Culture News

Space-Alien Donald (aka "The World's Oldest Gay Canadian Rapper") Opens New Venue Called Funny World

Attention night owls and science fiends: a new arts/performance venue in downtown Phoenix may soon be entertaining you all under one roof.

Funny World, housed in a ramshackle residence at 12th and Madison streets, is owned by Phoenix resident Donald Roth, who goes by the nom de guerre "Space Alien Donald."

The 76-year-old spoken word artist (who claims to be "The World's Oldest Gay Canadian Rapper") opened Funny World last weekend and has grand plans for the venue. 

Besides hosting art shows and live music events at the venue, Roth -- a self-proclaimed "backyard scientist" -- will also conduct physics and gravity experiments inside and outside. Local artists will display their works during art shows at Funny World, and Roth will allow them any sort of mural they desire on its walls.

Roth says the parties will continue for the next six months until the City of Phoenix plans to fully purchase and raze the residence for a new parking lot for the nearby Phoenix Fire Department's administrative offices. 

Roth purchased the residence for $40,000 earlier this month with the intention of hosting "loud rock shows," performance art events, and other creative endeavors. He named it Funny World after a humorous religion/life philosophy called "Must Be Funny" that was created by his friend Derek Brownlee of Prescott. Artist Daniel Funkhouser, who lives at the venue, painted its name on a carport wall outside.

While he's disappointed that the venue won't be around past Saint Patrick's day, Roth hopes it will be a hotspot for wild art and even wilder band gigs. Last weekend, the house put on its debut show by local punk rock/performance art bands Fathers Day and Treasure Mammal. 

Roth also read poetry and rapped to synthesized beats while dressed in a metallic wraparound skirt and rainbow-colored hat. He says he started rapping at an open mic night in Prescott two years ago, which is one of many "colorful adventures" he's had during a self-described "interesting life."

Born in Canada in 1935, Roth says he came to America in the 1960s and began traveling the country "in search of adventure." He says he worked as a technician in the radio astronomy lab at UC Berkeley for decades before moving to Prescott in the 1990s. The time he spent reaching out to extraterrestrials inspired his nickname, as well as a lifelong feeling of "being alienated from society."

"I've always felt like I was apart from humanity in many ways," Roth says. "I know I'm not the only one that does. So with Funny World, I want to bring together all these misfits and strangers to enjoy art and music."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.