiplatform consumer experience where virtual and tactile interaction merge in a new marketing sphere.” A kind of combination Pizza Hut-Taco Bell-Google daydream for the Lower Manhattan demographic. But before the polish of recycled paper, space rock, and smartphone flirtation bring about point-of-purchase orgasms, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe have arranged for an interim scenario.

The overstock of Jungle Video, the now defunct media superstore you may remember from your drive to LAX via La Tijera Boulevard, is coming to Storefront for Art and Architecture for a fire sale of such gray market classics as Linguini is Not a Flower and Thank God For My Forties. A Canal Street-style kiosk of bootleg handbags and toxic perfume will stage a pop-up shop for all manner of DVD, VHS, Compact Disc, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Prada, and perhaps a dime bag of heavily stepped on cocaine if you know the password. But this will only be the first stop on the path to the headlining act: a reprisal of the infamous Rat Fink Room.

The Rat Fink Room, the first dedicated stand-up comedy club on planet earth, opened in September 1963 on 50th St. and 3rd Ave. in New York City. Its proprietors, Morris Levy and Jackie Kannon, imagined an ad hoc gathering place where two-bit insult comics settled scores and “working blue” pushed the limits of good taste.

Jackie Kannon, its ringmeister, was a mobbed-up sycophant comic who felt pressured to buy himself a nose job in the hope of breaking out of the borscht belt. He was not even dimly aware of what might be at stake in the obscenity trials of the time, around such now-classic works as Howl and Naked Lunch. For him, “working blue” was about the money. Morris “The Octopus” Levy, the founder of Birdland and Roulette Records, was a mob connected music business executive who is mostly remembered as a crook who stole from recording artists, and was convicted of extortion and suspected of heroin distribution. Levy used the Rat Fink Room and his other venues as a place to surreptitiously record comedy acts and release records without the comics’ permission. He gave them no portion of the proceeds and threatened bodily harm if they sued. In the spirit of this, Freeman and Lowe have converted the neighbor’s bathroom (Staci, age 12, addicted to synthetic marijuana) into a surveillance headquarters that will keep audio/video recordings of the last days of Storefront.

The Rat Fink Room will be alive again in the twilight of Storefront for Art and Architecture through a series of nights programmed by Caroline Hirsch and the New York Comedy Festival from November 2nd to November 6th.

It is true that the New York City of the 20th century imagination is gone and never to return. But there will be a copy of New Jack City shot on a handycam in 1993 at Worldwide Cinemas on 50th St. and 8th Ave. available for purchase.

About Opening Night

On Tuesday, November 8th, Storefront for Art and Architecture and the New York Comedy Festival will present the public opening of Paranoia Man in a Rat Fink Room, which coincides with the US presidential election.

Guests will enter the Rat Fink Room, and will experience election-related programming and coverage throughout the evening.

About the Special Preview Performances

Paranoia Man In A Rat Fink Room will open in tandem with the 13th annual New York Comedy Festival, which takes place the first week of November at venues throughout New York City.

On the evenings of November 2nd – 6th, Caroline Hirsch, founder and owner of the New York Comedy Festival and Carolines on Broadway, will curate comedic programming inside the installation, bringing to the space a functioning nightclub and entertainment venue complete with live stand-up performances.

The special preview performances are by invitation only. For more information, contact


To learn more about the installation or the preview performances, please visit or, or see #paranoiaman, #makenylaugh, @storefrontnyc, and @nycomedyfest.


November 8, 2016 @ 6:00 pm EST
February 18, 2017 @ 6:00 pm EST
Event Category:


Storefront for Art and Architecture
New York Comedy Fesitval


Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street
New York, NY United States
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