Q. What is Burning Man?
A. Burning Man is an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.
-from The Burning Man Website
-from The Burning Man Website
Pirooz: Burning Man seems an interesting idea. An entire city built in the Nevada desert, only to be burned down a week later. It must be quite an experience with its own rules and community. What was it like? You say you feel a changed person. What happened?
Jeff Peterson: The Burning Man is so much more than a party to me. It's a life changing event that puts us in direct contact with the kindred spirits that we seek instinctively in the modern world. For seven years I have made the spiritual journey to an enchanted city that exists for 7 days each year but has a lasting impression that extends a lifetime. The art is amazing, the visuals are astounding, the celebration is overwhelming but it's the people of Black Rock City that makes this an oasis.
People from all walks of life gather together in this temporary community to free themselves from the trappings of the "real" world. In Black Rock City you can reinvent yourself or in my case, rediscover the true self that has been chiseled down by the cycle of life. Getting in tune with what really matters is at the heart of the Burning Man and the hugs are healing to a soul in need of understanding and compassion. The barriers break down and we let down our guard for this brief window of opportunity.
This wonderland cannot fully be explained in words, it must be experienced to grasp the love energy that exists in this limited time space. With the positive vibrations that are flowing in me at this moment, I am a far better man after my vision quest in the desert and I have a much deeper understanding of my place in the universe. Love is the recurring theme, love of expression, love of people, love of life. Come, see for yourself the undeniable power of the Burning Man.
PK: Man, that makes me want to go. I had visuals of a city burning to the ground; music like "Chariots of Fire" busting in the background. Tasty. What'd you do this year? What community were you part of?
Jeff Peterson: My community is the city itself. I am part of the hub of Burning Man, Camparctica- the ice vending camp. There are only two things that are for sale in this gift society; Coffee and Ice. Coffee is a luxury, while Ice is a necessity. I lifted up to 14 tons of Ice in a 40 degree truck for 3 hours over five days. Volunteering puts you in the center of the action. Giving back to the community is so rewarding. The people that I work with are the cream of the crop, top notch folks from all over the place. Under the direction of our beloved leader The Ice Queen, Camparctica is the most vital component of the festival. Being a member of this fold is something that fills me with pride and joy. This is my home away from home.
PK: In past conversations, you've said that Burning Man helps you put away the work grind for a community that is more your people. That sense of community. I can hear it in how you talk about this place. It sounds very magical. How has the Burning Man experience changed your view of the corporate life versus your comedic night life?
Jeff Peterson: The Burning Man equips me with the mindset to keep things in perspective. The Corporate world is stitched into the fabric of America. It is a fact of life that must be taken into account. My daily bread and butter comes from the corporate structure and my creative ambition of being a successful stand-up comic also relies heavily on that corporate structure. Performing stand-up at Burning Man blends my desired occupation with my ultimate location.
Being at Burning Man refreshes my faith in humanity and thus makes me a better, more sensitive individual in this society. The way things are in Black Rock City is how we burners feel things should be, but until things change, we'll take seven days of revolution. John Lennon would feel right at home.
Pirooz: I read the Rolling Stone article. The reporter didn’t seem to think Burning Man was anything but an excuse for people to party.
Jeff Peterson: Once again, Rolling Stone missed the point. This rag mag has been out of touch for too long and this article is a shining example of their lack of knowledge on the counter culture they want so badly to represent. The Bozo they sent was no mere reporter, he was what we refer to at Burning Man as a "spectator", a non participant. How did he miss the point? He was never "at" the event, he only observed those around him. You had to "be" there is not just a quaint expression in the case of Burning Man. The event must be experienced to have a viewpoint. The citizen of Black Rock City is part of a collective conscience and onlookers will never get that. It's too bad that all this reporter saw was naked yuppies in a homo erotic, drug induced frenzy, staring at glow sticks while listening to techno. He overlooked the love of humanity and community, the relentless self expression on a mass scale and the joy that comes with letting go. I guess he'll never know.
PK: Was this the first time you performed at Burning Man?
Jeff Peterson: I brought my gifts to the playa in the past. I've sung with bands, created artwork, dressed in costumes, read my short stories. This year my gift was to make others laugh with my original stand-up comedy. This is a novel concept for Burning Man, one that may take years to establish but from an acorn an oak will grow. I got some laughs and wonderful feedback and that's a good thing.
PK: When's your next gig?
Jeff Peterson: I'll be at the Ice House Annex on Thurs. Oct. 6th for some more rock-n-roll comedy, so grab your bong, it's 4:20, time for funny. Thanx bro- see you there, next year!
PK: No doubt.
Jeff Peterson is a comic in Los Angeles. He will be at The Ice House Annex on Thurs. Oct. 6th. Click the above link to reserve tickets or Email Jeff for more info. on his upcoming performances or his journey to the post-burn in L.A. and Frisco. Jeff is also the creator and author of SHEEPMAN.