Before he confounded and delighted mainstream audiences on season 12 of America's Got Talent, Puddles the sad singing clown was a mainstay of the underground Atlanta arts scene -- one that has intrigued and bewitched arts writers long before driving Simon Cowell to vexation in 2017.
The character is the creation -- and just one of several alter egos -- of performance artist and musician Michael "Big Mike" Geier, who brings his Puddles Pity Party act to Dallas' Majestic Theatre on March 4.
Standing nearly 7-feet-tall and dressed more like Pagliacci than Pennywise, Puddles' first brush with fame took place in 2013, when a video of him belting New Zealand pop prodigy Lorde's debut mega-hit "Royals" went viral. To date, that YouTube post has amassed more than 23 million views.
It sparked a cult following -- he sold-out Dallas' Kessler Theater in 2015 -- and inspired more videos from Puddles and Postmodern Jukebox, a Brooklyn-based band that reinterprets contemporary pop songs with jazzy vintage arrangements.
It also drew the attention of writer Justin Heckert -- originally of Atlanta -- who doggedly followed Geier for weeks in 2014, indulging in the artist's games of cat-and-mouse in hopes of unearthing the massive man beneath Puddles' golden crown.
Heckert's resulting long-form feature, "Let Me Live That Fantasy," mustn't be missed by those enthralled not only by Puddles, but the art of spectacle more broadly. A provocative, literary work of creative non-fiction for Grantland, the piece is still accessible in the now-defunct pop culture blog's online archive.
As compelling as the original "Royals" video was to Heckert and internet fans alike, the artist's appearance on America's Got Talent revealed a dimension that was, until recently, only obvious to those who had experienced Puddles live: the collaborative energy between the performer and audience.
AGT crowds seem as astonished by Puddles' intense talent and the melodrama of his vocal interpretations even by the time he had advanced to the competition's quarterfinals-- well past the point an emptier shtick might have run its course -- and their excitement translates, seemingly telepathically, to viewers at home. On tour, the clown even gets leaves his throne, the stage, to meander in commiseration among singing fans.
That's why the Majestic Theatre seems an especially appropriate venue for Puddles Pity Party.
From its faded red velvet and ornate Baroque design to the intimacy of its auditorium, the space provides a regal atmosphere for the catharsis of performance. Puddles takes modern pop and emotes to the point of absurdity. Keep looking, and you'll soon find yourself in on the joke.
Cry until it's funny. Then, laugh until you cry.