Wow, Catherine Cohen Has an Amazing Voice

On a warm night in June, Catherine Cohen stepped onto the stage at Joe’s Pub in a red silk jumpsuit and cat-eye sunglasses, her puff of long brown hair swept off her face, and approached the microphone. “Hell-ooo,” she trilled. “Wow. I have an amazing voice.”

It was the comedian’s first show at Joe’s Pub, the cozy cabaret venue at the Public Theater, and the crowd was packed and pumped. As audience members sipped cocktails, Cohen tossed her hair, removed her sunglasses, and jumped into her first song, an introductory number in which she explains, “Boys never wanted to kiss me/So now I do comedy.”

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“Wasn’t it so fun?” Cohen remarks when I meet her, a couple weeks later, at a fashionably austere café in Prospect Heights. Dressed in a lime-green tank top and yellow skirt, the 26-year-old is still feeling the high of her show — her first with a full band — which she titled after one of her tweets: “The Twist? … She’s Gorgeous.” The show sold out so quickly, the venue immediately added another, on July 31 — which, at press time, is itself very nearly sold out. Not bad for a girl who used to obsessively scroll through YouTube videos of Joe’s Pub performances as a high-schooler in Houston, Texas. Five years after landing in New York City, Cohen is already ticking items off her bucket list. It’s probably not much of a twist to note that she’s really fucking funny. Our coffees arrive, and she pauses before answering one of my questions. “There was literally a bug on my hand. Like, hello!”

Through short, peppy original songs written with her pianist, Henry Koperski, Cohen both channels and satirizes the joys and frustrations of the young New York woman. The music itself ranges in style from jazzy lounge numbers to perky show tunes to pumping disco anthems, depending on what Cohen is lampooning. Her style isn’t far afield from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom, who shot to fame on the basis of satirical songs she’d post on YouTube. Cohen’s act also calls to mind a less vulnerable Lena Dunham, or a more animated Amy Schumer — both of whom Cohen cites as inspiration, along with other funny women like Bridget Everett (a Joe’s Pub regular), Greta Gerwig, Molly Shannon, and Melissa McCarthy. “I don’t ever want to see anything that doesn’t have a female lead,” she admits, laughing. “I don’t care.”

Cohen did musical theater in high school before studying English and theater at Princeton; her parents work in business, she says, but have always been supportive of her creative aspirations. “They’re both very funny,” she adds. Like any fresh-out-of-college New York transplant with comedic aspirations, Cohen took classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. But she found her creative footing by being herself. She did some characters — she first hooked up with Koperski a couple years ago to write an original song for a character she was trying out, Imogen Dragons, a ukulele-sporting singer with a “yogurt-y indie girl voice” — and had precisely one straight musical-theater audition when she first arrived in the city after graduating from Princeton in 2013. “I went to one audition and I was like, kill me, end my one life,” she recalls. “It was forty women who looked like me in a room wearing the same outfit, waiting for twelve hours to sing one second of ‘Gimme Gimme’ from Thoroughly Modern Millie. I was like, this is not my scene.”

Instead, she’s created her own scene, producing and hosting a weekly comedy show called Cabernet Cabaret at Club Cumming, the East Village hangout that actor/singer Alan Cumming opened last fall. (At one recent show, Cohen made a dramatic entrance, parting the red velvet curtains behind the club’s tiny stage and issuing a request in a voice dripping with grandeur: “There’s some natural light pouring in from the back and I simply cannot have that.”) It was there that she workshopped the songs that make up her one-woman show, which she also performed at Caroline’s on Broadway in the spring as part of their breakout artists series. Cumming, who calls himself a “major fan,” describes Cohen’s humor as “a sort of hybrid of character and confession which cuts a raw, deep, side-splitting incision into the vein of urban contemporary existence.”

