Bridget Everett is one of the most electrifying performers on the planet, but unless you’re attending one of her regular monthly shows at Joe’s Pub in New York City — or if you haven’t yet experienced the ribald intensity that is her Obie-winning one-woman show, Rock Bottom — you haven’t had the full Bridget Everett experience. But the performer with the self-described voice of an angel is about to explode from a downtown cabaret stage onto your television with her upcoming Comedy Central special, Bridget Everett: Gynecological Wonder.
Everett, who has become a regular on the channel’s Peabody-winning series Inside Amy Schumer, defies definition, channeling the grit of Janis Joplin and the unfiltered nature of Bette Midler in her early days playing for audiences in gay bathhouses. Her act is sometimes hard to describe in words, combining cabaret, rock ‘n’ roll, and raunchy comedy, but some of the descriptors that do come to mind typically include ballsy, brassy, sexy, vulgar, heartfelt, and sometimes scary. When Everett hits the stage, backed by her regular band known as The Tender Moments (made up of Matt Ray, Mike Johnson, Carmine Covelli, and former Beastie Boy Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz), you never know what will come out of her mouth (a stream of Chardonnay, most definitely) or her House of Larreon fanny pack.
To see a Bridget Everett show is almost like riding a roller coaster for the first time, being completely blindsided by every turn, by every shockingly hilarious story, by the commanding Everett herself, who often dives into the audience leaving few survivors in her wake — well, at least few unsuspecting guests who didn’t have their faces firmly planted between her breasts. With original songs that embrace the varied shapes and sizes of female anatomy or demand to know what, pray tell, one must do to offer oral sex, Everett’s brand of comedy veers toward the absurdity of sex. And at the end of the day, she wants the audience to have almost as much fun as she’s having.
I talked with Everett about her upcoming special (which premieres Saturday, July 11 at 12:30 AM and is currently available for purchase on CC: Stand-Up Direct), turning a dirty cabaret show into a cable TV special, and working with Amy Schumer, who Everett insists is “taking over the world.”
Decider: How did the Comedy Central special happen? Did they approach you about it? Did you pitch it to them?
Bridget Everett: Kathleen Hanna and Adam [Horovitz] and I were working with Comedy Central about a pilot idea that Adam and Kathleen wrote called Bridget Drives a Bus. We were sort of having a hard time getting to the same page creatively, and then like someone suggested, “We’ll start by doing a special. How do you feel about that Bridget?” I was like, “I’d feel great about it!”
Yeah. It’s not something you turn down.
I never really imagined cabaret ending up on Comedy Central, but I couldn’t be more happy that it’s happening. And because a lot of Comedy Central people have been seeing my shows for a long time, they wanted something but they didn’t know what. And I think the most logical thing a special, you know, to start.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYqP6ePUMrc]
What will the special be, exactly? Will it be like your monthly shows at Joe’s Pub with the Tender Moments, any stuff from Rock Bottom, or any new material?
It’s almost like the monthly show. It’s sort of the most action-packed minutes we could pick in the 42 minutes that actually make it onto television. Obviously we didn’t do the ballads and the tender moments and stuff because that didn’t seem like it would sort of work in the situation.
Right. Too tender for TV?
Too tender for TV is a good way to put it! Maybe Rock Bottom will find a life of its own somewhere else on TV, you never know!
I hope so! When I interviewed you almost two years ago, you were really on the rise. I remember that you told me how difficult it was to identify yourself as an artist. You were moving between the comedy scene and the downtown cabaret scene, and you melded the two. Now this Comedy Central special has you billed as a stand-up comedian in a way. Is it still tough to figure out how to describe yourself?
It’s weird when people refer to me as a stand-up; I’m like, “No, I’m not. I’m a singer.” Like, maybe I should be more open to the idea that I’m also a stand-up. I don’t really know how to categorize myself, and I feel weird when other people categorize me — which has probably led to some problems in furthering my career. But I never really think about it in those terms, like, “How am I going to further my career?” I just think about what’s the next thing I could do that’ll be fun, what people will enjoy, and that I’ll find fulfilling. It’s still a little bit of a struggle, honestly, but certainly Amy Schumer introduced me to her audience and has been tremendously helpful, and other friends have exposed me to their audiences. You know, Patti Lupone had me sing with her at Carnegie Hall, and that introduced me to that kind of audience, you know? So slowly but surely I’ve been slugging away and finding my own audience, which I guess is what has to happen.
