Sure to out-weird all Gainesville oddities and obscurities, The Tom Miller Show celebrated its 35th anniversary with its latest installment, “Reverend Angeldust’s Tabernacle of Hedonism with your Host, Tom Miller: Undertown Edition” at the Hardback Cafe Wednesday.
Tom Miller, 53-year-old Gainesville resident and live entertainer, began The Tom Miller Show in 1985. He has been running the ever-changing and indefinable show under different names and at various Gainesville venues ever since.
“It's kind of an open mic night, but it’s partly a show,” Miller said. “It's partly reality and it's partly fiction.”
The show’s current installation showcases the Reverend Angeldust, a character created and personified by Paul Cohen, and the Church of Absurdism, a religion offered by Cohen and Miller. Mostly for absurdist and comedic purposes, the goals of the church are inclusivity, respect, legalizing marijuana and worshipping the Great Dumpster Goddess Jamba, Miller said.
The “open mic” component of the show is an invitation for anyone to entertain, perform or share whatever they would like with the audience. Some longtime followers of the show have come to adopt niche roles in it and are expected to take the stage — what they will do with their stage time is often unknown and unpredictable.
Rose Loston, known as Granny, is a “houseless” Gainesville woman who has a recurring role in the show and gave a prayer for the audience to kick off Wednesday night’s event. Following Granny, a Gainesville man who goes by Tape Werm performed original murder-themed songs and lit firecrackers out of his nose.
“It would be fair to say that we have a cast,” Miller said. “And the cast finds us. We don't hire anybody. It's just people who are willing to connect closer to the show than anyone else, and they keep coming.”
Among other acts were the local grunge band The Friendly C**ts and Michael Garvin’s “What Am I Wearing?” and ask-me-anything-style segments. Garvin is a visual artist and the church’s Minister of the Interior.
Longtime supporter of the show and colleague of Tom Miller is Hardback Cafe owner Alan Bushnell. A 60-year-old St. Petersburg native, Bushnell opened the original Hardback in 1989, focusing on cultivating a local band scene.
“We just provide a venue for people to do their creative work,” Bushnell said. “And he's [Miller] always taking advantage of the opportunity. And that's all I exist for — is just to give people opportunities.”
The “Reverend Angeldust's Tabernacle of Hedonism” is a performance art spectacle that not even those involved can fully understand. It represents all that is outrageous and offensive, and they have no plans of changing that.
“A lot of people think we're really weird and really subversive and they think we're a cult,” Miller said. “Respecting each other for our differences, and thinking of our diversity as a strength — if that's weird, I want to be as weird as possible.”