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Cohen pays the bills doing voiceover work in “commercials for female-oriented products,” as she puts it — past stints include Olay, Schick razors, and Special K; basically any product for which a woman in a flowing white dress might appear in an ad, beckoning the prospective customer with promises of youth, beauty, and a tight ass. Her act befits a woman who is the voice of feminine consumerism but knows deep down that it’s a con job. “Voiceover me is a cool, sexy chick who knows what’s up and doesn’t give a shit,” Cohen says. “And comedy me, like, could not care more.” In her songs, Cohen plays a heightened version of herself — “a total cartoon of this glamorous woman I dreamed of being.” Her songs go down surprisingly winding roads; one breezy number about the magic of springtime devolves into an extended fantasy about murdering a guy who once touched her lower back at a party and made a joke about raping her.

Quoting Cohen doesn’t do her justice, though. It’s her delivery that kills, her ability to slip in and out of voices and personas — from a nasally hot-baby-girl squeal to a British-inflected grand dame to a whispery, seen-it-all vixen of the city — like they’re so many silk robes. Her dominant tone is a kind of self-contempt laced through with humblebrags: I’m such a mess; isn’t it adorable? The fact that Cohen has a legitimately lovely, and versatile, singing voice, only makes the tunes funnier. She’s doing something similar to what Lena Dunham did when she burst forth on the scene with the groundbreaking Girls in 2012 — self-deprecation as survival, weaponizing her perceived flaws before anyone can use them against her, all while making it very hard for critics to deny her talent and vision.

When I mention that her act reminds me of Dunham, Cohen tenses for a moment: “Do you hate her?” In the years since HBO premiered Girls, Dunham has become a punching bag for men and women, left and right, but I assure Cohen that no, I think Dunham’s a genius. “That’s how I feel,” Cohen says. “I totally get that she’s done some stupid shit; she’s a person. But at the end of the day, what she’s done is so groundbreaking. I get emotional even thinking about it because when I saw that first episode of Girls when I was in college, and I saw her body and I saw her fucking and talking about sex and enjoying it, I was like, if I had seen this when I was in high school I would have thought about myself totally differently.”

Catherine Cohen

Like Dunham, and Schumer, and so many other comedians Cohen admires, she’s determined to create a space for herself. Maybe she’ll land a role in a TV show, or, more likely, write one herself. If she “books,” she may travel to Los Angeles. “I want to go back and forth,” she declares, “gorgeously.” She rattles off a list of her faves, her inspo, her mental mood board: “Jenny Slate; I’m so obsessed with her. Insecure is so fucking good. Fleabag, are you serious? I Love Dick, amazing. I want to make something like that, just showing different kinds of women, how fucking cool they all are. And how funny and smart and human they are.”


Scott Thompson on Buddy Cole and the Plight of the Queer Comic

Former Kids in the Hall member Scott Thompson birthed the gay barfly Buddy Cole over three decades ago. But the character has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the past few years, popping up at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, as a special correspondent for The Colbert Report, and on Vulture’s recent list of 100 jokes that shaped modern comedy.

If you grew up watching The Kids in the Hall — the legendary Canadian sketch series that aired from 1988 to 1995 and shot Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Kevin McDonald, and Dave Foley to cult stardom — the trailblazing Thompson might’ve been the first openly gay performer you saw on TV. These days, he splits his time between Toronto and Los Angeles, where he lives and performs stand-up both as Buddy Cole and as himself. After years battling gastric lymphoma, the 58-year-old is cancer-free and feeling creatively renewed.

At Joe’s Pub on Sunday and Tuesday, the Canadian comic will perform his one-man show Après Le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues, composed of material he’s amassed since The Kids in the Hall went off the air. And on Monday, the Stonewall Inn hosts the 20th-anniversary re-release of the fictional memoir Buddy Babylon: The Autobiography of Buddy Cole, by Thompson and his writing partner Paul Bellini. Thompson spoke to the Voice about the perils of performing while openly gay, the joys of stirring things up, and finding satisfaction in the work and not the results.

Buddy Cole is this guy who’s been there, done that, seen everything there is to see. But of course, you were pretty young when you created the character.

