TV Party

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TV Party, hosted by Glenn O'Brien, ran from 1978 to 1982 on public access cable TV in New York City. A documentary about the show came out a few years ago, which renewed interest in the show and cemented its legacy. Below is an excerpt from the larger essay "THE TV PARTY STORY", where O'Brien reflects on the concept behind TV Party.

TV Party wasn't based on the Johnny Carson type talk show as much as it was based on Hugh Hefner's shows. Hef's Playboy's Penthouse premiered in 1960 and Playboy After Dark appeared in 1969. The format of both shows was a sophisticated cocktail party, not a desk and sofa set up. It was a fantasy of being at a super-hip, super exclusive jet set party. Hef wore a tux and there were always vixens aplenty on set as well as groovy guests like Sara Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Lenny Bruce.

I loved the concept, compared to the stiff format of the Tonight Show. TV Party was Playboy Penthouse twenty years later and with no money. But TV Party was meant to be much more than a regular old talk show. It was meant to be art and it was also meant to be a political party. That's why you see all of those pictures of Lenin and Engels and Marx and Stalin and Mao hanging on the walls. We were doing "socialist realist TV."

"TV Party is the show that's a cocktail party but which could also be a political party." That was the slogan. My idea was that socialism meant going out every night, and that social action started with socializing. I think we were trying to inject a sort of tribal element into things. That's what happens when you smoke reefers and read Marshall McLuhan. I was also reading a lot of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, not to mention Milton Berle and Henny Youngman. I thought we could do subliminal politics as absurdist comedy. I actually did believe in anarchy, as the peaceful society that comes after "the withering away of the state." I thought withering away the state sounded like fun, so we made fun of the state every chance we got.