Bridget Everett: Mother Warned You About Girls Like Her
She's loud, brash, crude and often foul-mouthed. In her act, she's been known to grope her female audience members and motorboat the men while swigging, spilling and spitting chardonnay. Her canon of original songs includes numerous tunes about body parts, with titles like "Titties," "Canhole" and "What I Gotta Do (To Get This Dick In My Mouth?)." She is the epitome of the kind of girl your mother warned you to stay away from, and the gays can't seem to get enough of her.
Alt-cabaret sensation Bridget Everett has the body of a Rubens nude, the voice of an angel singing the blues and the mouth of a merchant marine. Her ribald audience banter is often accompanied by spontaneous semi-nudity, alarming sexuality and songs with lyrics that could make John Waters blush. So far, this tactic has earned her a loyal audience made up of hip downtowners and A-list celebrities, a new album, steady gigs at Joe's Pub, a recent performance at Carnegie Hall with no less than the legendary Patti LuPone, and appearances on Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer.
"Honestly, the feedback has been pretty positive as far as being a big girl who is sort of sexually aggressive, but I've also been underground for a long time. I consider my audience to be more of a cult following," said Everett in a recent interview with EDGE.
She admits that as a big girl singing at clubs and performing offbeat comedy acts at comedy festivals, some people are unsure of how to peg her. Her strategy has been just to keep doing what she loves and it will all work itself out.
Her larger-than-life, outrageous and shocking stage persona is what initially grabs her audience, but the core of her act is the voice.
Critics have often compared Everett's voice to Janis Joplin and Bette Midler, both of whom she counts among her influences along with Freddy Mercury, Michael Jackson, Prince, Debbie Harry, Steve Perry from Journey, and the late opera diva Maria Callas.
Put ’Em In The Air
EDGE recently caught her singing "Titties" at a show hosted by "the hardest working man in showbiz," drag king Murray Hill. The ditty is a celebratory ode to the varied sizes and shapes of the female appendages. Everett explained the genesis of the song.
"Murray and I and some other performers play ball in McCarren Park with this group called Catch Club; it’s just a way for us to chill out and talk showbiz while we play," said Everett. "So I’m out there with my backup band member Adam Horovitz [Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys], and I’m telling him about a song I’m thinking of, singing, ’You’ve got those little nippy titties, put ’em up.’ I said to him, ’I think it’s ridiculous,’ and he says, ’I think it sounds like a hit.’ I was in a place where I needed someone to give me permission to embrace the ridiculous shit in my brain, and he encouraged it."
Everett remembered how her brother used to refer to their mother’s breasts as "beavertail titties." After her mom got breast cancer [Everett said she is now fine], the song became a tribute to her.
"It’s a celebration for both women and men, for different body types," she said. "Every time I sing it, I go around the audience singing about what kind of titties I think they have, and it’s so much fun. It’s like a party."
Evolution of an Act
It took Everett a while to figure out her voice as an artist; when she started performing 15 years ago, she just sang songs and acted wild. Eventually, she realized that she wanted to create and sing her own songs. Her act has evolved over time to become less generic bawdiness and more a reflection of her life and experiences.
"I have a lot of different sides, and I’m oversensitive. I find some things funny, but the greatest love of my life is singing and music," said Everett. "I’m a funny girl who likes to drink chardonnay and motorboat people and take off my clothes; but humor comes from pain, and I have to cut the sweet. Music continually saves my life."
Over the years, Everett’s presentation has also evolved. When she started, she used to perform in pants and a bustier. As she self-admittedly said, "I have no fashion sense or style."
But one night while performing the song "Canhole," which she wrote with Kenny Mellman of Kiki and Herb fame [the duo, with Justin Vivian Bond, that she considers her ne plus ultra inspiration ever], she unbuttoned her pants and they fell down, leaving her wearing only panties and a vest.
"I just kept going, and I felt 100 percent more powerful and in control than I ever had before," said Everett. "I’d been screaming for people to listen, and I think partial nudity on a big girl is one way to get people’s attention. Not that I feel I need to take my clothes off, but when I do, the beast is unleashed. It ignites a fire, and I feel like I’m an alternate-universe, superhero version of myself."
Everett has since taken to wearing flowing, revealing dresses crafted by her friend Larry Krone of House of Larréon, who makes all of his and his sister’s costumes.
"He has a total understanding of me as a person and a performer, and we often talk about ideas he comes up with," she explained, saying that Krone always designs her dresses to show her breasts or crotch, but that "most importantly, he dresses me in a way we both think is flattering, a little funny and that echoes the ridiculousness of the show, with pretty fabrics and crazy, off-the-wall shit."
After observing the joyful freedom of big burlesque stars like Dirty Martini, Everett said that although her body wasn’t what everyone was used to seeing, that’s what she has -- and what her queer audience members love.
Moving Up But Staying Down
Throughout the years, Everett has expanded her following. From a core cult crew of queers, she has attracted a broad range of 20-something girls, he-men in their 40s, and even some teenagers, which she said, "freaks me out a little."
She has culled this variety of fans via a wide range of performances. She went on tour with comedian Amy Schumer, whom she met on a plane to the Montreal Comedy Fest and on whose Comedy Central show she sang "Titties." She performs in New York City with queer artists like Murray Hill and Neal Medlyn, who she calls "giant stars."
And she recently sang with the legendary Patti LuPone at Carnegie Hall in November 2013, after her friend Scott Wittman [LuPone’s cabaret director] brought the famed singer to one of Everett’s shows at La MaMa and La LuPone liked what she saw.
"She came up to me afterwards and was so complimentary," Everett remembers. "I told Scott to tell her I wanted to sing with her sometime, and so a few months later, she sang with me at Joe’s Pub. Later, she called me and asked how I’d feel about doing a song with her at Carnegie Hall. ’I’d feel fucking great about it!’ I said. So I sang with her, and she brought me out again and said all this nice stuff about me. I adore her, and I am really hoping there is more in store for me and her."
Although Everett can sometimes be found waiting tables at a New York restaurant (she needs the gig for the health insurance, she says), she now makes the lion’s share of her earnings from performing. Her new album, Pound It, was released in the fall; she just recorded her first music video for the song "What I Gotta Do"; and her monthly show continues to run at Joe’s Pub in New York City’s Public Theater.
Everett is currently helping Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman organize a show there in the spring. She confided that she is also working on a TV show with Horovitz and Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, with Medlyn and Hill in the mix.
"My friends represent all different kinds of people that you wouldn’t normally see on TV," said Everett. "They are inspiring and funny, unique and totally themselves. They’re my best friends, but also my inspiration. With this community of people around me all working together, this is the happiest I’ve ever been."
For more information, follow Bridget Everett on Facebook at facebook.com/bridget.everett.37