I hadn’t done anything! I was practically a virgin! I mean literally, a virgin! In every sense of the word. I was pretending to be this world-weary homosexual at the fin de siècle. It’s ludicrous!

Do you feel like you relate to the character more now?

Yes, I think I’m better at being him now, actually.

I wonder, if you were starting out today, if you would have performed some of this material just as yourself, rather than in character.

If I was young today, I don’t think there’s any question I would have become a stand-up comedian. I think that’s exactly where I would have gone. I’ve been judged by people who say, “Oh, that’s such a stereotype, you’re such a Stepin Fetchit.” But people don’t really have any idea what things were like for gay people. Buddy Cole was something that I had to create — he was my mouthpiece. You couldn’t really stand up there and be yourself. Not in those days, particularly the ’80s and ’90s, with AIDS just decimating the gay community. Gay men were in a terrible, terrible state.

I know you’ve been performing as Buddy Cole for a long time, and lately it seems like he’s been popping up all over the place. But there was a long stretch when Buddy went quiet.   

I had a one-man show that was supposed to open in New York on September 19, 2001. It was a show I’d been working on for a year, and it was about, ironically, terrorism. It was supposed to open blocks away from Ground Zero, and the first monologue was about Buddy Cole’s relationship with Osama bin Laden, if you can imagine. I just became toxic. They canceled my show and I went back home, and I tried to re-do it in Toronto a few months later, but it just was destroyed by the critics.

Jesus. How did you pull yourself out of that funk?

I went into a depression, and it lasted quite a long time. Then around 2005, 2006, I had a revelation that I got my joy out of the work rather than the results. That was the beginning of me coming back to myself, in terms of figuring out who I was. I was furious about how I wasn’t given the same opportunities as other people because I was openly gay, and that just made me crazy. After that, things started getting better. The first show I wrote after The Lowest Show on Earth, which is the show that went down in New York, was called Catastrophe, and that was about that show, about what happened, and about my relationship with my brother, who had committed suicide. It’s a very dark show! I would have continued doing it, but then I got cancer. My life circumstances had changed so drastically — it just felt like, another room has opened up, and I can’t really pretend that this is the thing I’m most concerned about any longer.

You’ve never been afraid of making people uncomfortable. Do you find you get pushback today from a different segment of the audience than you might have back in the 1980s and 90s?

There will always be pushback, but it’s always coming from different directions. People are uncomfortable, and I’m, like, well, that’s where I live. I enjoy stirring things up. I think it’s important. That’s what a comedian should do.

What do people push back on these days?

Anything to do with religion or race or gender or sexual orientation, people get very uptight about. But right now the thing that people are most uptight about is Me Too. That is an issue that men are not supposed to discuss. But I’m very lucky, because I’m a gay man, so I’m allowed.

I actually think it would be great if more men were talking about this.

What I wish is that men and women would talk honestly with each other. Because the way that men talk with each other and the way that women talk with each other — they’re different languages.

You’ve been performing a lot of stand-up in L.A. these days. What has that been like?

I basically say yes to everything. I’m at a club three times a week at least. It’s amazing, I’m thrilled by it. Last night I did this show, I didn’t get home till 12:30, 1 o’clock. I’m like, what the fuck am I doing? Everybody my age is getting ready to retire! Retire? It makes me ill to think about it. I’m with all these people that are 20 years younger than me, at least. I feel revitalized right now.

And you’re re-releasing your Buddy Cole book, too.

It’s the 20th anniversary of Buddy Babylon, which I’m extremely excited about because when the book came out 20 years ago, no one even reviewed it. I think it got one Canadian review. And they trashed it. The Canadian literary establishment, as I’ve discovered, hates comedy. Hates it. Oh, they’re so uptight! I also think homophobia was so much worse then, a male critic would have to pretend he didn’t know what I was talking about just to make sure that his heterosexual credentials were in order. I really believe that. When people would tell me that I was their favorite on Kids in the Hall, if it was a straight male, they’d whisper it like it was a dark secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I like you as much as Bruce. Everyone was trying to prove they weren’t a fag.

