Is there anything more in-your-face than queer comics playing hemorrhoids on the asshole of a certain orange-hued politician? Oh, yeah! Sign me up for this!!
Let’s face it; we could all use a good laugh these days. And if that laugh comes at the expense of our society of self-involvement, self-important idiots, and information overload, then so much the better!
In their recent run of shows at Joe’s Pub, Unitard, a queer-tastic, no-holds-barred comedy group, skewers the very elements of modern life that work our last nerves! In the show, entitled “Tard Core - There Are No Safe Words,” their targets are varied and many, and no one escapes unscathed - not even Joe’s Pub!
Unitard are Mike Albo, Nora Burns, and David Ilku, who’ve been performing their edgy brand of gay-tinged sketch comedy for the last 15 years. They each have impressive credentials - Burns is a founding member of both Unitard and The Nellie Olsons, Albo is a former columnist for the New York Times, as well as a novelist and actor, and Ilku is one half of the fabulous Dueling Bankheads. Together and as solo artists, they’ve played across the US and Canada, with performances in the Toronto based LGBT comedy festival We’re Funny That Way, as well as the Aspen Comedy Festival, and the SF Sketchfest in San Francisco. They’ve racked up performances at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and The Maui Cultural Center in Hawaii, not to mention venues in Seattle, Provincetown, and of course Los Angeles and New York.
I have to confess, I had never heard of Unitard, and having worked as a technical director for many sketchy sketch comedy groups over the years, I was a little leery. Still, the elegant, multi-tiered room was packed and the vibe in the house was energetic and fun. The minute the show began, all my doubts were swept away, and I found myself laughing loudly - maybe a bit too loudly - at their takedowns of the awful, douchey people and situations we all encounter in New York City.
The show began innocently enough, with the three comics portraying a slightly over the hill folk singing group, strumming guitars and singing, rather non melodiously, about “white lady problems” and millennials; some of it to the tune of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Soon, though, they went wonderfully rogue, biting the hand that was feeding them, so to speak, and gave us a protest song about the $18 glasses of wine at Joe’s Pub. This became a running gag throughout the show, getting bigger laughs with each mention! I mean, how can you not love a comedy group that playfully thumbs its nose at the very venue they’re playing?
As the evening went along, they took pot shots at pretentious pop-up shops - My pop-up shop is only open on alternate Tuesdays... or My pop-up shop only sells white things. That led into a bit about standing in those hellish, ridiculous lines for trendy crap like cookie dough served as ice cream, the dreaded Cronut, or even an $18 glass of wine!
We met a young lady attending a meeting of Updater’s Anonymous - an organization for social media addicts, and a German artist in Berlin, amazed at the rise of freedom in Germany...and Fascism in the US! Then, of course, there were the hemorrhoids - Burns, Ilku and Albo all in red, hooded rain ponchos, horrified to see what their “host” was eating next!
While I enjoyed the entire show, I felt the funniest, most cohesive material was found in the middle of the show. We got a QVC show featuring designer Isaac Isaacson (Ilku, doing a biting send up of Mizrahi), and a look at some Russian hackers peeking into the White House bathroom to see Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon doing unspeakable things - Oh, and they want to find out more about a certain club that charges $18 for a glass of wine! Two of my favorite pieces involved a telecast of the Narcissist Olympics, featuring the reigning champion, Heather Me, who is given a variety of challenges to see how well she takes any situation and makes it about herself, and a sketch about two gay men in a polyamorous relationship - an “opes relaysh” as they call it, and their couples therapist who placates them while giving us the truth: “I think they’re disgusting. They don’t shower!” One of the biggest laughs of the night came at the expense of one of the “ruiners”, those rich, obnoxious types that come out of nowhere and ruin the city. In this case, my favorite was a woman who proclaimed “I moved to New York to be an actress, but then my soul fell out and now I’m in real estate.”
Much of what made the show so enjoyable was the timeliness of the material. With political protests getting so much attention, it seemed natural that they’d play protesters - except with Unitard, each insurgent thinks their cause is more important than the others. There was an Ann Coulter phone sex commercial that was evil...and very funny, and a bit involving Albo as the Academy Award envelope handler who became too star-struck to do his job properly. Another brilliant sketch involved two parents watching their kids on a playground, each certain that their child was more gender-nonconformist than the other - they’re SO non-binary that they don’t even respond to traditional names: one goes by “Zzz” and the other by “Mmm.”
In a show that featured many “bests,” Albo, Burns, and Ilku still managed to save one of the best moments for last: A parody of “Hey Big Spender” with all three of them longing for the many fancy foods they can only get at a certain market where one can easily spend their WHOLE paycheck!
So, are you fed up with seeing stupidity and greed being celebrated in the media? Are you anxious and depressed about the state our country’s in? Do people, in general, just piss you off? Do you need to laugh it all off? Unitard can help!
Unitard will appear at Joe’s Pub June 28th and July 26th at 7 pm
For information, go to www.joespub.com or www.unitardcomedy.com