The Bold, Brazen Bridget Everett
You may have seen her on Inside Amy Schumer, singing with Patti LuPone, or her live show at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Wherever you’ve seen her, you won’t soon forget it. Her energetic cabaret shows are a hit where she mixes song and comedic story with a full band including the Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock. The brash approach means the wild and sexually charged show completely breaks the fourth wall, where Bridget is known to smother men’s faces in her bosom. Her new special Gynecological Wonder was filmed live and guarantees the spontaneous feeling of a real show. It premieres tonight on Comedy Central and is not in any way a standup show — producing an alternative cabaret show is forward-thinking commendable action for the channel. I spoke to the performing powerhouse about music theatre, Miley Cyrus, and her ta-tas.
When did you discover live performance?
I sang in the choir since I was a little girl, so I guess it was as soon as anybody would listen. I’m the youngest of six kids and you sort of had to fight to get any attention. We sang around a piano and I would sing the loudest to get attention.
Did you do drama in school? I think that is where most people get drawn to the stage.
Yeah, I was also in show choir [laughs] which was pretty ridiculous but really fun… going to choir competitions and shit like that. I did musicals in high school. Anyone who has ever been in a musical knows that it’s like having an affair with twenty people, except nobody wants to touch anyone’s body; we just want to sing our notes.
That was my high school experience — doing a musical and then spending the other 11 months of the year singing those songs to yourself.
You see each other in the hallway and start skipping’ and nobody knows why.
Do you have pre-show rituals?
Every night where I’m going on stage I sing like such a maniac that I really need to take care of myself. I do my little vocal warm-ups and stretches because it it’s a full body experience. I have a couple glasses of Chardonnay and go and meet the guys backstage and I’m always pacing back and forth like, “What the fuck was I thinking? Why am I doing this?” I’m nervous, then I go on stage, the footlights kick in and I rise to the occasion.
The nerves go away pretty quickly once you step out and it’s do or die.
Marc Shaiman bet me $1,000 I wouldn’t go onstage without any Chardonnay. I was saying I’m not ready, I’m not ready, but I needed the money! [Laughs] Chardonnay is like my best girlfriend, I can’t go out there alone…I need her with me.
How did you decide it was the right time for the special, or did opportunity strike?
I was working on a pilot with Comedy Central with Kathleen Hanna and Adam Horovitz and it never got to a place where we were all happy. Comedy Central asked if we’d rather do a special instead. I’ve wanted to do it forever, I was excited and a little shocked. You don’t see a lot of cabaret on Comedy Central; they were obviously willing to take a chance. I go to these meetings all the time and they say, “Oh I love you, but you aren’t quite right for our network.” So I’m just gonna have this show that is never going to make it to TV? Comedy Central has supported me for a long time and I was really fired up and excited to do the special.
Has it been hard to brand yourself as a performer?
It definitely has been. I’m not really sure where I sit. Somebody has to take a chance on you or nothing will ever happen. Most people can say, “I’m like the guy on King of Queens” or “I’m an Amy Sedaris meets Peewee Herman” and I’m not any of those things. I just kept slugging away on the stage hoping for a chance.
Have you enjoyed more acting roles and being brought into the public eye more?
Yeah, Amy [Schumer] has given me jobs on her show with small acting stuff. That is the way you catch people’s eye. I do a show in New York for 200 people and if they leave happy and tell more people, there are still only so many people through word of mouth. TV has been a really positive way to take me to the next level. The trouble is that I am three times more nervous to do an audition than go on stage; I end up with diarrhea and nausea. Filming is never the problem, it is just getting there. Casting agents know I am just a disaster in the room. I always walk into a casting room thinking everyone hates me when that isn’t the situation at all. The only time I ever get a job is when a friend gives it to me [laughing].
How do you choose the cover songs you perform?
