Jimi Homeless started out as a character in an intentionally disturbing online comic strip designed to make strong social commentary regarding homelessness in America. In the process of developing the comic into an animated cartoon it has now turned into a full blown satire including a CD of parody songs and a live stage show.
According to Jon Kinyon, the project’s creator, parody lyrics for the Jimi Hendrix hit song "Purple Haze" were written back in 2006. His intent was to use the song in an animated short film using characters from the comic strip. "I challenged myself to parody one song and then another," he said, "before I realized it, I had written parody lyrics for 12 Hendrix songs."
In the spirit of over-the-top comedy a la Richard Pryor or Sarah Silverman, the wickedly funny dark humor of The Jimi Homeless Experience is meant to shock and offend, and has already inspired its share of hate mail and death threats. Kinyon’s reaction is quite telling, "I don’t care if some people get upset, really, living on the streets is not a pleasant thing and I’m not going to sugar coat it. I think it’s a good thing that we’re actually discussing the subject of homelessness instead of ignoring it all together, that is what keeps this problem from getting resolved."
The stories for the comic are written by Kinyon and drawn by a Los Angeles based artist known only as Big Tasty. The highly detailed art compares to that of Robert Crumb and its flamboyant style is a perfect match for the stories that satire society’s stereotypes of the homeless with razor sharp wit, not unlike the merciless satire work of Stephen Colbert where nobody is spared.
The CD "Are You Homeless?" was released on the exact day of the 40th anniversary of Hendrix’ first album release "Are You Experienced?", and parody some of Hendrix’ biggest hits. With lyrics rewritten to reflect the state of mind of a drug-addicted homeless man living on skid row, the Hendrix parodies are both laugh-out-loud funny and thought inspiring. It is now available at live performances, various websites and on iTunes.
The project’s vision overall is not to make light of the plight of the homeless, but actually to face the issue head on and without fear. In a world where hot topic issues such as homophobia, racism, and religion are regularly lambasted and included in the rhetoric of the national satirists, the homeless have been, as they usually are on the street, passed by and treated as a mere nuisance. The Jimi Homeless Experience aims to change that while delivering some great over-the-top entertainment at the same time.