Over the past few years, performer Bridget Everett has become a star of the New York cabaret scene. Now, with regular appearances on Inside Amy Schumer and an upcoming Comedy Central special called Gynecological Wonder (premiering in the wee hours of Saturday, July 11 at 12:30am EST), she’s gaining a national audience. Jezebel spoke to her on the phone about success, calling in favors from celebrities, karaoke, and the joys of not wearing a bra.
A little background: Bridget is a classically trained singer who, through her early acts and now-regular performances at New York’s landmark cabaret venue Joe’s Pub, has amassed a massive following. (Among her more famous friends and fans: Amy Schumer, Kathleen Hanna, the Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock—who’s also in her band—and Patti LuPone.) Watch her live and it’s easy to see why. Few performers possess the ability to go from a raunchy song like “Coming for You” to an easygoing interaction with the audience to a show-stopping and knee-weakening ballad, but somehow Bridget does it with sparkling ease—even while treating the theater (and audience) like a jungle gym, guzzling chardonnay from the bottle, and letting her boobs (affectionately nicknamed “beaver tails”) fall freely out of her costume.
Talking with Bridget—something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now—was an absolute joy. She’s warm. She’s funny. She’s down to clown. Here is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Jezebel: How did your Comedy Central special Gynecological Wonder come about?
Bridget Everett: I was working on a pilot idea with Kathleen Hanna and Adam Horovitz—he’s in my band [Bridget Everett & the Tender Moments]. We’d been working with Comedy Central and sort of having a hard time getting everyone on the same page. So, in the meantime, they were like “How would you feel about doing a special?” I was like, “I would feel fucking great about it!” And that’s how it happened. I’m really excited. You don’t see a lot of cabaret and middle aged women on Comedy Central, so I’m really happy.
You have a joke in it about how everyone’s waiting for the comeback of cabaret. But I actually AM. I really am waiting for that.
It’s a word I’ve struggled with. “Cabaret.” It’s such a dead man’s art, you know? But it truly is a great thing. Especially in New York. The way people are doing it now is really exciting and I’m lucky to be a part of that. Like I don’t know if you know people like Molly Pope, Erin Markey, and Cole Escola. There are really great, funny, irreverent cabaret people. It’s a really cool time.
I thought it was very cool how you shot your special at Joe’s Pub as opposed to a more traditional comedy-special venue because that’s your home, the place where you perform regularly. Was it your idea to shoot there?
Oh, for sure. They were like, “Where do you want to do it?” And I was like, “Joe’s Pub. That’s the only place I CAN do it.” That’s my place. They’ve been good to me. If Joe’s Pub didn’t exist, then there wouldn’t be a Bridget Everett, at least not in the sense of the kind of performer I am now. They let me do whatever I want. I can be totally lawless and they don’t give a fuck. They’re like, “Yeah! Do it again!” It’s pretty, pretty great.
I went to your show a month or two ago and at one point, as you were climbing around the theater, I had your foot balancing on my head and was frantically trying to move drinks so they wouldn’t get knocked over. Just imagining another place where something that electric could happen…
Ha, I’m just trying to get to know people. You know how that goes!
Yeah, I felt like I got to know you pretty well.
How about the title of the special, Gynecological Wonder. Did a lot of thought go into that?
It was my friend Jim’s idea and I was like, “Oh my god, that’s perfect” because, you know, I’m a big girl and I got a big vagina and I’m proud of my pussy and I wanted to say something about it. So when he suggested it, I was like “It’s so fucking perfect!” I also love that there’s a special called Gynecological Wonder on a network like Comedy Central, which, traditionally, is kind of a guy’s channel. And Comedy Central loved the title. They’re awesome. They were like, “Oh that’s perfect.”
It seems like Comedy Central is shifting a little bit in that there’s you and Amy [Schumer] and Broad City and Another Period. It’s exciting to see that change.
The people who run Comedy Central are really cool, at least in my experience. They just really want you to do you and it’s really nice. I don’t know if it always works that way so I feel excited that those are the people I’m working with right now.
I can’t fathom a performer like you having a special where they weren’t allowed to do exactly what they wanted to do. You can’t put Bridget Everett in a different box than the one she already exists in.
God knows how that would work out.
Your act is super physical and very interactive. I was wondering as I was watching it—both live at Joe’s Pub and in your special—if there’s a specific way that you choose the audience members that you interact with most closely. Because it’s very intimate! You touch them and they touch you. Are there certain people where you can just tell that they’re standoffish and don’t want to be messed with? Or is it like, this is your show and you’ll mess with whoever you want?
Just this week I was doing a show and I went over to someone who I thought was perfect and he was NOT having it. So I just moved onto the next person. Sometimes I don’t get it right, but usually I try to pick someone who’s not SUPER eager, but who’s enjoying themselves and seems like they’re going to take a chance and have a little fun. Because the idea of the show is never to make anyone feel bad about themselves. I always want people to walk out feeling great, so I would never want to rope someone into something that they wouldn’t have a good time doing.
