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Leavins replies in two different successive episodes, in T-shirt and disheveled hair, staring straight into the camera. Playing defense, he argues that his Web show is not amateur but retarded, and that she should understand the difference. Just because a show looks cheap and retarded doesn’t mean it’s not professional. Perhaps it’s meant to look cheap and retarded.
Mocking his victim as “Rhonda of the Stage,” he goes on to ridicule himself, assuming a posture of actorly arrogance: “Do you know who I am?! Let me rephrase that. Do you know who I think I am, Rhonda? [He holds his right foot in front of his face.] Do you see this right foot that I recently had reattached to my leg? I have set this foot on many a stage, Rhonda. I have used this foot, and the rest of my body parts, for many, many stage performances. I’m happy to tell you there is a difference between stage performance and Internet performance. Onstage, you don’t have some chick, Rhonda, e-mailing you to tell you that you look amateur. You know what, Rhonda, I have been meaning to resurrect my stage career, so thank you for pissing me off. Do you know what I’m going to do? I am going to find a theater in Hollywood and I am going to rent it. I am going to do a show called Cute With Chris: Live, and anybody who watches me on the Internet is welcome to come and watch me on the stage. I will upload crap on the Internet from the stage. And you know what, Rhonda? In the front row there will be one empty seat with a piece of paper on it. And do you know what that piece of paper will say? ‘Reserved for Rhonda.’”
Leavins went on to perform Cute With Chris: Live at the Hudson and Elephant theaters, both on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Besides crossing the line between the Internet and the stage, Leavins has a history of blurring the divide between play and life, which is what the late comedian Andy Kaufman used to do with his obnoxious alter ego, lounge singer Tony Clifton.
Not unlike the antics of Kaufman, Leavins hired his own groupies to attend his show, Rock Star, telling them where to sit, what to do and when to scream.
One of Boni’s favorite pieces from his five years of running the festival was called Posterchild, derived from a period when Leavins was in an acting class in Los Angeles, and all the students were developing monologues based on their lives. In Leavins’ show, he claimed to have survived a rare form of brain cancer.
“It became about what cancer meant to him and his life,” Boni explains. “None of it was true. Some viewers who came thought he was an ass. I was on a jury at the time with two jurors who were going through cancer treatments, and they hated it. I loved it because he was making fun of cancer plays.”
Rage lies in the fabric of Leavins’ shows. A running motif in CWC is “Thank you for my rage, Jesus.” And though Leavins says he doesn’t brood, “it doesn’t get any darker than me,” he claims. “I came out of the womb as a 35-year-old man.”
If he had to do it again, he wouldn’t have done a show about puppies and kittens, “because it’s extraordinarily difficult to produce content in that milieu without it being nauseating. I’ve done it, but it’s a Herculean task.”
There’s another regret: “I wish I’d done a show about celebrities, like everyone else; it would have been so much easier.”
Still, there is something unparalleled about the way Leavins has made connections all the way to the other side of the globe from the isolation of a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, one of the most isolating cities in the world.
One day, on a lonely stretch of highway outside Sydney, Australia, a driver hits a kangaroo and leaves her for dead. It’s a road barely traveled, but on this day, a few hours later, a teenager named Rayne also happens to be driving the same stretch of road and notices the carcass. She does something Australians, like everyone else, rarely do at the sight of roadkill: She stops, she investigates, and in the pouch of the dead kangaroo, she finds an infant, dehydrated and dying, whom she names Oliver. Rayne drives Oliver to a veterinarian. After Oliver returns from the brink of death, Rayne takes him home and rears him like her own child. She sends a photograph of herself, with Oliver, to Chris Leavins, who posts it on his Web site, and tells the story, on the Internet and onstage, in Los Angeles and Toronto. Oliver and Rayne are now a part of international folklore.