Whenever I do a cover it’s usually an extension of a story I want to tell. I would never do a story if I didn’t have a song to go with it and I would never sing a song if I didn’t have a story. To me it is a whole piece, I guess that is the cabaret in me and I can’t shake it. I went through that stage where I only listened to Radiohead and whatever other cool bands, but pop music is popular for a reason — it’s fucking great! The songs are really fun to sing! I do this Miley Cyrus cover when I’m on the road. I think I love singing that more than I love singing anything else.
The Climb? That’s a great song!
I love it! The Climb is a fucking great song. Every time I try to come up with something I can do instead, I can’t because it’s a masterpiece! I’ve got to accept that. I wonder if she sings that at any of her concerts anymore or if it’s too much of her Hannah Montana life? I just fucking love it. I dream of one day meeting Miley and singing it together.
That is a great next step! You sang with Patti LuPone, Miley isn’t too far off.
They’re similar you know, both lawless in their own way. Patti LuPone is a fucking no-joke, balls out, Broadway legend and I fucking love her.
I loved musical theater when I discovered it in high school; I constantly had Les Misérables on my walkman. [laughs]
If you have the love of music theatre in your heart, you can’t deny it. I was at this big benefit concert for the television show Smash that my friends Marc [Shaiman] and Scott [Wittman] wrote the songs for. It was very Broadway and packed with musical theater maniacs and during intermission I went to get a cocktail and saw Doug Benson and Seth Herzog in the lobby. I was like, “What the fuck are you doing here Doug?” He said, “Are you kidding me? I flew out here for this!” I didn’t know him very well but we hung out that night and he was telling me about his love of musical theater. I could not stop laughing; I thought that was so fucking fantastic. It shows how small-minded I can be that I couldn’t even imagine it!
Who are your influences, have they changed as you’ve gotten older?
I definitely have months there where it can change. I’ll go through a Freddie Mercury phase or a real John Belushi phase but mostly it’s people who are larger than life and a little lawless where you never know if they’re gonna go off the rails. Patti [LuPone] is a great example, she is Broadway but her performances are just so explosive and not stagey in a Broadway way. Of course people like Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison, the nuts — I like all the nuts! Maybe nuts isn’t the right word.
Yeah I like the unexpected performers, obviously it’s influenced me.
It’s admirable to see you on stage with so much confidence and explosive energy that is obviously contagious to the live audience. Everyone seems to love the show and love the experience.
There might be a little desperation coming through because I am not young and I’ve been at this a long time. The longer I do it, the more outrageous and explosive my performance became. I never wear a bra on stage. When I started doing that I realized this is the way to do it! You’re absolutely at your most comfortable with no bra and no shoes, just flopping around feeling fucking great. When I come out onstage without a bra people are staring at ’em like a twenty car pile-up but they get over it really fast. Years ago I used to singing this song called “Canhole” about butt sex. I used to take my pants and sort of undo them and flash a little bit of my butt. One time my pants just fell off and I thought, “Oh this is how it’s supposed to be, why was I taking little chances? Give them the whole experience, what are they doing here, let’s fucking get down to business!” I always had a real desperation to be heard and get onstage no matter what. For me, singing is the most fulfilling and I feel the most alive when I do it. To only get the opportunity to do that once in a while, you’re gonna make sure everyone pays attention, “Alright, listen the fuck up motherfuckers, here we go!”
What are you planning for the future? Do you have ideas of bringing your show on tour more or expanding it?
I want to keep performing live, because it’s really that thing that does it for me. I want to keep doing my show at Joe’s Pub and do some acting as well. I also have an idea for a TV show sort of like Glee with the music, but with a little nipple here and there. A musical show with STDs, does that exist?
Not yet, but soon!
The next couple months are shaping up to be really busy with exciting stuff. I put my heart and soul into cabaret and live shows and singing, I’ll never stop doing that as long as people will have me and my tits. I’m literally walking around my friend’s front yard in L.A. I’ve got a little muumuu on, no bra and my beaver tails are totally kicking it California style. [laughs]
Bridget Everett’s Gynecological Wonder is now available on CC: Stand-Up Direct and airs on Comedy Central Saturday, July 11th at 12:30am. Follow Bridget on Twitter @BridgetEverett.
Photo by Ali Goldstein.