‘Abel Raises Cain’ tells distinctive story of national prankster

Alan Abel is not a household name, and the makers of the documentary “Abel Raises Cain” do not aim to transform him into one.

The documentary triumphs in allowing the audience to learn about the long time “media menace,” finding he is not just a comedian or a trouble-maker. He is also a father with economic strains, even into his older age, who remains by the side of his committed, long-time wife.

The makers of the film, Jenny Abel (daughter of Alan Abel) and Jeff Hockett, tell the story of Alan Abel and his wife, Jeanne Abel, in present day. The aged couple have lost their home and are struggling to make ends meet. They spend their days looking to sell old possessions and are staying in a much smaller house. The plot of the documentary follows their efforts to improve their state of being.

Sprinkled in-between scenes of the present day Abel are scenes of Alan’s pranks in his youth and adulthood. He made a living for his family, as Jenny states poignantly, by playing pranks on the media. Jenny makes it clear in the film that her father always put his family first and was not chasing fame, but just could not work in a cubicle for a living; so he found a way to make money in a creative way that satisfied him.

One of the great pranks Alan pulled off was pretending to operate a class for beggars as “Omar the Beggar.” Countless media outlets found it sensational that there could be a class for such a thing and picked up the prank. Alan was able to manipulate a media that puts fact-checking to the side when the story is hot.

Alan once created a fake organization called, ironically, “S.I.N.A.” whose main focus was clothing naked animals based on the issue of immorality. While Abel caught a necessary amount of pushback by angered animal lovers, he got a similar amount of support, sometimes in the form of mailed checks.

Jenny, who takes the audience beyond the many characters that her father portrayed in the media, narrates the documentary thoughtfully. “Abel Raises Cain” is a great watch and tells a story as unique as the comical gags the film’s subject pulled over on the media.

“Abel Raises Cain” will be screened at the Oswego Cinema 7 this upcoming Tuesday, Mar. 5, 7 p.m. Jenny Abel will be present for a question-and-answer session. Tickets are $7 ($5 for seniors and $3.50 for students) and are available in the Campus Center box office as well as at the Oswego Cinema.

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