THE MOSQUE THAT KENNY HOTZ BUILT
Most people know Kenny Hotz as the guy who was perpetually making that other guy barf on that show that they had. What you didn't know, is that since putting puke behind him, he's set out to change the world, or at least make a new show, called Kenny Hotz's Triumph of the Will. For a recent episode he built a Mosque and donated it to Muslims, and as far as he can tell he is the first Jew in the history of the world to do so.
When I arrived at the inauguration Hotz was a bundle of nervous energy; excited but restrained. The Prayer Ceremony had gone well, despite initial doubts that his Imam was getting cold feet ("I'm sure he is, he has terrible shoes" wah-waah), and the huge room of what was once a Chinese funeral parlor was half full with devout Muslims. The Jumu'ah (afternoon prayer) had been filmed and the crew was getting ready for an exit shot out on the street. Kenny Hotz clapped his hands together, "Alright, they'll be in there for the next 20 minutes, say a few more prayers, we go back in," he looked square at me, "then we have to bone."
Vice: So, are you going to design a lot of mosques after this? Kenny Hotz: Yeah, in Moscow. Now I'm moving onto Mormon temples, Krishna temples.
I know you consider yourself an atheist, so what would prompt you to make such a huge religious gesture?
My motivation is I have a show that I'm trying to do zeitgeist-y things on that no one has ever done, and partially help the world out a little bit. But I think it's really the first time someone with no religious or political motives whatsoever is just trying to do something that no one else has done, and I got lucky enough to do it. Anytime anyone was mentioning Israel or Palestine, I just didn't want to hear about it. And I'm Jewish, my Mom's Israeli, but I just didn't want any of that to be a part of it. I wanted to be the first Jew to ever give a Mosque to the Muslims, and let the chips fall where they fall. I don't really have any idea why I really did it, probably just to be really cool.
There has to be ego involved to some degree--wanting to be the first one to do it.
I hope so. I think maybe my ego has allowed me to do something that is special and meaningful. And you know, I also felt that I did a lot of stuff that wasn't meaningful, maybe I'm just losing it and finally going off the deep end. I've done stuff that's so meaningless for so long maybe I'm trying to create a barometer of content.
Do you think this could backfire, based on your reputation?
I'm not even joking when I say this is either the greatest thing I have done in my life, and I'm a fucking genius, or the worst garbage ever and all my Doritos munching stoner fans are going to hork on me when they see me walk down the street. But I like that. I like doing something that's either the best or the worst.
You're throwing people for a loop. Are you worried that this could be perceived as facetious at all?
I met with the Afghani consulate general today. Why are these people meeting with me? You're sitting around trying to think of cool things to do and you get lucky, and people are stupid enough to give you money to do it. If I did this and no one showed up, this episode would be total crap and I'd be kicking myself. I painted a Chinese funeral home, it looks like a Mosque, a bunch of Muslims prayed in it, and now it's an Islamic prayer hall called "Peace Mosque." And it wasn't that difficult. You drop a few G's and have your friends film it and all of a sudden you're the new Jesus.
Not everyone could do this, though. Not everyone is in your position.
Oh come on, I bet you there's some guy whose about to show his movie at Sundance about building a mosque for $50 and I just ruined his crappy indie film. I certainly hope so. God that'd be the best. Some poor guy at Sundance, "My Mosque" by Yoshel Schlotzkavitz. I don't even know when Sundance is.
I think it already happened.
Oh, well screw them. They wouldn't take any of my other movies.
So what happens next?
Some friends, Internet guys who made a lot of money gave me about 20 thousand dollars and right now I'm looking for an appropriate place to put it. I'm looking for a decent organization to maintain it. But it's entropy in the end, everything falls apart. I had this for a week and now I have money to sustain it, so we'll rent it out for a while, and if it falls apart or crashes and burns then maybe it's a symbol that human beings are idiots and we're all going to die. But if it maintains itself and does any good then who knows, maybe we deserve to live.
Truth is, I don't want to continue doing this. I'm not a "Mosque Owner." I just got a new video game for my X Box so I don't want to sit here and do Excel spreadsheets, I want to find someone, give them the money, and I'm gone. I don't think it'd be a gift if I had any regulations or categories. You give a gift then you split.
Isn't that more of a gift horse?
If someone wanted to build a rave bar in Ibiza then hell yeah, I'll maintain that. That's more where my interests lie. But this is something I wanted to do and give. Maybe when the show airs people will send in money and it will go to a really good, peaceful organization. This show is really a message for people to just do something cool. But that's all the peaceful you're getting from me. I'm done. I'm gonna go eat some steaks.
You should have rented it out for a Super Bowl party.
If Muslims didn't show up to pray then I was just going to torch it, kill my crew, and reap the insurance. See, I get extra money for hiring people with down-syndrome.
It's a tax write-off.
I was trying to make the Wudu downstairs where people wash themselves and they were kicking me and throwing paper towels at me and making it very difficult. Sick Christians. [laughter from crew]
I'm not going to make it seem like a big thing, I have the ability to do it because I'm doing the show. It is what it is. It'll make a good episode and who knows--if it turns on some psychopaths to stop doing some bad shit then good, great. If I gave money to a Muslim organization that ends up killing Jews then that's another statement. I don't think there's a bad message that could come out of this thing, except don't give me a TV show.
What did you do with the rest of the stuff from the funeral home?
Stuck all the old dead Chinese people in the corner over there. I got the smell of old dead Chinese people out of here, thank god. I found a cool Imam who said you don't really need anything for a mosque, which saved my ass, because if he'd said "you need everything layered in gold and lapis lazuli tiles" I'd be screwed.
How did you come up with the idea, anyway?
I wanted to do something no one else had ever done, something off-kilter and weird, I wanted to do the opposite of what people do. It's just a surprise, nobody's done this. I'm not being a cheese, but I actually think that I'm the first recorded Jew in history that's literally built a mosque and given it to Muslims. In 1400 years? I don't even really care about anything, why am I the guy who has to do this?
Bridging the gap.
Would anyone really consider it? I paint a place, hang a sign, and people come to pray in it. Everyone else keeps killing each other. Fifty years ago if you told some Jew in Auschwitz, "Hey, 50 years from now you're going to be in Israel and your number one trading partners are going to be the Germans," the guy would shit himself. Anything can happen, anything can change.
- Vice Blog