Blue Man Group is a performance art company formed in 1987, known worldwide for its various stage productions which typically incorporate many different categories of music and art, both popular and obscure, in their performances.
Blue Man Group currently has continuing theatrical productions in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York City, and Orlando. A typical Blue Man production employs 7–9 full-time Blue Men who are selected through an audition process. In addition to the stage theatre show, Blue Man Group has had multiple national and global tours, appeared on various TV programs as both characters and performers, appeared on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Epic, released multiple studio albums, contributed to a number of film scores, performed with orchestras around the U.S., and appeared in ad campaigns.
Blue Man Group grew out of a collaboration between three close friends, Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1987. Its first public appearance was a celebration of the end of the 1980s. The three men wore blue masks and led a street procession that included the burning of a Rambo doll and a piece of the Berlin Wall. MTV’s Kurt Loder, who covered the event, drew attention to the strange Blue Men—and what began as creative "disturbances" on the streets of the city became a series of small shows at downtown clubs, and eventually a full performance at the Astor Place Theatre in 1991.
In July 2017, Blue Man Group was bought by Cirque du Soleil, who announced that they would expand the concept.
There are a number of different themes found in various Blue Man performances. These themes include:
Innocence, as when the Blue Men appear to be surprised and perplexed by common artifacts of modern society or by audience reactions.
Self-conscious and naïve imitation of cultural norms, such as attempting to stage an elegant dinner for an audience member with Twinkies; or following the Rock Concert Instruction Manual with the expectation that following a series of instructions is all it takes to put on a rock concert.
The Outsider. Blue Men always appear as a group of three. This is because not only are Blue Men viewed as outsiders to the rest of the world, but three is the smallest group possible when endeavoring to create a community. Many of the Blue Man skits involve one of the three Blue Men performing in a manner inconsistent with the other two.
Rooftops, or otherwise climbing to the top. There are a number of references, both in visual pieces and in lyrics from the Complex tour, that have a common theme of getting to the roof. This theme is a metaphor for the advice Stanton, Wink, and Goldman drew from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers's PBS program The Power of Myth and represents "following your bliss".
The members of Blue Man Group met in 1986 while participating in an underground production of French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, an absurdist work which inspired many themes which the trio have continued to revisit in their work. The main character of Ubu Roi’s exaggerated childishness is arguably the inspiration behind some of the group’s most enduring themes, such as their displays of naivete in the face of a complex web of modern social norms. Most memorably, we may think of their iconic “street meat” bit, in which they are unleashed onto the streets of New York, hungry for the city’s world-renowned halal cart kebabs. However, their mimes to strange men for “street meat” are misconstrued, and the boys are met with quite a different kind of delight.
Ringleader Chris Wink has pointed to a further influence from Jarry– he is said to have biked the streets of Paris at night painted green, in homage to his favorite elixir, absinthe. Blue Man Group decided to paint themselves blue following this example, but with a twist of social activism. They chose to be Blue Men in honor of the blue of our oceans. One may say that, as humans with mortal life-spans, taking on this identity draws attention to the threatened futurity of the ocean’s complex and vital ecosystem.
Jarry is not the only figure to influence Blue Man Group– Wink has described himself as an artistic magpie, mining history for visionaries who explored the absurd. The group see themselves as inheritors of the ethos of Greek cynic philosopher Diogenes, who made his life his art, believing that virtue was better expressed through action than through theory. Diogenes’ actions took the form of burlesques of “rational” behavior and cultural practices, and radical rejections of received ideas of human decency. Famously, Diogenes masturbated openly in the market-place. When asked about his actions, he said, "If only it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly.” Though Blue Man Group’s shows are generally family-friendly (save for the raunchy “street meat” piece), this naive logic would not be out of place in a Blue Man Group show. The group’s music is heavily indebted to Italian Futurist composer Luigi Russolo, who was known for his rejection of traditional melodic music and instruments in favor of Intonarumori, experimental instruments which mimic the sounds of industrial life. Blue Man Group’s instruments, often made of materials like pipes, are thoroughly within this tradition. Other examples, which illustrate the diversity of their influences, include theologian and alchemist Giordano Bruno, picaresque satirist Tobias Smollett, and proto-Expressionist dramatist Georg Büchner.
Sydney at the Sydney Lyric Theatre (August 2013 – October 2013)
Music and tours
In 1999, the group released Audio, their first studio recording. Although it contained some of the music from their stage productions, it was chiefly a collection of full-length instrumentals featuring new instruments.
In 2002, the group participated in Moby's Area2 tour, giving a more rock-oriented performance than in the theatrical shows. Songs developed during this tour appeared on 2003's album The Complex.
Unlike Audio, The Complex, released in 2003, featured a variety of vocalists and guests including Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews, Gavin Rossdale and Venus Hum. The record spawned its own 2003 tour, "How to Be a Megastar," the first headlined by Blue Man Group. The tour deconstructed the traditional rock concert experience into its often clichéd parts and was chronicled in a 2004 DVD release. The tour featured Tracy Bonham and Venus Hum as supporting acts. The DVD included a surround sound mix of some of the studio recordings.
