TBA 2011: Mike Daisey’s Tale

A very brief summary of key plot points we were able to retain during Mike Daisey’s 24-hour monologue.

By Anne Adams September 18, 2011

As you may or may not have heard, this weekend TBA has been dominated by monologuist Mike Daisey ’s most ambitious oratory stunt yet: a 24-hour monologue opus. Culturephile checks in at 6-hour intervals to summarize the plot points as they unfold:

Mike Daisey and his wife Jean Michele plan for a pregnancy, but are stopped short by a miscarriage. They gradually drift apart until eventually Jean disappears altogether. Distraught, and still haunted by a perception of her continued presence in his home, Mike begins to search for her by consulting a friend who isn’t a private detective, but a novelist who writes about being one. Unfortunately, this man is also a pitiful drunk. Meanwhile, Jean Michele (in a part this reviewer nodded through) is racked with guilt about her separation from Mike. A tape (video?audio?) also plays a role.

Some side notes about the Disney empire: Walt Disney was a complicated man who spent his adult life attempting to triage his abusive childhood through the pursuit of whimsy and wonder. Ironically, he sometimes enforced his visions with brutal authoritarian tactics, and routinely sold out his “commie” employees to the CIA. These days, a trip to Disneyland/world serves as a Hajj for a modern puritanical all-American religion. Its pagan parallel is Burningman. In both experiences, participants strive to create and inhabit an otherworldly utopia.

6 am
Okay. In the story, Daisey’s wife Jean-Michele is inhabiting a futuristic dystopia in which he has already died and she’s taken up with a new (female) partner. Though she’s been living in Seattle (which hosts a cracked space needle, thanks to a recent bombing), she feels herself inexplicably drawn back to New York. She plays hooky on her human resources job and embarks on a road trip that lands her at the apartment she and Daisey used to share. She finds a mysterious tape there with a “listen to me” label, but she can’t listen because she hasn’t got a tape player.

Meanwhile Daisey is living in the present when he’s suddenly transformed into a woman—more specifically, he inhabits the body of a German prostitute, jumping into a foreign life already in progress. He likes it okay. Daisey has requested that two sexy vegans fry bacon for the crowd while he speaks; they do, and we eat.

Daisey has been taking swigs of what he assures us is real vodka, and handling what he assures us is a real gun, for some time now. He may be willing to take hostages if the moment demands it.

Daisey took us out to see the sunrise and preached about the inhumanity of corporatized society. He introduced a gospel singer who compelled a reluctant crowd through four choruses of Amazing Grace. There are now two Jean-Micheles: the futuristic lesbian one is still hot on the trail of what she senses will be a transformational discovery. She follows her emotional “GPS” to the central crater of Chernobyl and surveys the wreckage. At this point, she’s also encountered a noteworthy spirit guide, Nicolai Tesla As Played By David Bowie in The Prestige. Meanwhile, there’s a current-time one whose story is continuing simultaneously with her alterego’s, and Daisey’s. By the way, Daisey is now being guided by Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan tells him that he’s the master of his own destiny. Meanwhile, Daisey’s good friend, a Disney imagineer, had a religious awakening when he encountered a cult holding a ceremony at an Ikea store. He’s so distracted by his new resolve to quit his Disney day-job, that he doesn’t notice present-day Jean Michele crossing the street in front of his car. He hits her and has to take her to the hospital. Oh—and we still don’t know what the tape said.


Jean-Michele shoots Daisey’s novelist/PI friend in the head. Warren Zevon emerges as the villain in Daisey’s recounting of The Shining. However, Warren soon reconciles with Daisey and decides to join him on his pilgrimage to Walt Disney World. (Please note, the guy in the Obi Wan Kenobi outfit, we’re told, is actually sci-fi author Phillip K. Dick.) Dick, Daisey, Warren, Jean-Michele and her new friend the imagineer, all end up converging on the magic kingdom, where Dick leaves Daisey and Warren to their own devices. An unknown Magic Kingdom villain crucifies Warren on a cross and forces Daisey to endlessly narrate a ride, The Carousel of Progress. Meanwhile, Jean-Michele and the imagineer take a monorail to find Daisey and Warren. When they get near, the imagineer agrees to hold the monorail while Jean-Michele performs a rescue. However, because the magic kingdom is on fire and circumstances are so dangerous, she’s never able to make it back to the imagineer again, nor is she able to rescue the crucified Warren. She does rescue Daisey by “killing” an animatronic robot from the Progress ride, and the tale ends when, through a blood-letting ritual on the stones of the Magic Kingdom, Daisey surrenders his storytelling powers. As the story ends, we learn what the tape said: “There’s not time to tell you everything you need to know.”

More analysis pending, after this breaking nap.

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