“Some of you may not know me, but you will not fucking forget me!” When Bridget Everett took the stage like a nuclear explosion in a shoebox at the “Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Festival” in Tinley Park this summer, those were her words, words which would end up some of the truest I’ve ever heard.
The people in the audience, 18,000 of us, were riveted. People around me, who astonishingly had gone to get snacks during the sets of comedy heroes like Anthony Jeselnik, T.J. Miller and Jeff Ross, suddenly decided not to go anywhere. If they stood, it was to cheer this exhilarating fireworks of a person who was singing with a voice like bells from heaven about titties, dicks and sex, swigging from a bottle, and wearing a short, drapey, flame-red garment resembling a magician’s handkerchief. In fact, body parts would appear and disappear and there most definitely would be magic and by magic I mean a transcendent, life-altering experience causing me to change into a happier, bolder, better grounded person.
She threw off her high heels, flashed a nipple and descended, floating into the audience, singing like a hard-rocking angel and engaging audience members with joyous obscenities. She proceeded barefoot through the aisles, got a grandfatherly fellow to declare into the microphone, “I like butter” (he wasn’t talking about butter) and sat on another’s lap, eventually making off with his shoes, which only made everyone happier.
A man who resembled the rapper Macklemore was ordered to go wait on stage; he would shortly be engaged in surprise acrobatics. There was motor-boating, more flashing, and our ecstatic laughing pandemonium, all to the live soundtrack of Bridget’s glorious, powerhouse, raunchy, sublime vocals.
The distance between performer and spectator dissolved. We were all at the grandest party of our lives. This was where walls crumbled and barriers went to die. As someone who prizes distance – it wards off pain – I had a glimpse of what I was missing and what might be possible if I let go of fear and convention and had the courage to connect to others. I had an epiphany that conforming is a spiritual form of poverty. It was as if a portal camouflaged in a wall had opened.
It’s no wonder The Village Voice called Bridget “the most exciting performer in New York City” and Amy Schumer says she is “the best live performer I’ve ever seen.” If you watch Inside Amy Schumer, you’ve seen Bridget close out each season. She also had a memorable cameo in Trainwreck. Her celebrity fans include Patti LuPone and Adam Horovitz. Patti LuPone requested Bridget, a classically trained singer, for a duet at Carnegie Hall. Adam, formerly of the Beastie Boys, is now a member of Bridget’s band, The Tender Moments. The band also includes Carmine Covelli, Mike Jackson and Matt Ray.
Her album with The Tender Moments, Pound It, is available on Amazon and iTunes and includes "Titties," the rocking "Fuck This Shit Up" and "What I Gotta Do?," all of which mesmerized the audience at Tinley Park. But it also includes the ethereal "Endless Road," a gorgeous ballad in memory of her sister, so infused with grief and longing it threatens to stop the heart (a risk worth taking). The rest of the album is just as versatile and unforgettable. It has doo-wop, cabaret and more trademark beautiful raunchiness.
In 2012, Bridget was a winner of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. In 2015, she won an Obie for Rock Bottom, the show she created with the NEA funds. She has a monthly, sold-out show at New York City’s Joe’s Pub which is the headquarters of her unique “alt-cabaret” style. This summer, Comedy Central aired her special Bridget Everett: Gynecological Wonder. I recommend seeing it … today! But you really want to experience her electricity in person and you can if you get tickets soon for her December 4 appearance at Lincoln Hall. The late show sold out a while ago, but tickets are still available for 7:00 p.m.
As she got ready to leave the stage at the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Festival, Bridget reassured the crowd, “We’re not done dreaming yet, Motherfuckers!” That’s right. Thanks to Bridget Everett, I remembered I’m not done. Not even close.
Bridget kindly spoke with me by phone about how she does what she does.
Q: At the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Festival this summer your entrance created an instant energy. I felt 18,000 people riveted. What are your secrets for creating that energy?
A: Anything I’m doing is a happy accident. When I come out on stage I want people to be excited and happy and I want to have a great time with them. I usually walk out wearing something people aren’t used to seeing and a six-foot tall blonde woman without a bra is not something you see every day on stage. But I want the audience to know they’re in good hands and we’re going to have a great time. So I do my best to make sure people get on board as quickly as possible.
