Theater & Arts

Shane ‘Scurvy’ Spears brings ‘segue-free’ show to Fresno’s Rogue Festival

Nearly 60 performers will take part in the annual fringe festival in the Tower District, which runs through March 7.

Actor/spoken word poet Shane “Scurvy” Spears’ show “Wet-Wired for Weird” debuts 9:15 p.m. Saturday at Fulton Street Art.

Spears quick-witted performances are known for shocking the crowd.


Shane Spears’ performances are exhausting — for him and the crowds.

They are quick-witted and acerbic, filled with verbose bravado that unfolds at breakneck speed and comes off with a side-show carnival flair. It might take 30 pages of dialogue to fill a performance that runs under an hour.

It’s all well rehearsed.

“My stuff is highly scripted, very precise and strategic,” says Spears, known in the performance arts circle as Scurvy (the Prophet for Profit).

The Fresno actor/spoken word poet is one of nearly 60 performers taking part in the Rogue Festival, the annual fringe festival that runs through March 7 in the Tower District. Spears’ show, “Wet-Wired for Weird,” debuts 9:15 p.m. Saturday at Fulton Street Arts.

Spears has a box full of ideas and possible dialogue that he’s scribbled in notebooks, on bar room napkins or old gig fliers. Most won’t make it in front of an audience.

“Wet-wired for Weird” was built around those scraps, he says.

Spears describes the show in rock music terms: The rest of his works have been complete concept albums. This show is the 12-inch LP with all the oddball hidden tracks and B sides that don’t fit in any other context. It’s dirty poems, shocking confessions and “yo-mama jokes” (done in Shakespearean vernacular, of course). It has tips on creative road rage tactics, an ode to Dungeons and Dragons and a radio broadcast from the apocalypse. The pieces are thrown together in a show that is random, chaotic and “segue free,” he says.

In a way, Spears is a Rogue Festival poster boy. He’s been performing locally for close to 15 years. He started as a street busker, juggling machetes and passing a hat around the crowd to collect tips. He’s also written and performed several solo shows (“The Bright Side of Total Doom”) and multi-cast theater productions (“Cap’n Scurvy’s Apocalypse Hoedown Revival”) for the Rogue over the last seven years.

It wasn’t until he discovered the Beat Down Competitive Poetry Slam, which he now co-hosts with poet Bryan Medina, that he really cultivated a love for the power of words and language.

These days, he sticks to one-man shows and has stopped using props.

He still uses the knowledge he picked up as a street performer. There is a familiarity he has working crowds that allows him spontaneity, even within a well-scripted show. He understands the way a heckler’s mind works and has any number of appropriate responses prepared, because “hecklers are all the same. And they’re predictable,” he says.

Still, there are things at a fringe show for which you can’t predict or prepare. Like, the drunken woman who wonders up on stage, or a mass of people who walk out mid-show. That happened during his Rogue performance in 2011.

It was the sex toy gag, Spears says. The Nazi jokes didn’t seem to bother them.

Oh yes, Spears can come off as offensive. He has an “utter disregard for socially appropriate behavior.” It’s part of the act.

But shocking the crowd isn’t the main objective, Spears says.

“I’m going to say what I want to say and they’re going to come with me,” he says.

“Or not.”

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