Well, what could be worse?

It’s still the worst thing you can call a man. I do think male homosexuality is different than female homosexuality, and it is seen as much worse. A male falls from grace, and a female, when she sleeps with other women — this is my theory — in some ways, she moves up in power. Because she’s going after the same thing that straight males go after, and she’s taking on masculine traits, to be politically incorrect.

It’s also just something straight men like to think about, and the entertainment industry basically turns on what straight, white men find appealing.

People say, “Oh, the young kids, they’re all gender-fluid.” I go, “No, the girls are.” But boys aren’t. Boys aren’t kissing each other to turn on girls!

You’ve talked about queer comics being “castrated” by not talking about sex more explicitly. Do you still find that’s the case, or are queer comics talking a bit more openly now?

Oh, absolutely, it’s changed. They’re still not going to the next level. There’s still never been an openly gay male comic that’s a star. Not one.

I’m racking my brain right now….

Everyone does that, they rack their brain thinking I’m exaggerating and then no one can come up with a name. There’s James Adomian and Guy Branum and Andrew Johnston and Ted Morris and Darcy Michael — none of them. And I think that’s really sad.

People often talk about you being “ahead of your time.” It’s nice to get recognition, but maybe it would have been nicer at the time.

When you’re young, you can say it, when you’re young. It would have been nice if it had happened when I was doing it. It would have made things a little easier. One of the things I’ve learned in life is, there’s no money in being first. There’s really only — I wouldn’t even say glory, because the glory comes after you’re dead. When you’re first through the door, you just have to accept that the person who’s third is going to get all the attention.


Après Le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues
Joe’s Pub
425 Lafayette Street
April 1 and 3, 9:30 p.m.

Buddy’s Back!
The Stonewall Inn
53 Christopher Street
April 2, 7 p.m.


This Week, Stand-Up Comic Christian Finnegan Wants You to Judge His Babies

Unlike bands, comedians don’t have garages where they can rehearse. No, they can’t try out new jokes that only hurt their parents’ and next-door neighbors’ ears. Instead, they have to thrust their newborn jokes into the often harsh judgment of an audience who may not know or care about them. Worse, an audience who worships and adores them and absolutely does not want this peek behind the flawless curtain. It might be one of the craziest things comedians are willing to do over and over again throughout their career. But it can also be one of the most fun things for an audience, who get to experience a rawer version of the hearts and minds of the comedians they love. This week Christian Finnegan is taking that brave leap of faith, along with a number of other very funny people walking their own comedy tightropes.

Wednesday, August 5:

Fat Baby
Fat Baby (112 Rivington Street), 9:30 p.m., Free

Fat Baby is a weekly debauched comedy party tucked away in a downstairs bar on the Lower East Side. Comedians are asked to do a set followed by an improvised rap or song based on titles picked blindly out of a bucket. The crowd often gets very involved (whether the comic likes it or not) as backup dancers, love song targets, and run-of-the-mill hecklers thanks to the strong and plentiful drinks coming from the bartenders. Funny GirlsSteph Simbari joins the usual crew for the wacky hijinks this week.

Hot Crowd: Rapid Fire
Over the Eight (594 Union Avenue, Brooklyn), 8 p.m., Free

This regular Brooklyn showcase is mixing things up this week, inviting over a dozen comedians to do short sets of new material in quick succession. Megan Gailey, Joe Zimmerman, and Mike Denny are all part of the dirty dozen baring their souls and their notebooks for your pleasure, while you munch on your pick of vegetarian hot dogs made from carrots or giant platters piled with meat from Over the Eight’s resident Venezuelan street food cart.


