A colleague asked me the other day why I refer to Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox as a “modern day carnival barker”. I quickly realized the reason for the question: This fellow is only about 30 and doesn’t know what a carnival barker is, or better put, used to be. I sometimes forget how old I’ve gotten to be, so I suppose an explanation is in order.
Those of us of advanced enough years remember back in the days when the traveling carnival would periodically come to town. In the little town where I grew up, they’d set up their tents and rides on the old rodeo grounds on the West side of town, with a midway bisecting the affair. In the midway there would always be a guy with a booming voice shouting things like “Step right up, folks! Come see the Bearded Lady! Come marvel at the Wildman of Borneo!” and so on, and so forth.
So you’d pay your quarter to get into the House of Oddities – more rudely known as the freak show – and it would quickly become obvious that the “Bearded Lady” was actually some big, burly guy wearing eye liner and a cheap dress, and the “Wild Man of Borneo” was actually some guy they’d paid ten bucks to put on a grass skirt, wave a club around and shriek unintelligible gibberish. In other words, upon closer inspection it became clear that the images you were seeing were sort of real, but actually not what they were claimed to be by the Carnival Barker, i.e., they were fake.