Thursday, February 21, 2019

Obvious Plant's Museum of Toys: An Interview with the Man Tricking You

Obvious Plant aka Jeff Wysaski
By Jonathan Bilski

When the Oscars are over and the city gets back into its regular rut, something will be a bit different. A pop-up will come to pass that presents an alternative to the history you know and love about your childhood nostalgia made of plastic. Odd toys that look like they we're all purchased from Chinatown will fill up Obvious Plant's Museum of Toys starting this March. This pop-up will be dedicated to showing off strange, unheard versions of toys that seem like the were accidentally made by forced labor in a third-world country. In fact, they will all be made by one man, Obvious Plant, real name Jeff Wysaski. Jeff was kind enough to let me interview him on his upcoming museum.

March 1-17
Open daily from 12pm-9pm March 2-17, 2019,
with an opening reception on March 1 from 7pm-11pm. 
Start Pop Up, 2270 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 900061

Beyond the 100+ toys and games, there will be several experiential photo opportunities including a life-size action figure box where guests can step inside and become a toy themselves.Another major attraction of the museum will be a wall of fake GameCube games designed by notable artists and web personalities. In addition to the exhibition, there will be a museum gift shop selling exclusive, limited-edition toys and apparel. The museum will also feature numerous special events, including artist Q&As and pop-up stores from other popular web personalities.

Jeff, aka Obvious Plant, might be someone you spotted online over the years. His M.O. has been to plant fake ads, toys, products around LA and then take a photo and post it online. Hence the alias, Obvious Plant. He'd put out a crazy ad for a single chicken nugget or brochures to the non-existent Dad Land and then at some point you'd later see someone thinking it was real online.

He didn't start in LA. He's from Texas; moved here with his wife with dreams of getting into entertainment industry as a comedy writer. Did the UCB route, IO West and what not, but along the way gave into doing comedy online, first with a comedy site called And one day moved on to making bogus products and leaving them around town. He's so SoCal  that his annual pass to Disneyland.

Now, he has a pop-up museum on the way based on his recent work of fake stuff, centered on toys.

On a recent weekday afternoon, over the phone, I started off by asking Jeff if there was anything he found in the bargain stores of LA that were sillier than what he puts out. Jeff tells me he finds stuff all the time and thinks to himself,"That looks like something I could have made." One that stood out to him, "Last year, I found a toy, Nickel Mouse and Mickey Mouse knock-off." I started laughing out loud to the dumb name of the rip-off Disney product.

"It started with fake products, now it's time to do a fake store, that's sort of the trajectory its been on," Jeff tells me while talking about his upcoming pop-up. "The initial idea was to do a retail store where it's just filled with fake products to buy. But then, this whole pop-up museum thing has become quite popular. It seemed like a good thing to riff on. In a way the toy museum is a parody of those museums."

I mentioned to Jeff two of the pop-ups I visited for the site. First off, was the all felt Sparrow Mart Supermarket and next was the Museum of Ice Cream. Jeff brought up the The Museum of Failure as a major inspiration for his pop-up. "I walked in, 'Oh, they have a hundred things here and they're charging people money for it. Oh, I could do that'."

It"ll cost you $10 to enter this pop-up and it will have a gift shop with special items (toy and tees) only available there, never to be online. What's on the shelves, the museum portion, isn't for sale. "Come in and look at the chronological history of toys, except that history is fake and made-up and filled with fake toys and facts", Jeff says about what people will get to see while there. "I'm a child of '82 so it's heavily focused on the 80's and 90's, but I tried to have some representations from the 60's and 70's and 2000's." For gamers out there, there will be a section devoted to fake GameCube games from friends of Obvious Plant.

"You know every pop-up museum has to have some Instagram moment, so there's gonna be a good one, a life-size action figure box that people can get in. And it's gonna be a version for the Useless Man action figure," Jeff told me. He adds there will be some interactive toys people can pick up and play with. "There will be a Magic 8-Doll. You pick up the doll and shake it and you can see your fortune in the forehead of the doll."

Jeff then told me about making said toy by cutting the face out of a weird doll and him placing an 8-Ball within it. Hopefully, this took place in his home and not at a restaurant near where he picked it up. I think a man cutting the face out of a doll in public might disturb people.

When I asked about picking up a video game controller Jeff told me, "The last system I owned was a PlayStation 2, I've pulled out the Super Nintendo and Nintendo..." He then started to trail off. That's why the section devoted to fake GameCube games comes from friends and not him. "There's gonna be a playable Dad fighter game", Jeff tried to tell me about to save his gamer cred. Don't get your hopes up. It's a Tiger Electronic toy. It reminded me that there is a real Dad fighter out there called, Dad Beat Dads, which is really silly. And that many fakes games may be real and lurk on Steam.

We end the conversation talking about his friends at Everything Is Terrible and how Jeff volunteered his time to work as a clerk at their Jerry Maguire Store that was at Iam8bit. One day they might collect enough of those tapes of that film to make a monument in the middle of the desert. That's is a real thing they're trying. In the mean time, you'll want to try out the fake toy museum in Koreatown this March.