Face it, it’s too late to go back and live your life out loud like late-night cable TV show host Action Bronson. But at least you can party with the barbarian when you get home from work.
The voluminous, 34-year-old Queens, New York chef-turned-rapper-turned-late-night-variety-show-host is having more fun in 2018 than any of us. Bronson’s new half-hour show, “The Untitled Action Bronson Show” on Viceland, the cable TV channel — just wrapped up its first full season in February, with some 60 shows under its immense belt.
The guests were legendary: musician Wyclef Jean, designer Marc Ecko, actors Michael Rappaport and Rosie Perez, chefs Jacques Papin and Gail Simmons, and on and on. Former talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael stole a white truffle in one episode. Actress Debi Mazar hit a blunt. So did her husband.
Yet all of the past and present stars appearing in the first season are subordinate to Bronson, who anchors each show as an authentic, f-bomb throwing, loquacious, wasted ringleader with a skull tattoo and a huge red beard. Quaffing down natural wines, hitting blunts and taking dabs, he is Falstaff from Shakespeare — the type of character described in Hunter F. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as “a high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production.” He even hand-feeds the audience gourmet food his world-class guest chefs prepare. In short, Bronson embodies the ancient Greek archetype of a sanguine personality — and we weep for his cardiologist.
But most of all, Bronson is 100 percent authentic, which makes “The Untitled Action Bronson Show” fresh amid the more calculating late-night stable. The New York Times called it “merry chaos.” Vanity Fair noted Bronson’s “immense charm.”
“Untitled” channels both Bronson’s maximalism and his digressive tendencies. He reportedly warned any corporate lawyers who might have rules for the show, “Don’t f*cking tell nobody nothing.” He never studies up for an interview, but rather leans on his chutzpah to carry him through. Meanwhile, his veteran producers cue up chefs to cook food, find local and vintage bands to play music, and stock the set with a variety of oddball attractions like mime troupes, bike polo teams or the New York craft club “CraftJam.”
The unconventional variety show — which was shot over two days each week in Vice’s Williamsburg, New York offices at the Munchies kitchen — distinctly avoids the usual celebrities on the publicity circuit in favor of “throwback Thursday” types like Mazar and Perez. It’s deliberately not topical and has a cardinal rule: “Definitely no politics.”
You’re not really going to learn how to cook anything watching “Untitled,” though you may absorb some food knowledge via Bronson’s constant asides. For example, we learned something about his preference for “natural wines,” which are made without additives or filtering.
Bronson is also additive-free, and comfortable in his skin in a way few of his guests or his audience members can claim to be. That’s probably because there’s nothing about the hosting job he hasn’t tackled before in some form. Born Ariyan Arslani to a Jewish mother and Muslim father, Arslani was already a gourmet fire-flame chef when he broke his leg in the kitchen and started devoting more time to rapping.
Diving deep into food, sports and ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture references, the self-effacing brag rapper went from emulating Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan to doing verses with the guy — part of a meteoric rise that aligned him with The Alchemist, Odd Future and Wiz Khalifa. He played Coachella in 2013 and toured New Zealand with Kendrick Lamar in 2014. He released this third LP “Mr. Wonderful” in 2015 and fourth “Blue Chips 7000” in 2017. All the touring cemented his comfortability improvising at the center of a live whirlwind.
Bronson is no stranger to the art of producing good video either — first on the web under his own show “Action in the Kitchen,” then later under web TV producers Lauren Cynamon and Chris Grosso, with whom he did the travel show “F*ck, That’s Delicious.” Bronson possesses a savant’s knack for watchable TV — and that often means balls-to-the-wall, unvarnished freestyle raps and digressions, delivered via an attitude immune to embarrassment.
Watchers may wonder in amazement, “How can this foul-mouthed brute covered in tattoos be interviewing gorgeous women like pastry chef Rebecca DeAngelis who bake him cookies alongside the scions of high cuisine?” One phrase comes to mind: “Once you’ve lost everything, you’re free to do anything.”
While the rest of us were playing life safe and analyzing our career odds, the too-loud, too-stubborn Bronson was so far out of the running in a straight world that he invented his own game. Now, we pay our monthly cable bills to live vicariously through him.
At the end of the Gail Simmons episode where she makes a spaghetti pie, Bronson concludes the show with “Well, that’s it, it’s been real, get the hell out of here.” And there he goes, off to tape a podcast episode with a New York Yankee — like a big, jolly, bearded, high Ferris Bueller having the most fun in high school, shutting down his own house party and kicking everyone out.
We’re just happy we got the invite.
Originally published in Issue 30 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
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