Weird is Subjective

Jun 3, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Adult babies, or those with the condition known as paraphilic infantilism, could be considered an easy comedic target. It’s not difficult to imagine the ways a playwright might ridicule a physically capable adult who unironically wears diapers and drinks from a sippy cup. Ben Dudley is the writer and co-star of Boo-boo, a play featured in the Cincy Fringe Festival, of which he’s a five-year veteran. In it, Dudley plays Brandon, a 30-year-old who constantly maintains the persona of an infant. Brandon’s lifestyle is enabled by his mother (Tonya McGriff) with the assistance of an emotionally drained nanny (Nathan Neorr) and an altruistic-yet-hesitant outsider (Lisa DeRoberts) who’s quit her job and seeks direction. Boo-boo is not a sexually subversive play. The general assumption might be that it focuses on the kinky ways adults might interact with one another while incorporating pacifiers and other such infantile accoutrements into their sex lives, but this play explores the ambiguous, non-titillating ways fantasy might interrupt reality.Dudley sat down with CityBeat to discuss his artistic motivations behind writing Boo-boo.CityBeat: What made you decide to write about paraphilic infantilism?Ben Dudley: It started six years ago. Wikipedia was doing this fundraising thing where they would show a picture of one of their editors, like, any time you check Wikipedia for something you would see a picture of one of the editors next to the name of the article. I thought, as a joke, it was funny to look up silly things so that the picture of the person was next to it. There was this dude with funny sunglasses on, who was apparently one of the editors, so I was looking up The Matrix, then I just looked up “adult baby” and was redirected to paraphilic infantilism, so there was a picture of this guy wearing sunglasses next to “adult baby.” Also, there’s all of these shows like My Strange Addiction and that kind of stuff where people are adult babies or they’re in love with their car, so I’d been aware of it for a handful of years, but I was interested in the idea of someone getting lost — it’s somebody’s fantasy — but they’re getting lost in the fantasy and they can’t really get themselves out because a two-year-old can’t communicate their issues, so it’s kind of a self-imposed prison.CB:  You make it a point not to poke fun at paraphilic infantilists.BD: I don’t see any fun in poking fun. I do think, when I explain the show’s idea, they might draw the conclusion that it’s full of cheap laughs, which is what drew me to the idea. If I could take something where you’re going to expect cheap laughs, where the easy thing would be poking fun, I like to make something kind of serious. I wouldn’t know about (paraphilic infantilism) if it weren’t for the internet, but also, people who practice it might not know about it as well. They might have the urges, but not know how to act on it. Because of the internet you can see people do it, you can talk with others who do it and learn from them. Pop culture and the internet have allowed people to help find themselves by finding out there are other people like you.
We’re all weird in different ways and weird is a subjective term. You do what makes you feel better. We all have our weird things.CB: Aside from writing about and portraying adult babies onstage, what’s your weird thing?BD: I’m pretty sure there’s going to be an academic paper that’s going to come out of my watching of America’s Funniest Videos. I’m a big proponent that there’s something very important about America’s Funniest Home Videos. That’s a weird thing about me.  You’re seeing different people with interesting, distinct, unique lives, and we watch a three-second window into those lives. Also, there’s a YouTube video I really like called “Seven Minutes of Children Falling Down, Getting Hurt, Scared or Surprised.” That’s a good one.CB: You play the adult baby. Was that a different role than you’re used to?BD: In the show I don’t have to say very much, it’s all physical. I like a physical role where I can just focus on my body as opposed to worrying about remembering lines. It’s all about getting the timing right. Charlie Chaplin’s an influence, for sure. He was known for doing 500 takes of shots, just getting it perfect. Paying attention to the craft like that is really admirable and fun. I want to take it seriously, do it realistically. For this role I want people to forget I’m not a baby.

BOO-BOO is produced by Leah Strasser of Homegrown Theater and directed by Buz Davis. The show runs June 2 through 11. Visit

for tickets and the festival schedule. For more information and reviews of first-run performances, visit CityBeat 's Fringe hub.