A Hanover man who once filmed himself walking around downtown Brockton in a child’s cowboy hat and a fake mustache as “The Sheriff of Brockton” was seen again Tuesday afternoon dressed like Jesus as he was whipped with leather belts. John J.F. Mercauto, 37, is an electrician who calls his alter egos part of his hobby as a “fast-food comedian,” telling jokes in fast-food restaurants and videotaping his “street theater” stunts to post on the Internet.
A Hanover man who once filmed himself walking around downtown Brockton in a child’s cowboy hat and a fake mustache as “The Sheriff of Brockton” was seen again Tuesday afternoon dressed like Jesus being whipped by friends.
John J.F. Mercauto, 37, is an electrician by day but calls his alter egos part of his hobby as a “fast-food comedian,” telling jokes in fast-food restaurants and posting his “street theater” stunts on the Internet.
“I like to challenge people’s daily perceptions of reality,” Mercauto said by phone from his home. “I like to see people’s worlds disturbed.”
Disturbed is one word that may have described bystanders watching when Mercauto, wearing a ring of thorns, was hit by two men with leather belts on Legion Parkway while a third man filmed about 2 p.m.
The afternoon spectacle stunned nearby pedestrians in front of 71 Legion Parkway, who also reported seeing a man who appeared to be the group’s lawyer protesting their freedom of speech.
Dee Jones of Brockton said she found the whipping display offensive in a neighborhood with a large black population.
“I thought it was a racist statement,” she said. “It was like the devil’s work.”
Mercauto said he meant no harm or racial overtones by the act — only “a reaction and a change in the obvious perception.”
“I’m not overly religious,” he said. “I just thought it was a fast-food comedian’s tribute to what Jesus did.”
The term “fast-food comedian” appears to be Mercauto’s own. He said he sat in a restaurant one day “thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if someone stood on a table and told a joke?’”
Mercauto has also gone by the moniker “The Sheriff of Brockton,” as seen in a video on YouTube, dressed in a child’s black cowboy hat with a mustache drawn on his upper lip, carrying two toy plastic guns on his belt.
In the eight-minute video posted to the Web six months ago, Mercauto is seen near the courthouse downtown introducing himself to people as “the sheriff” — also indicated by a nametag on his shirt that simply reads, “SHERIFF” — saying he intends to “clean up this town.”
The introductions got lukewarm responses, as some people shout obscenities and another man asks him if he is selling drugs.
Halfway through the video, he is seen walking into The Alamo bar on Legion Parkway announcing, “I’m the new sheriff in this town. You can all rest easy,” before asking for a shot of milk from the bartender to “wet (his) whistle.”
He said he has chosen downtown Brockton as his backdrop because it’s “an active site” with a lot of pedestrian traffic.
“It was perfect,” Mercauto said. “There’d be a lot of people walking by and they’d be forced to participate.”
No one was arrested in Tuesday’s incident. Police broke up the stunt and sent the men on their way, said officer David Farrell.
“It was a YouTube stunt,” he said. “They wanted to be Internet stars.”
It isn’t clear if Mercauto has achieved stardom yet — most of his 21 Internet videos have a few hundred hits — but his efforts have come with battle scars.
He said he was arrested four years ago at a restaurant in Braintree and charged with disorderly conduct for one of his performances. Mercauto said the charges were dismissed with a $100 fine.
The Hanover man, who described himself as “a hyper guy,” left Brockton on Tuesday with purple welts on his back from the whipping.
Police said he did not require medical attention.
Although Mercauto acknowledged many people call him “a loon,” insults don’t offend him.
“My goal is not to just make people think and make them laugh, but basically to pull out the proverbial rug from under their feet — to shake where they are mentally,” he said.
Jessica Scarpati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.