Judge Orders Breakup of Van Gogh-Goghs
Rules group has monopoly on peers' time; entertainment choice
LOS ANGELES (L. A. Times-Telegraph) June 12, 2000 -- A federal judge
has ordered local sketch comedy group the Van Gogh-Goghs to break
into two separate comedy groups.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Force Crater said he had "no choice" but
to order the breakup of the comedy group after federal prosecutors
exposed numerous instances of the group monopolizing its circle of
friends, relatives and coworkers.
"Because I keep having to go see their shows, I never have time to
see Phil's band, read Russ' scripts or go to that play David's in,"
said Kate Reed, a tolerant show-attender. "It wouldn't be so bad
except they keep doing the same damn skits over and over."
The judge's harshly worded verdict averred that such statements were
"...all too typical of the Van Gogh-Goghs' stranglehold on the time
and patience of their peers."
The decision also concluded that the group was guilty of "shady
practices and strong-arm tactics," such as reminding people to come
to a show two or three times in the same day, emailing unsolicited
information about shows in addition to a regular monthly email
newsletter, and badmouthing other comedy groups as "stupid" and
"packs of doofuses."
Judge Crater cited the volume of testimony against the group as a
major factor in his decision and accused the group of generating a
comedic group culture in which harassing family, loved ones and business
associates into coming to shows was encouraged.
|The Van Gogh-Gogh logo, altered to look as if it has been broken in half.|
"I've gone to every Van Gogh-Gogh show in three years. And they have
never come to see my band play," testified Phil Brown, a friend of
the group. "I have one of their t-shirts. Do you think any of them
have a hazel motes t-shirt? Noooo."
"They're constantly asking if you saw this or that on their website,"
said former fan Selena Berrier. "And they always ask if you went to
the pages with banner ads cause they get like, I dunno, half a penny
if you do. I mean, come on!"
"I just moved into town, and the first thing I know, I'm being told
directions to their next show," testified Sean Harklerode, a former
college friend of several VGG members.
The court-ordered plan would split the six man group into two
three-man groups. One group would focus exclusively on the Van
Gogh-Gogh website, the other on live performances. The two groups
would be prohibited from contacting or promoting each other. In
addition, both groups would be forbidden to mention the shows or
website to people unless specifically asked about it.
While the immediate impact on humor consumers is uncertain, analysts
expect lower prices initially as the weaker group appears at crappier
clubs that don't have valet parking or charge a two-drink minimum.
Asked about whether they expected the group to emerge funnier after
the split or to go into a comedic tailspin, former Labor secretary
and Brandeis University economic and social policy professor
Robert Reich said, "Who are you? How did you get this number?"
In a carefully worded statement Sunday, the group said: "Aw, come on!
Give us a break! Man!" and accused Judge Crater of being "a big
meanie." The group counter-proposed a different breakup plan where
five members would form one funny, sketch-based group and one member
could form his own, nonfunny, "stupid" group.
The Van Gogh-Goghs plan to appeal the ruling.