Thursday, August 6:

Bookstore Cafe (126 Crosby Street), 7 p.m., $10

Joe List, Carmen Lynch, and Sean Donnelly are some of the hottest on-the-cusp comedians in NYC right now, and they’re all together on Loose, having a great time for a good cause. The show itself is exactly what the name implies: loose, unpredictable, and pleasantly chaotic. Plus, your $10 ticket earns you a free drink and good karma, as it’s all donated to Housing Works.

Serious Matters
Union Hall (702 Union Street, Brooklyn), 8 p.m., $7

Most people become comedians to avoid having to make PowerPoint presentations filled with budgets, projections, and synergy (that’s what they’re usually about, right?). That’s why the slide decks on Serious Matters tackle bigger issues, like gender, infinity, and…teeth. In between filling your brain with questionable knowledge, you’ll also get a good share of laughs from Michelle Wolf, Nick Vatterott, and Myq Kaplan.


Friday, August 7:

Week at the Creek: Jon Laster
The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City), 7 p.m., Free

Jon Laster is a great mix of old-school and New Brooklyn, with great jokes and delivery that straddle the stereotypical categories of club, alternative, and urban. So if you don’t find something to love after spending a whole hour with him, you should probably consider getting thee to a hermitage.

The Standing Room Grand Opening
The Standing Room (47-38 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City), 9 p.m., $15 (Free tickets available on Instagram)

Todd Barry leads a hot lineup of NYC favorites on the official Grand Opening Weekend of Queens’ newest comedy venue. Home of the former Laughing Devil, the recent renovations have transformed the space into a cozy cocktail lounge with a drink lineup that rivals the one onstage.

Chuckle Fuckers
New York Comedy Club (241 East 24th Street), 11:30 p.m., $5 with code CHUCKLE online

Chris Cotton was one of the standouts during the seemingly interminable and often awkwardly wooden Just for Laughs Festival showcase season this spring. His mix of charming nice-guy cuddliness and Philly swagger animate tight jokes and a well-built set. He’ll be bringing all of that to this late-night show that encourages everyone to get a little bit raunchy.


Saturday, August 8:

Good for You
Cantina Royal (58 North 3rd Street, Brooklyn), 9 p.m., Free

Jermaine Fowler is an explosion of flashy energy and style who has made his mark on TruTV’s sketch series Friends of the People. He’ll be filling this Brooklyn Mexican restaurant/arts space with laughs, along with fellow stand-up standouts Anthony Devito, Giulia Rozzi, and Tom Cowell.

Comedy Club
Max Cellar (2 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn), 8 p.m., Free

If comedy were a high school (and it kind of is), Molly Austin, Liza Treyger, Rojo Perez, Blair Socci, and Joel Kim Booster would be sitting at the cool/weird art kids’ lunch table, while Cipha Sounds and Amanda Seales would be skipping class to DJ some not-really-legal underground party — and Comedy Club would be the big graduation party where they all crossed paths and hijinks ensued. Catch this cool crew of comedians, DJs, and DJ/comedians in an awesome Bushwick performance space while it’s still free and you can find a seat.

Literally Me
Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette Street), 9:30 p.m., $15 in advance

John Early isn’t a terrible theater kid, he just plays one on Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. In real life, he’s an engaging and intimate stand-up comedian with a wonderful one-man show whose raison d’être is supposedly to let the audience help pick his headshot, but is really a multimedia night of comedy with help from friends like Jacqueline Novak and drag sensation Hamm Samwich.


Sunday, August 9:

Anthony Kapfer Animated Screening
The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City), 6 p.m., Free

Anthony Kapfer has a pretty sweet beard. He’s also got jokes, songs, and an all new animated comedy special that he created entirely with his own pen, guitar, and words. You could just watch it online after it’s released, but wouldn’t you rather settle in to watch it with some great Mexican food, cheap beers, and the auteur in the flesh?


Monday, August 10:

Night Train
Littlefield (622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn), 8 p.m., $5 in advance

Erin Jackson and Hampton Yount both made a splash on the last season of Last Comic Standing. This week’s Night Train gives you the chance to go beyond the two-dimensional, heavily edited clips and experience these excellent comedians in a great live environment.