But people who are looking at you like Pick me! Pick me!? That’s never a good idea. I always consider the show like being on a date. Just trying to have a good conversation and maybe getting laid at the end. It’s like being at a bar! If a guy was like, “Pick me! Pick me!,” it’s like, Maybe you’re a little too eager. I’m going to try for your friend.
Only room for one showboat here!
After I saw you perform, I said to my friend that experiencing your show is what a fun bachelorette party must feel like like.
That’s awesome. I love that.
Well, it’s really openly sexual and fun and crazy and everyone lets loose. That’s such a freeing environment that you’ve created.
Thank you! I always want it to feel like a party because I love to party and I happen to have a job where I get to drink all kinds of chardonnay and party all night and make new friends. It’s not a bad way to make a living and I feel really lucky.
The special includes a lot of celebrity cameos. Did you call in favors or are these just willing friends that you’ve made by doing your shows over the years?
Everybody is somebody who’s seen my show and most of them are friends. You know, I would say they’re all friends. There are a lot of different kinds of people who come to see cabaret. The only cameo who I didn’t know very well was Susan Sarandon. She had just seen my show.
It’s funny because I knew I wanted to ask Pete [Peter Dinklage] to be in it at the end. And I was like “Who else should be in this? You know who would be great is Susan Sarandon and there’s probably no way she’ll say yes, but let me just ask.” I asked her and she was like, “That seems like a lot of fun!” My response was just “Really?” I couldn’t believe it because she’s like the ultimate sex symbol.
It was really cool because we shot the bit that we were gonna do and I was like, “I don’t know how you feel about this, but we have cans of whipped cream over there. Do you wanna…” [Bridget insinuated spraying whipped cream on her breasts] and they were like “Yeah, bring it on!” To have Susan Sarandon shooting whipped cream on my tits, it was like “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING WITH MY LIFE?” It was really great.
Susan Sarandon always seems very down to clown. She seems like a very chill lady.
I love that. “Down to clown.” I’ve never heard that before.
I unfortunately say it all the time.
I love it! I might even write a song called that.
Oh, god! Do it! I’d be thrilled.
“She’s down to cloooown. Down to clown. Enhhh!”
Ha! I was actually wondering about your songwriting process. Do you think, “I want to write a song about getting a dick in my mouth” and then you write it? Or does the music come first?
Usually it’s a hook idea or a song idea. I did a show years ago with Michael Patrick King and he told me, “Just keep a notebook and write down when you say something funny.” Cause I’m not really a prolific writer who can just sit down and write a script or whatever, you know? So I remember I was at work at my restaurant job and I was down in the changing room getting ready for work and I said to this guy, “Hey, what I gotta do to get that dick in my mouth?” And then I was like, “Oh, I gotta write that down! That’s a good song idea!” And we were just joking around. You know how you’re so inappropriate at your restaurant job.
Yeah, I’ve been a waitress before.
You’re always saying the most horrifying shit to each other, but that’s how you get through it. So yeah, that was how I wrote that. And all the guys in my band are great musicians and they each have different strengths. I wrote that song with Matt Ray, who plays the piano, and we were both laughing the whole time and that’s when you know it’s going to be fun. And my favorite thing about all the guys in the band is they really celebrate and embrace the ridiculousness. The more silly, weird, and bizarre, the more into it they are. Some people could think those ideas are dumb, but they love it. It’s awesome.
You seem like a very loyal performer in that you’ve had the same band—Bridget Everett & the Tender Moments—for a long time and you always mention the people who inspire you, people like [New York drag king] Murray Hill. Is maintaining that close community important to you?
It definitely is. That’s my family. Murray Hill was one of the first people to book me in New York. We became fast friends right away and Murray’s always been in my corner. He’s like my brother, you know what I mean? It’s the same thing with Champagne Jerry. Yeah, they just—we really rely on each other. And me, Murray, and Champagne Jerry—we have this thing called “Catch Club” where we go to the park, play catch, do drills and talk show biz. It’s the other side of it, the friend part of it.
That’s so sweet and wholesome!
I know, right?
I was reading an old Time Out interview with you where you talk about how you broke into the New York cabaret scene by doing karaoke.
That’s right! That is 100% correct, Madeleine. I’m glad you brought that up because I. love. karaoke. And it changed my life because I was down at [Manhattan karaoke bar] Sing Sing and I was singing—and I used to get on top of the bar, rip off my shirt and throw booze everywhere. And Jason Eagan—who’s the artistic director at Ars Nova—was there and he was like, “Hey, would you want to do a show? I have this new theater and it’s for up-and-coming artists.” I was like, “Fuck yeah, I would!” And so that’s where I started and it’s all because of karaoke.
Truth is, karaoke was like my lifeline. When I was waiting tables, it was my only outlet and way to sing. And singing things like—here comes another corny fucking bomb. Singing things like “The Love of My Life,” it’s the thing that makes me the happiest. So, yeah, when I was waiting tables and wasn’t being paid to sing, it was what kept me going. It was also just really fun. My friends and I went to this one karaoke bar every Sunday night for about seven years. We were down to clown!
