Sunday night I caught a show that reminded me of why I live in New York. Oh I know, there are many good reasons to live here, but once in a while you see something that's so demented, so unpredictable, so plain fun that it just nails you to your seat. And on Sunday, it was the beta-testing of Our Hit Parade, a new revue orchestrated by the brain trust of Kenny Mellman, Bridget Everett and Neal Medlyn at the Zipper, with the goal of making it a monthly event in ’09.
The concept is deadly simple and deadly great: A bunch of downtown performers go through the Top Ten hits of the moment. Actually, they took some liberties because Amy Winehouse's "Valerie" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" are a little old by now, and I'm pretty sure Riskay's "Smell Yo Dick" didn't make it to the Top 1,000. But whatevs: the general idea is sound, and the execution was nothing short of awesome.
Let's get the dud—yes, there was only one, which is a pretty amazing batting average by any standard—out of the way first. Jonny "the Gay Pimp" McGovern's rewrite of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" bombed. Changing the lyrics is cheating, and if you're going to do it anyway, you'd better be funny—and the Gay Pimp just wasn't. Next!
It's hard to beat Everett for sheer audacity. Everytime I think "Oh no she won't," she just does. Is there anything this woman is afraid to do to a song and to an audience? Off went the clothes, because it's so much more comfortable to sing in a bra and thong, especially when you're going on and on about coming home at 5am and sniffing something funky (see ref. to Riskay above). And especially when you're doing it while thrusting your crotch in the face of a guy sitting in the front row. At another point, Everett orchestrated a giveaway in which audience members won CDs by eating candy up from her tongue and then from her self-described cooch.
It's worth mentioning that a few minutes earlier, said candy had been strung together to form a jolly penis pouch for Neal Medlyn, his stage attire for his performance of Miley Cyrus's "Wake Up America." I guess that's what the fearless candy-eaters were smelling, as Riskay would say. Medlyn is so comfortable being nude—or just wearing candy—on stage that he looks weird in a suit.
My shortcomings in the dancing department (even, sadly, chair-dancing) were glaringly obvious during the Varsity Interpretive Dance Squad's genius take on Estelle's "American Boy." They drilled the entire crowd through the interpretive routine we would do during the chorus and while it was pretty basic, I have no muscle memory and could not remember the sequence—being distracted by the VIDS' own moves on stage didn't help either. With my pathetic exception, however, the entire audience rose to the challenge.
Another highlight was Molly Pope's saucy cover of "I Kissed a Girl." The deceivingly demure-looking Pope has real pipes (check out the videos on her site) but she also knows how to interpret a song. She completely reinvented the meaning behind Katy Perry's words without changing them (note to Gay Pimp: that's how it's done), turning an exploitative ditty into a carefree, sexy awakening.
It may have been freezing cold outside, but at the Zipper, we were all basking in the warmth of entertainment magic.