The Yes Men! Meet Andy Bichlbaum!
Andrew Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano are "The Yes Men," the Merry Pranksters of the environmental movement, a culture-jamming duo who fight social injustice and crimes against nature using pranks, humour and their lethal imaginations.They're the audacious jokers who pretend to be spokesmen for Dow Chemical and go on TV to announce that Dow will (belatedly) take responsibility for the worst industrial accident in history, the Bhopal pesticide catastrophe. (Dow, whose shares lost $2 billion in value in 23 minutes, had to officially announce that they would not, in fact, live up to their responsibilities — whereupon the stock shot back up.)
The Yes Men are the black-hearted rogues, purporting to be Exxon executives, who unveiled to an oil-industry conference a wonderful new product — a miracle fuel made from the bodies of victims of global warming. They're the subversives who published 80,000 copies of a fake New York Times showing what the news could be like if US politicians actually set out to solve problems and serve the people.
They've done two movies and a book, and they're expert trouble-makers, constantly looking for new ways to embarrass those who degrade the planet and its people – and, with their Yes Lab, to help other trouble-makers follow their example. Andy himself earned the ultimate accolate, a condemnation by President George W. Bush, who said of him, “This guy’s just a garbageman; there ought to be limits to freedom.” That kind of praise makes me green – but with envy, not with virtue.
The environmental movement normally doesn't have much of a sense of humour. The Yes Men give us a welcome injection of the outrageous, reminding us that humour is one of the most powerful weapons we have. The environmental villains are used to denunciation; it rolls off their backs. But they aren't used to being diddled and ridiculed, and that gets under their skin. That's the lesson of The Yes Men.
So check out our conversation with Andy Bichlbaum — who, in another life, is known as Jacques Servin, a professor at the New School for Design in New York City and a serious fiction writer. You may find him disturbing, you may find him inspiring — but you won't go away untouched.