Go in and go off at the Rant Van

Go in and go off at the Rant Van
Photo by Darren Palmer

Finally, you get a chance to tell the world what’s on your mind. Would you choose the midterm elections, gentrification, noisy neighbors, the Bloomberg health police or just a freestyle rant?

This is the tantalizing premise of The Rant Van — a television studio on wheels — that gives Brooklynites the opportunity to “go in and go off” in rotating locations.

“It’s food truck meets op-ed,” said Christy Sheehan, who collects video-recorded diatribes with her husband Jonny for their Web site, rantvan.com.

Last Wednesday night found the couple’s converted auto-parts van on the corner of Smith and Butler Streets in Carroll Gardens. Getting people to enter the strange truck was the hard part. Getting them to open up was easy.

Sam Stillman, a 23-year-old actor and Cobble Hill native railed against gentrification.

“Brooklyn, New York is an occupied city. It’s Berlin after the war,” he yelled into the camera, and, perhaps to off-camera tormentors. “There was something about this neighborhood that was authentic and you ruined it. You bastards!”

The Sheehans launched the Rant Van with $3,000 in savings, which they used to purchase the vehicle. They hope to support the project with online advertisements.

For the site to gain followers, the Sheehans are searching for star-quality ranters like one man who asked to be identified as Wavy Davy. The Irish immigrant spoke out against gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

“The guy looks like the thing with the crazy black eyes, he looks like a beaver or something,” Wavy Davy said. “When he becomes governor, he wants to get rid of all the illegal aliens. Get rid of 11 million people? Are you [expletive] nuts? The guy is crazy.”

Matt Tallarico of Boerum Hill was a returning ranter.

“Pedestrians, are we really in that much of a rush that we need to take one step out into the street. I mean can’t we just wait on the curb?” he asked. “I, for one, have almost been killed several times.”

Some topics are offered in case you’re just not angry.
Photo by Darren Palmer

After the Sheehans upload their still-fresh videos to rantvan.com, web visitors have the chance to comment and, like Facebook, are notified via e-mail when others reply. The social network expands and, when all goes to plan, ranters get a chance to rant directly to fans of their original rant.

Sure, it gets crude, but it serves a larger goal: democratizing public discourse, said Christy Sheehan

“I’m tired of hearing the same four or five people on my TV all the time,” said the Flatbush native. “This is not about what the politicians and pundits think. It’s a snapshot of what people feel passionately about and a chance to possibly get like-minded people together.”

Many people use their time in the spotlight to complain, but that wasn’t the original concept.

“It isn’t just some anger thing,” Jonny Sheehan said. “It’s to collect vibes of all forms. It can be positive. The definition of rant is to speak wildly.”

And pedestrians do just that in the Rant Van, about everything from the superiority of Indian cigarettes, to flip flops in clubs and nostalgia for glass-enclosed phone booths.

Kyle Wong, 23, an artist visiting from Los Angeles, spoke about his girlfriend. “I just want to say that I really like my lady friend standing there and I hope she knows how much I really like her,” he said.

Flatbush resident Nicole Swayne, 37, who has been out of work for a year and a half, used the digital-media project to record an encouraging message to herself.

“This message is for Nicole. You’re trying to get hired, you’re going to get hired, don’t think you’re not going to get hired because you’ve been to almost every place in this city,” she said with tears in her eyes.

When she was done Jonny Sheehan called out to passersby, “Don’t save it for later, say it in the van. We’re taking the pulse of the people, one corner at a time.”

Sam Stillman took a moment to pick his words.
Photo by Darren Palmer

The Rant Van will be at Brooklyn College (corner of Hillel Place and Campus Road in Flatbush) on Thursday, Oct. 21, and Tuesday, Oct. 26, from noon to 4 pm.