Interview: Josh B. Mabe of Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box

Josh B. Mabe is the producer of Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box, a super eclectic bimonthly variety show that started out at the Hideout before relocating to Township. In advance of this Sunday's edition of the show (known as "The Wordy Show"), I talked to Josh about his comedy background and the development of the show.

Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box is Sunday, May 5 at 8pm at Township, and features 16mm films from Dana Hodgdon, Emily Hubley, and Alan Beattie, Music from Advance Base, and performances from local comedians Beau Golwitzer, Caitlin Bergh, Shannon Cason, and Halle Butler.

The Steamroller: We haven't met before, tell me a bit about yourself!
Josh B. Mabe: I moved to Chicago from South Carolina a little over 6 years ago. I'm currently a librarian in Chicago Heights. We have A LOT of cat themed mystery novels. I've never seen anyone check out any of them. This is my favorite:


I've been making films, exhibiting films, and working with different film organizations for over a decade now. I just got back from presenting my films at the Images Festival in Toronto and during a debate I took part in I got my ass handed to me by a bunch of local art professors. They have real crap beer in Toronto. Lovely city, otherwise.

Comedy-wise, I did improv for three years a couple of years back. Did the independent team barprov type stuff with a group called Butter. I'd love to get back to doing improv, but I fear I've been away for too long.

TS: Where'd the concept for Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box come from?
JBM: I really wanted to show this 10 min film about Devo. So I started making a larger show around the theme of music and film. I invited my friend Lori Felker to perform a music piece that she creates with 16mm film projectors, and my film critic friends Ben Sachs (of The Reader) and Ed Crouse (of The Village Voice, among others) to form a band that played songs about films and filmmakers.

I ended up not getting the film print of the Devo film and playing it from video would be pointless. But the show was fantastic, and a lot of unplanned comedic moments happened throughout. So I decided to make it a regular bimonthly event with comedy, 16mm film (which is an important part of the show for me), music, and whatever else fits the theme.

TS: How do you approach booking a lineup? What makes a performer/filmmaker/musician a good fit for a Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box show?
JBM: With one exception (the upcoming "The Lincoln Show"), the lineup starts with a film I want to screen. Sometimes it's just a ten minute little film, and building an all-film show around it wouldn't be as exciting as building a show with a variety element to it. It really is more exciting and is usually a lot more engaging with the audience. So once I figure out a film I'd like to see, I build the rest of the show around the theme. Anything's game at that point - and sometimes you have to stretch a bit to make something fit the theme.

So, for The Wordy Show I started with the films of Dana Hodgdon - who is a local filmmaker who makes these very complex, but very goofy films about langauge. Then from there, I just fleshed out the theme with some folks doing readings (Beau Golwitzer, Caitlin Bergh, Shannon Cason, Halle Butler), a few more films that use language in some elemental way, and a musician with great lyrics (Advance Base). I've got some upcoming themes were I'm really having to stretch to fit the show around the theme - but that's fine with me. It can be a bit loose.

TS: Have there been any concepts/themes that you've thought of exploring with the show that you've abandoned for whatever reason? Are there any ones you have planned for upcoming shows?
JBM: I haven't abandoned any ideas yet - but each show will be around a theme. The next one will hopefully be The Siblings Show in July & The Lincoln Show in September. After that, the ideas I've been playing with have been The Genitals Show, The Puppets Show, The Cooking Show, The Remakes Show...