Side Ponytail
Over the Eight (594 Union Avenue, Brooklyn), 8 p.m., Free

Emma Willmann is the manic pixie dream girl who should have been in every Nineties romantic comedy if instead of playing opposite Zach Braff, she got to play opposite Natalie Portman. Which is to say that you’d totally want to hang out with her even if she weren’t a finalist in New York’s Funniest and anointed as one of the New Faces at the 2015 Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. And she’s just one of the pack of funny folks featured in this showcase sure to help you forget it’s your first day back at work.


Tuesday, August 11:

New Release Day With Christian Finnegan
Q.E.D (27-16 23rd Avenue, Queens), 8 p.m., $6

Christian Finnegan seems to appeal to just about every demographic there is, from diehard Chappelle’s Show fans to Best Week Ever–loving pop culture junkies to stand-up aficionados. Everybody enjoys watching the assured, skillful sets he performs in clubs across the country, but it’s a special treat to watch such an experienced comedian try out his newest babies, along with the hilarious Joe Zimmerman and Michelle Wolf.

Set List
Union Hall (702 Union Street, Brooklyn), 8 p.m., $12 in advance

This international favorite that pits comedians against a surprise topic from the demented minds of the show’s producers is back in New York! This time around, Cash Cab’s Ben Bailey, wordsmith Myq Kaplan, and all-around incredible performer Nick Vatterott are facing one of the most daunting challenges in comedy.


Soledad Barrio/Noche Flamenca

Flamenco, born in Spanish taverns, never looks better than up close, and this compact company flourishes in the narrow confines of the Joe’s Pub stage. Directed by her husband, Martin Santangelo, and joined by veteran singers, guitarists, dancers, and percussionists, Soledad Barrio transfixes audiences with her focus and her mature passion.

April 4-10, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m., 2015

ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Events Listings Theater

Cush Jumbo Channels Josephine Baker and It Feels So Right

If Josephine Baker was the “Black Pearl” and the “Bronze Venus,” what to call Cush Jumbo, creator and star of Josephine and I? With her pixie haircut, wide brown eyes, and generous smile, she’s certainly une
créature exquise
. Splicing the story of Baker’s hardscrabble road to fame with a contemporary actress’s first shot at the big time (a TV miniseries!), Jumbo is also a helluva performer, channeling La Baker from poverty
in St. Louis to the razzle-dazzle of the Folies Bergère — all the scoundrelly men who tried to hold her back be damned. Last fall Jumbo took away “Emerging Talent” honors at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, and after starring on Broadway with Hugh Jackman in The River, she appears bound to follow her heroine into glory.

For now, Josephine and I is 90 minutes of mesmerizing star seduction, thanks to Phyllida Lloyd’s beguiling direction, Ravi Deepres’s
vintage film touches, and costume changes galore: perfect fare for Joe’s Pub. But Jumbo’s fascination with her subject — first black
actress in France, civil rights activist in the
U.S. — comes at the price of contextual nuance. Baker’s nicknames are indissociable from a post–World War I Europe hungry for exotisme, and Princesse Tam-Tam’s apogee
in France coincided with the International
Colonial Fair of 1931: a celebration of France’s dominance over a huge chunk of the African continent and a deliberate glossing-over of
its brutal treatment of the indigènes.

But as Jumbo bellows Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” at show’s end, hagiography never felt so good.


To Preach His Own: Reverend Billy at Joe’s Pub

The Information Age has something it won’t say/Climate change kills the poor every day.” Thus begins one of the bluesy hymns in Monsanto Is the Devil, a musical revue now at Joe’s Pub, led by the singular Reverend Billy (Bill Talen). Boosted by the Stop Shopping Choir (decked out as queer pilgrims in holiday spirit) and backed by the Not Buying It Band, the activist-performer preaches and croons with eccentric flair. Today, he tells us, the sins of a global capitalist state have spread far and wide, so “there are any number of devils to choose from.” Among the scourges: Mindless
consumerism. The destruction of the planet. Bankers’ greed. Police brutality. Duane Reade. Blighted, forgotten communities. And, of course, GMO food and a certain multinational giant.