Blue Man Group launched its second tour, "How to Be a Megastar Tour 2.0", on September 26, 2006. It featured some new material as well as material from the original Complex Rock Tour, and featured Tracy Bonham as opening act and vocalist. DJ/VJMike Relm was the opening act for the tour's second leg, which ended April 22, 2007 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The third leg of the tour began in May 2007 and included performances in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Santiago, Chile. The fourth leg, using "2.1" in its title, included more U.S. and Canada dates. The tour visited France, Korea, Canada, Germany, and a few other European countries through 2008. From August 19–23, it visited Taipei, Taiwan to promote its 2009 Summer Deaflympics, with most of the show's dialogue accompanied by subtitles. After Typhoon Morakot hit the island in mid-August, the group held an extra show to benefit flood victims.
In 2008, they collaborated on the track "No More Heroes" with Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto for the remixed version of the Elements of Life album.
Announced in 2009, Blue Man Group began performing for the first time at sea on Norwegian Cruise Line's ship Epic. From July 2010 to March 2015, Epic alternated 7-Day Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from Miami with nightly Blue Man Group shows.
A Blue Man Group national tour in 2010 visited various cities in the United States, Canada and Latin America. The tour included elements from their then-current theatrical performances, and new elements created for the tour.
To celebrate their 20th anniversary, the group gave a special performance with Dave Matthews at the Astor Place Theatre in New York City, collaborating on the song "Sing Along."
To celebrate Blue Man Group's 25th anniversary, a global tour kicked off in Singapore in March 2016. It continued through Asia and Oceania in 2016 and opened for the first time in South Africa in February 2017. It was announced that the tour will continue on to Abu Dhabi and Switzerland later in 2017.
In April 2016, Blue Man Group released Three, their third studio album. Building on the group's previous albums, Three draws inspiration from the group's 25-year history.
On April 27, 2019, Blue Man group gave a special performance at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, during the Grand Opening Session of DECA's International Career Development Conference.
THREE (2016) – Released in April 2016 as a completely instrumental album (like Audio), the single Giacometti was released on blue vinyl originally. New instruments such as the "Snorkelbone", "Chimeulum", "Pipeulum", and "Tone Spokes" are introduced on this album.
Inside the Tube (2006) – one-hour documentary created for PBS. Features interviews with Stanton, Wink, and Goldman describing the Blue Men, and video clips from various theatrical performances. In "Inside the Tube," press notes state, "the three founders discuss the improbable journey they took from building drums and tube instruments in their living room to having one of the most popular shows in Las Vegas, a gold album, and a successful arena-sized rock tour. The program takes an intimate look inside Blue Man Group's unique creative process and provides never before revealed insight into some of the underlying themes of their work. The founders also cite some of their influences, including a public PBS program that impacted them at a pivotal moment in their career." Available through the PBS store and also as an extra on the How To Be A Megastar Live! DVD.
How to Be a Megastar Live! (2008) – live concert footage from Blue Man Group's newest tour. It was released on DVD on April 1 and Blu-ray on November 4, 2008. The DVD version includes an additional audio CD of many of the show's songs.
Space Chimps (2008) – performed on the soundtrack for the movie
Intel – Blue Man Group appeared in advertisements for the Pentium III, Pentium 4, and Centrino line of processors.
TIM Brasil – Blue Man Group is the face of TIM Brasil, a telecommunications company in Brazil.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992–94, 1997–2001, 2003–2005, 2007) Blue Man Group appeared on the premiere of Leno's version of the Tonight Show, prompting him to state, "This is not your father's Tonight Show." They appeared on the show 17 times, often involving audience members and celebrity guests, including Robin Williams and Mel Gibson. One Blue Man Group episode won an Emmy for The Tonight Show.
The Drew Carey Show (2001) - During the episode "Drew Live III," the Blue Man Group experimented on Drew Carey as he slept on the train, making it look like he had sex with his nemesis, Mimi Bobeck. At the end of the show, it was revealed that their motive was for Drew to kill himself out of embarrassment so that they, along with John Ratzenberger, could take over the show.
Arrested Development (2004) - The show approached Blue Man Group about appearing in an episode. The collaboration grew to a storyline where Tobias longed to be a part of Blue Man Group, and, ultimately, his father-in-law “hid from the law” performing as a Blue Man in Las Vegas.
NBC's Today Show (2015) - Blue Man Group performed on a live broadcast from Universal CityWalk. At the end of the performance, Al Roker helped the Blue Men fire confetti from the stage.
NBC's I Can Do That (June 2015) - Alan Ritchson and Joe Jonas trained to become Blue Men.
NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (October 2015) – During the “Telephone Booth” skit, a Blue Man was a celebrity from the “mystery bench” and was placed in the telephone booth with Hugh Jackman after his opponent, Shaq, answered a question correctly. The trapped Blue Man wrote “help” with blue paint from his head on the telephone booth wall. In another "Telephone Booth" skit, two members of the group joined Jimmy Fallon in his booth after Dwayne Johnson, aided by Romanio Golphin Jr, answered a question correctly. Only two members of the group entered the booth, while the other wandered around the stage.
Telemundo's La Voz Kids (July 2016) - During the live finale, Blue Man Group performed alongside the show's top 6 finalists. The kids sang “Applause” by Lady Gaga and three Blue Men and Blue Man Group band members provided the music.
NPR's Tiny Desk Concert (September 2016) - Blue Man Group performed tracks from their studio album Three during a Tiny Desk Takeover
NBC's Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris (October 2016) - The Blue Men played instruments alongside Neil Patrick Harris, who got in on the drumming. By the end of the performance, Harris and episode co-host Shaq were doused in blue paint.
AMC's Halt and Catch Fire (August 2017) – In this drama about the first decade of personal computing, Blue Man Group performs at engineer and businessman Gordon Clark's 40th birthday party.