Q: I definitely felt that. It was actually life-changing. I left a happier person in general.
A: That makes me so happy. Thank you.
Q: What are your thoughts before you get on stage? What do you do to get ready?
A: It’s all business backstage because I get super nervous and I have stage fright. I do a lot of vocal exercises because I sing like a maniac. I do physical stretches. I have a glass of wine. Every time before I go on stage I’m literally in a squatting position being like, “Why do I do this to myself? Why do I do this to myself?” But as soon as I walk on stage I’m so happy to be there and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I just go wild.
Q: I read that off-stage you’re somewhat reclusive. How do you make the transition from feeling reclusive to so genuinely interacting with people?
A: It’s interesting. The wilder I become on stage, the more introverted I become in my own personal life because it takes so much out of me to do what I’m doing on stage. But I’m getting better about it in my personal life. I have a lot of long-time friends and we spend a lot of time together. I’m becoming more relaxed and open. Like at a party of strangers, I used to hide in a corner but now I feel like I can mix around a little bit. In high school and college, I was a wild child, but over the years it’s just sort of slowed to a halt, but that’s probably a part of getting older.
Q: You’ve said that in the ‘90s you came close to slipping into a life of sadness. What did that look like and how did you turn it around?
A: I think that when you’re getting in your own way it creates frustration and ultimately, sadness. Because I didn’t really see somebody doing what I wanted to do, I didn’t think it could exist.
Then slowly, but surely, when you take a leap of faith and believe in yourself, every step makes you a happier and better person. It could have ended up being karaoke bars and a party of one for me. I’m glad that I found a way to use my singing voice because it makes me really happy to get to sing, and to make people laugh is really thrilling. The people I get to do it with are all exciting, really cool people, so life is good.
Q: When did it start to fall into place?
A: It still feels like it’s falling into place. It’s hard to tell when you’re getting where you think you want to go, you know? I’d say certainly in the last five years. I’d said to a friend, “I want to do an album. I’ve always dreamed of making an album. We’ll do a bunch of cover songs.” And he said, “Why don’t you write the songs?” And I was like, “I have this idea for a song about different kinds of tits. Does that sound silly?” He said, “No, that sounds fucking awesome. Go write it!”
And so I think the more I’ve listened to myself and the more I stay true to who I am, the more my life has opened up and the closer I’ve gotten to “living the dream.”
Q: Was that Adam from your band?
A: Yeah, it was Adam.
Q: Cool. I love that song.
A: Thanks. It’s interesting. I’d worked with people before who thought some of my ideas were silly. When someone who’s a successful rock and roll star, says, “No … silly has worked for us as The Beastie Boys,” I thought, he’s absolutely right. So I would bring in song ideas to my band and if it made them laugh, I was like, “Okay, let’s try this.” They’re a group of great guys who are always down to do crazy shit and that’s what makes it work. There’s nobody sitting in the back rolling their eyes like, “Oh, come on, Bridget” … so yeah, let’s go for it.
Q: How did you know it’s okay to break rules and in ways that are unconventional? I’m asking because I’m only coming to understand later in life that it is an excellent thing.
A: Because it was the only time that felt right. When I do something that feels right and makes me laugh and makes me happy, then I know that that’s what I should be doing. And if that’s breaking the rules, then great. It’s not going to be for everybody. I get people saying shit about me online that’s hurtful. But my hope is if I keep doing the thing that speaks to me, it will also speak to somebody else.
Q: It does. Do you intend for your shows to be transformative and transcendent? I experienced them that way.
A: I think people do feel different after they’ve seen a show and all I can say is that makes me really happy. I think a lot of people have room to open up and let go and if seeing my show helps move the needle on the record a little bit then that’s really what it’s all about.
Q: I’ve seen you use the word “lawless” to describe your shows and I’m still trying to figure out myself, what laws deserve to be broken?
A: It’s dumb conventions and stupid stereotypes. There’s no point to them. I see in the audience’s faces when I’m doing something they haven’t seen before that feels dangerous to them. But I feel like I have to do it. Sometimes it’s a lot. I’m really pushing myself physically. I’m vocally singing as hard as I can and I’m telling personal stories and I really want to give it all to people for some reason and I don’t really know why. I just love to do it. It takes a lot out of me, but it’s so worth it. I have a really deep and clear connection with my audience. There are people who come to my shows every month in New York and I see them letting go and it’s great.
