Every reality show competition needs its own intimidating truth-talking judge. Someone who spits out blunt and sometimes brutal insights about the creative task at hand, making the contestants cower and sometimes cry, causing audience members to shake their heads and gasp -- damn, that was harsh! New Haven’s Joe Capobianco is that judge on Best Ink, the Oxgyen network’s new tattoo-artist reality show competition (which premieres Tuesday night). Capobianco owns a shop called Hope Gallery in New Haven, and he was recruited to the show because he’s a big name in the business. (One contestant jokes about almost peeing in her pants when she realizes Capobianco would be the judge -- it’s not clear if the alleged bladder incident was from adulation or fear.) Capobianco spoke to the Advocate last week from Brazil, where he was attending a tattoo convention.
Capobianco disputes the characterization of him as a “stern” judge, but he concedes that he doesn’t really hold critical punches.
“I’m one of those people -- I’m gonna give my honest opinion,” he says. “I tend to speak from the heart and I am a bit of a loudmouth.”
Capobianco views his forthright assessments of the contestants’ shortcomings as a service to the viewers -- and to anyone who might be thinking about getting inked up. “My hope with this -- and it was unintentional -- is that if I can point out how much difficulty there is in doing certain styles of tattooing -- it’s going to help an individual client.”
He also wants to help would-be customers “steer clear of a horrible tattooer”
And for anyone who grumbles or moans about tattooing under a tight time constraint, Capobianco says he has “no sympathy for that whatsoever.” That’s because tattoo artists should always be thinking about what can be executed in a just a few hours -- it’s a fundamental part of their jobs.
Capobianco says he hopes that -- as with other reality show competitions -- the serious nature of the criticism (along with the allure of the prizes) will continue to attract higher caliber tattoo artists each season. Capobianco sounds slightly suspicious of the whole business of blending tattoos and reality TV, but he also sounds like he figured that his involvement would help lead to a more authentic presentation of the art.
“I once said there was no way in hell I would be on a TV show,” he says.
New Haven's Joe Capobianco offers some blunt criticism on a new reality show about tattoo artists
Best Ink judge hopes to help clients avoid horrible tattoos
New Haven's Joe Capobianco. (March 26, 2012)