It seems to me that audience members care less about those definitions and categories than people who have the money to produce shows do.
But it’s definitely exciting that there’s a place where Amy Schumer, Patti LuPone, and, say, Ad-Rock intersect, and that’s Bridget Everett. I never would’ve imagined that space would have existed before I started seeing your shows, and now I’m so grateful that it does.
I agree! Not to drop a name here, but I was talking to Nathan Lane recently, and he told me he stopped Amy on the street and was like “You’re Bridget’s friend!” I love that Nathan Lane stopped Amy on the street, you know? [laughs] I love that. I love all different kinds of music and theater and film, and I know other people do, too. It’s exciting when you get the opportunity to sort of win those audiences, I guess, ‘cause that’s what people love.
It’s been exciting to see you pop up on Inside Amy Schumer. You’re also in Trainwreck, right?
Yeah, I have a little part in Trainwreck. I’m going to be on Amy’s show tonight, and I was on last week.
I love that she’s had you on the show to not just play in her sketches, but also perform your own songs from time to time. It’s really exciting, not just to see her support you, but also to say, in a way, “Now it’s my friend’s turn to entertain you.”
Like, who does that? It’s so generous and wonderful, but if you asked her she’d be like, “Well, I just want people to see you.” It’s so wonderful. So she did that: I’ve closed every season with [one of my songs]. I think that’s just who she is. She’s really funny and she wants people around her that she enjoys watching. And she’s taking over the world. I just love it. She’s fucking great.
Your own material is pretty raunchy and button-pushing, to say the least. Was it tough to edit yourself down for television?
You know, the people doing the sound editing said that, in all the years they’ve been doing this, they’ve never edited something with so many expletives. I mean, the first song in the show is, “Fuck Shit Up.” I think Comedy Central has just embraced what it is and is showcasing that where they can and however best they can. They were very supportive in what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. I was a little nervous at first. I was like, maybe we should just move to HBO or Netflix or something — but then they, like, blur out a nipple, and I think it’s so funny. The little fuzzy nipple things make me laugh every single time. Seeing it live is funny already, but blurred on TV!
Well, it serves as a really good advertisement to come see your show, too, where you can see full length version in all its glory.
When you say the full length version, are you talking about my beaver tails? No one has ever referred to my tits as “full length” before!
Well it was a happy accident, what can I do? In adapting your show for TV, I also wondered if you felt the need to edit the tone of your humor at all. Amy Schumer has talked about this recently, and comedians bemoan it all the time: the idea that we live in a politically correct world and that’s hurting comedy. I’ve seen several of your shows and I can’t think of anything too offensive — although after the second time you climbed in my lap, maybe I learned to relax! But I was curious if you put any thought about that going into the special, particularly since you’re broadening your audience to people who will see your show outside the confines of Joe’s Pub.
My sense of humor is not meant to be mean-spirited. I’m sure it’s too much for some people. I know it’s too much for some people — I’ve seen people walk out of a show, which is great, you know? But, on the flip side, I grew up watching All The Family and listening to Richard Pryor. I thought that shit was really funny even when I was a kid. There are plenty of comics that push the line or push boundaries, but that’s what comedy is. You don’t always get it right, you know? But you have to have the space and the freedom to try and to keep going. The thing that’s hard now, that I know everyone is always complaining about, is that there’s always some dickhead in the front row filming what you’re doing. And if you’re a live performer, sometimes things come out a certain way and…
Those mistakes, or that new joke you’re trying out, suddenly become permanent.
Yeah, exactly. But I think it’s important for me and for any other comic or performer or whatever to follow their voice, you know? And if you don’t like it, don’t fucking watch it!
Bridget Everett: Gynecological Wonder airs on Comedy Central on July 11 at 12:30 AM; the uncensored version is currently available for purchase on CC: Stand-Up Direct.