Q: One of the wonderful things about your show is how you take down barriers and dissolve the distance between people. Were you ever a person who had walls and barriers?
A: Well, actually, when I was younger I was always trying to get people to come out of their shell and maybe do something crazy or weird or naughty. I’ve always been like that and it’s probably a little inappropriate when you’re younger, but the result was always people smiling and laughing, so how can that be a bad thing? That’s what makes me tick, getting other people to step out of their shell a little bit.
I had five older brothers and sisters and they were all very funny. My brother Brock is the funniest person I know. He’s got such a wicked, sharp wit. Keeping up with them was a challenge and when you’re the youngest one, you have to fight to stay alive at the Thanksgiving table.
Q: What is the best or most memorable things that has happened at your show?
A: It was in Chicago. There was a family there and when there’s a multigenerational family and you see them all experiencing the show at different paces, it’s an amazing thing to watch. There were three generations. It was a grandson, the mother and the grandmother. Watching them watch each other watch the show while still having their own experience is something that never gets old. That’s a highlight.
At the same show, there was this young woman who brought her dad to the show and they were sitting front row center. I said, “Have you been here before?” And she said, “I have, but he hasn’t.” I said, “You sick fuck! Putting your dad right in front of one of my shows!” She was like, “Yeah, I thought it would be fun.” And because they were there, it was an unforgettable night for me, for them and for the audience.
Q: Oh god, those were great moments. So what is a typical day like for you?
A: Me and my dog, we roll out into the day around noon. I take her for a walk, feed her, then I go get coffee and try to do a little writing. It’s pretty low key. Then typically it’s time to go for some sort of sound check, do a show, hope some friends come and then we can stay out and have a couple of glasses of Chardonnay at the party afterwards. Not a bad life.
Q: What songs are you working on now?
A: I have a couple of ideas. I’m sort of running out of body parts to sing about, so I’ve got a few angles of things I want to talk about. I don’t always do them on the road, but I also like to do tender songs about things that are meaningful to me, so I’ve been working on a song about my mom, and then Amy actually gave me a great suggestion for a song idea. But I don’t like to talk about them until I’ve worked them out because it’s like throwing Jello on a wall to see what sticks.
Q: You’ve said you feel more a singer than a comedian, but your comedic timing is so wonderful. Do comedic timing and musical timing have a lot in common?
A: That’s a really good question. I think there probably is a lot in common. It’s all about finding the right moment to express yourself in the right way and music is certainly that way. I definitely feel when I’m singing a song that I’m telling a story and that’s the same thing I’m doing when I’m actually telling a story. You want things to land in the right way. There are a lot of similarities, but could I define it? Probably not.
Q: I love the "Titties" song. How did you come up with all the different names for titties?
A: When I was growing up, my brother Brock used to call my mom beaver tail because she has these long low flat tits and I’ve always thought that was the funniest thing I ever heard. So I used to think of names of different kinds that I saw, like she’s got those oven-mitty titties, and after a while I thought, this would be a fun thing to sing about. And it is.
Sometimes I think, “Am I going to sing "Titties" again tonight?” But it’s such a fun song and everybody loves it, so why not? I saw an interview with Barry Manilow one time and somebody asked, “Do you ever get tired of singing the hits?” And he said, “Why would I? I look around and the audience is smiling and they’re happy and that makes me happy, so what’s wrong with that?” Preach, Barry, preach!
Q: How did you come up with the “bounce bounce bounce” part?
A: We were just fucking around in rehearsal and making each other laugh.
Q: How did you know it would be the perfect part for audience interaction?
A: When I’m thinking about a song I’m also thinking about the performance element of it, like what can I do and how could this song come alive and immediately I was like I’m going to motorboat somebody. That would be great.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in Chicago?
A: The people. I’ve had so much fun with the audiences when I’ve been in Chicago and that’s it for me. It’s about the people in the room and us having a great time.
Bridget Everett will appear at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln on Friday, December 4 at 7:00 p.m. (the later show is sold out). Featuring the Puterbaugh Sisters. Tickets are $20. You can buy them here.
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