When our white-suited pastor — recently returned from protests in Ferguson and Detroit — gives us the gospel truth, calling on America to get radical again, it’s hard not to feel that this is one essential act. But it’s not a great choice for the soulless Joe’s Pub, where patrons are served drinks and gaze at these rollicking activists as if they’re merely a diversion. Despite rousing calls to action (“Joe Papp–ellujah!”), the room and its hovering waiters position us in the very
consumer spirit the choir warns against. Our sin-sick nation needs Reverend Billy and his flock more than ever right now — but on the front lines, not in a cabaret.


Minnie Driver

Minnie Driver’s music career has been forged from the best form of inconsistency: the one that comes as a cost of a multifaceted not-so nine-to-five. After catapulting herself into the public eye with a little film called Good Will Hunting, Driver’s dropped two albums amidst a slew of on-screen performances. And as her TV show About a Boy comes off hiatus, so does the music with Ask Me to Dance, an album of covers from Elliott Smith to Sinatra – and perhaps Driver’s most effective way of telling the world there’s no stopping any time soon.

Tue., Oct. 14, 7 p.m., 2014


Bridget Everett Whacks Rock Bottom at Joe’s Pub

If you’re possessive about your personal space or your glass of wine, consider yourself warned about Bridget Everett: The downtown cabaret star (and the subject of an in-depth feature story by Julie Seabaugh in the Voice‘s September 10 issue) is likely to commandeer both over the course of Rock Bottom, her raucous solo musical, now playing at Joe’s Pub. Ditto if you’re squeamish about the male or female anatomy or jokes about loneliness and existential despair.

If you’re up to the challenge, you’re (mostly) in for a treat. Rock Bottom consists of a series of raunchy cabaret songs, backed by a band and a couple of singers and punctuated by dry, hilarious patter. Wearing a skimpy, toga-like wardrobe that constantly threatens to malfunction, Everett confronts and cajoles, drawing audience members into her stories and sometimes into her arms. She recounts around-the-world sexual exploits and muses about the embarrassing poignancy, for a lonely single person, of a hairdresser’s gentle touch. There’s a group sing-along to an anti-rape number entitled “Put Your Dick Away,” and, for dessert, a spectator licks whipped cream from the star’s inner thigh.

Not all of Rock Bottom displays the same bold intelligence. Some songs that showcase Everett’s powerful pipes also tend toward sappiness. And her reliance on graphic sexual comedy eventually wears thin — not because it isn’t funny, but because it’s too facile for a performer this fascinating and smart. Miriam Felton-Dansky


Bombay Rickey

This Brooklyn quintet plays a delightful amalgam of surf rock, exotica, mambo, Bollywood, and light opera – which is to say kitsch of the highest quality. The focus is on Kamala Sankaram, a coloratura soprano who evokes Yma Sumac in “Taki Rari,” Asha Bhosle in Bollywood megahit “Dum Maro Dum,” and every opera diva ever in “Queen of the Rumba.”

Mon., Sept. 8, 9:30 p.m., 2014



Doris Humphrey, one of the mothers of modern dance, famously declared that all dances are too long. She never saw the DANCENOW Festival, now in its 19th year, which features 10 troupes nightly, performing choice works on a nightclub stage slightly larger than your bathroom. Many of the acts, which clock in at about five minutes each, are funny. Order a drink, a salad, or one of the pub’s great burgers, and feast on pieces by downtown favorites like the Bang Group, Mark Dendy Projects, Jane Comfort and Company, Bridgman/Packer Dance, Raja Feath3r Kelly, Claire Porter, ZviDance, and dozens more. Vote for your favorites each night and return a week later for an encore show featuring the top picks.

Sept. 3-6, 7 p.m., 2014