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A Tribute to Cigarettes
Episode 11: A Tribute to Cigarettes
AIR DATES: April 30, May 7 1990
A few years before the 1990s anti-smoking crusade, cigarette addiction was still good for a few laughs.
Jengis, last seen in “Enhanced Reality,” returns as The Cigarette Man. He snarls and nic-fits through a picaresque quest for his last pack of smokes. He repeatedly faces down and ultimately vanquishes The Cigarette-Hoarding Monster.
The beginning of the episode spins an origin myth for the series: Joe wakes up in a trash dump, clutching a wine bottle in a paper bag. A kindly woman discovers him, prods him to seek help.
Joe dismisses the stranger’s attempts at charity with a stream of heated invective, which sends her away, sobbing. This cheers him up, and he finds a chair from which to poison the world with cynicism.
Later in the episode, Joe vents frustration that not a single person has sent a letter yet (“maybe no one actually watches this program”) He attempts to offer a cash reward, a statement which Chicago Public Access censored from the final broadcast.
Public access cable has very few rules governing content – shows can be dull, ridiculous or gross, as we’ve seen. However, any commercial speech is forbidden, so Joe could not offer cash incentives to viewers.
Mark Audrain contributed a visual riff on smoking, which required him to puff cigarette after cigarette, take after take, dragging them down to the filter. A few days later, he injured a lung in a car accident, and had to give up smoking altogether.
Camera and Sound: Joe Winston, Dan Margulies, Jengis Alpar.
Cast: Jengis Alpar, Juan Luco, Page Phillips, Mark Audrain.