The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam
nytheatre.com review by David Fuller
June 3, 2006
How many of us have received at least one email from someone purportedly from Nigeria who is in desperate need of help getting a personal fortune out of Africa? Probably most of us have—at least, before the advent of spam filters. Back in the winter of 2003, Dean Cameron received such an email. As he says, most of us hit the delete button before we read much past the salutation. But Cameron decided to reply, albeit with a non-sequitur, "Great! Do you have any toast?" Remarkably, this response initiated an eleven month email exchange, as Cameron took on the guise of a lonely millionaire of confused sexuality from Florida, whose only companions are a Philippine houseboy, Kwan, and two cats, Mr. Snickers and JoJo the Dancing Clown, and whose attorneys include the renowned Perry Mason and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law.
The hour-long performance at the Brick's $ellout Festival is the latest incarnation of The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam, which spawned its own website and which has been performed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Edinburgh, and is slated to go to Montreal this summer. Cameron selected highlights of his email correspondence as text, assembled key visuals from the email attachments for projection, and engaged Victor Isaac to portray the Nigerian correspondents—they are a mother, a son, and a tangentially involved Doctor. With Cameron himself as host and commentator, he and Isaac each stand at a podium and "read" the emails. Well, they really "interpret" the emails as they read them, taking on the characters of the correspondents.
Cameron's comic sense of the absurd shines in his writing and he immediately engages us in his machinations as he scams the scammers to depths that seem unbelievable except for the fact that these online criminals really were trying at great length to con their mark out of thousands of dollars. At once, we marvel at how stupid the respondents must be to not understand the patent idiocy of Cameron's emails, or how smart they are to continue to keep their hooks in their fish as they play along with their lonely Floridian stooge.
Cameron's persona seems plucked from The Bird Cage or something similar; the respondents are archetypes of their own, undoubtedly constructed to be what westerners perceive as probable victims of African regime change. Both Cameron and Isaac are very funny in their interpretations of these archetypes. Isaac gives us both "Dr. Mrs. Mariam Abacha" and her "son" "Ibrahim" as well as co-scammer "Dr. Donald Abayomi" (obey-a-me?) with perfect deadpan delivery spiced with hilarious emotional outbursts of frustration. Cameron's alter ego Floridian is a very funny eccentric. His delight in the material shows in his reading: with a gleam in his eyes, a wry smile and that Jack Benny -esque can-you-believe-this attitude. Cameron even assumes the role of Perry Mason at times—Raymond Burr would have been proud. In addition, the evening includes recorded telephone "conference calls" where Cameron voices Perry as well as himself and we get to hear "Ibrahim." Unbelievable. And very amusing.
It is sad to think that the Nigerian scam has hooked so many—one website estimates the take from Americans alone at over $100 million. It is nice to learn, though, that the scammers have also been scammed. And in Dean Cameron's version, the spam scam scam is a delight.
LOL!! :) !! Really.