You say this sarcastically in your special and this is going to sound very sycophantic, but you do have, as you say, “the voice of an angel.” Watching your show is total emotional roller coaster in that it’s very silly and then you do a ballad and suddenly I’m crying in the audience. Have you thought of ever doing Broadway? Or is the cabaret scene where you want to stay?
I moved to New York to be on Broadway and of course I’d love to do something like that, but on the flip side, I have a lot of friends on Broadway and those eight shows a week—it kind of feels like a prison term. You can’t do anything else. Your life is that. So unless—and I can’t even believe that I’m saying this—but unless it was the perfect thing, it’s probably not for me. But yeah, Broadway’s like, the ultimate. Of course I’d love to do that! But eight shows Christmas week, no more New Year’s Eve? All that stuff really matters to me.
I was reading your recent interview with Tyler Coates on Decider and in it you mention that you don’t think of yourself as a comic. I was introduced to you more through comedy than through music so that was really surprising to me!
Some of my closest friends are comics and they’re great! Like Amy Schumer is a fucking amazing comic and I think of that as something a little different than what I do. I think that I’m funny and my stories are funny, but if I got onstage without a song, I would feel paralyzed. I think of myself mostly as a singer and as a cabaret artist, but I guess that’s changing. I was doing a show last night and people were laughing a lot and I guess that means I’m a comic, too.
I don’t really have a real clear way of finding what category I exist in. I don’t know why I have that weird relationship with the word “comic.” Like I would never go into a bar and say, “Hi, my name is Bridget. I’m a comic.” I’d be like, “Hi, my name is Bridget. I’m a singer.” That’s more my thing.
And I guess that what you do is very much a product of the New York cabaret scene, which has always been a mix of music and comedy. So maybe you don’t need to define yourself as one or the other.
Yeah, but it helps when you’re on the line with some Hollywood honcho who’s like, “Well explain to me—what is it that you do?” and I’m like, “Uhhh.” Do I go with comic? No. I mean, I don’t think I’m not funny. I’m funny.
Just say, “I’m down to clown.”
I’m down to clown! That’s what I’m going to say from now on. “My name is Bridget and I’m down to clown. Do you get it now?”
“You’re in the picture, kid!” So back to karaoke. What are your current go-to karaoke songs?
I have three in tight rotation. The classics “Piece of My Heart” and “You Oughta Know.” But I also love “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. It’s such a good song. And you can still make it interactive! You wouldn’t think it, but you can.
Totally. I am not a great singer, but I use karaoke to pretend like I am, so I understand.
Yeeeeeah. What’s your song?
Oh, god, It’s so dorky. I love “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story. Very rock and roll.
That one has a lot of anticipation! That’s a hot karaoke song right there.
I guess. I mean, I also spit chardonnay everywhere while doing it, so it’s preeeetty in line with what you do. Anyway, karaoke rules.
Ooh! One thing I almost forgot to bring up is how, when I first saw you perform, you came out wearing only a white blazer with sort of a Madonna “Like a Virgin” style skirt and having not seen your act before, I was like, “Oh, my god. Her boobs are totally going to fall out of her shirt” and I was really nervous for the first few moments until I realized, “Ohhh, that’s exactly what she wants to happen.”
Haha! That blazer is really touch and go. That last button is clinging to life.
That’s such a freeing part of your show! It’s like, “My tit just fell out! Who cares!”
Yeah, to me it’s like, they’re just tits! Usually at the beginning of the show, I say, “Am I wearing a bra? Nope. Don’t need one.”
I remember when my mom would come home from work, she would walk through the door, put the keys in the jar, and then take off her bra, in that order. The most comfortable I am is not wearing shoes and not wearing a bra and having a glass of wine in my hand, so I just try to get there as fast as I can while I’m onstage.
Like you said before, “they’re just tits!” And by the end of your show, the audience is sort of like, “Boobs, whatever!” which is…kind of…the ultimate feminism? Sorry, I’m trying to put the worst, most ham-fisted Jezebel spin on this.
It’s funny. I sing this song called “Titties” and I was doing it one night and there was this table that was empty. Halfway through the song, I’m out in the house, I turn around and there was somebody sitting there. I go to make fun of them because they were late and it was Gloria Steinem! I was like, “HOLY SHIT.” I just stopped in the middle of the song and was like, oh shit, oh shit, just staring at her. I was like, “What is Gloria Steinem gonna think of all this?” I normally don’t give a shit what people think, but, you know, Gloria Steinem—she’s the one.
Imagining Gloria Steinem singing along to “What I Gotta Do to Get That Dick in My Mouth” is mind-boggling.
I know! Before I sang that, I turned to Gloria and was like, “Okay, Gloria, earmuffs!” She loved the show and embraced it and that to me is one of the best things that ever happened.
I can’t fathom it. That’s just crazy.
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Image via Ali Goldstein/Comedy Central.