by ALEX CARNEVALE
creator Grant Dekernion
Chozen (Bobby Moynihan) has entered his third decade in the world, and is recently out of prison. He has no job or qualifications to pursue employment. He is possessed of various abilities and talents encouraged on him by a world that seemed to reward such aims. He is finally, irrecoverably a white, gay man, reminiscent of a more rotund, self-aware Andrew Sullivan or an emaciated Kevin Smith.
Chozen's passion for rap music was inculcated at an early age. His first glimpse of African-American culture came in visual form - the confusing, messy Mad-Maxian landscape of "California Love", constantly promising roads that went to new places. After he gets out of jail, framed for a crime he never committed, he moves in with his sister in her dorm, and there finds a familial understanding he missed while incarcerated. He does return to the aspect of his previous life he did find rewarding — the free and easy availability of sexual congress.
His younger sister Tracy (Kathryn Hahn) is the sort of person who has found the clothing and manner she is most comfortable in and sticks to it with a mix of fervent happiness and resigned disgust. She is enrolled at the college, her brother is most certainly not. Chozen navigates the environs of the academic world she inhabits incautiously. The presence of her brother in the place she aspired to at first annoys her, but his innocent dispelling of all academia's silliness and impotence eventually proves useful.
Tracy takes up the direction of Chozen's rap video with aplomb as a class project, reminding us the ivory tower's approach to the concept of learning is far too narrow to be successful with all individuals. Some of us, perhaps even the best of us, are able to learn in a classroom setting, but for others it is a very dreary time indeed.
Troy (Nick Swardson) was raised in a Puritan family that protected him from life's harder elements, but also completely unprepared him to survive without pain in the world as it is. Chozen represents Troy's first homosexual friend. When Chozen is not taking extensive advantage of Troy's financial largesse, he is protecting him from those who might do him harm, chiefly the athletes attending the university, whose fraternities determine most of the social life on campus. This sorry arrangement gives power and prestige to the least intelligent individuals, and places those outside of that scene at the bitter margins.
Chozen shows what a diseased arrangement this is. In many small liberal arts college, athletes are admitted simply to fill spots on teams, regardless of whether or not they meet academic requirements or can succeed in classes. It is strange and disturbing that such crass aims have become completely subservient to a university's nonprofit mission, and the corruption of the campus social life is just as pernicious an effect as the other compromises this reality ensures.
At one point Chozen openly wonders why there are even team or individuals sports in a setting where education and learning is the supposed goal. In his innocent questioning, he shames every university president who has long ago forgotten the reason why they ever entered the cesspool that stands for academia in America.
Fundraising, football and preserving a good environment for the distribution of recreational drugs is all that is left to these fatcats now. Given all we know of what violent hits on unsuspecting receivers do to brain and skull, these ridiculous people have not only failed their primary mission, but are engaged in actively damaging young minds. Chozen exposes how little academia has changed as the world around it grows and evolves.
Chozen's homosexuality is the main distinguishing factor in his act as a rap artist, since it is not everyday a muscled, semi-obese white man speaking African-American slang is so obvious and open with his own attitudes and appetites. At first this seems merely a satire of the rampant misogyny in the hip-hop world, but soon we realize that Chozen is doing the important work of placing homosexual desire on the same level as its heterosexual counterpart.
Chozen normally chooses closeted gays as partners. His honesty with them about what the relationship means from the outset means he never really hurts the feelings of these men, and he is remarkably open-minded when it comes to deciding what potential partners he might enjoy being with. Others seem to draw inspiration from this level of self-awareness, and the two performers who support him onstage, Ricky (Michael Pena) and Crisco (Hannibal Burress) are never at all judgmental about their friend's choices.
What can be done to fix a situation where students are more focused on cradling lacrosse balls than imbibing the knowledge that could actually lead to employment, or at the very least Herodotus references in their rap/rock songs? Chozen suggests that the making of a transgressive art provides all such solutions to these important issues.
In our society, however, it is never the men who are pushing these important boundaries, it is young women who expand our idea of what is possible in the culture. Chozen therefore resonates as a call to arms of sorts, that men need not simply enjoy the rewards of a society white men created to reduce young people to decades of repaying massive debt for no education at all. They can make animated sitcoms for FX instead.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
"I Want You To Be Your One Night Stand" - Jeremy Messersmith (mp3)
"Hitman" - Jeremy Messersmith (mp3)
The new album from Jeremy Messersmith is entitled Heart Murmurs, and it was released on February 4th.