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A burly man named Aye Jaye, with a garish jacket and handlebar moustache, stands surrounded by “pickled punks” (jars containing human fetuses preserved in formaldehyde) and three milk bottles — one perched precariously on the caps of the two-jar base. Jaye spins yarns from his life in the carny, a life he inherited from his parents in the Midwest. The bottles, arranged in that delicate balance, were the only items left standing after a tornado ripped through the town they were performing in, he explains. That’s all you need to know to understand the life of the carny. Jaye has a rich background in the art of con art. His lecture-demonstration paints a vivid portrait of Americana, mid-20th-century, a rare blend of garishness and romanticism, a study in how Minnesota farmers were dazzled and tricked before there was TV. The act includes an assistant named Charity (all funds go to Charity), who contorts herself inside a box around an array of blades slicing through it. For a buck, you can climb up on the stage and witness that Charity’s act is for real. You’ll learn where the expression “making the nut” comes from, and words like geek (a person doing unnatural acts). Jaye recalls a geek being interviewed for work: “If you bite the heads off of seven chickens a week, you’ll be kept in all the wine you can handle.” The geek thought it over for a minute before replying, “So what’s the catch?”

Saturdays, 8 p.m., 2008

LA Weekly