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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bridget Everett Is a Face-Sitting, Dildo-Wielding, Alt-Cabaret Provocateur

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 4:01 AM

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C.S. MUNCY
  • C.S. Muncy

Fuck yeah, I want to do that!" Everett remembers answering. Walking home one autumn afternoon in 2012 from her coffee joint on the Upper West Side, she received a phone call from Joe's Pub director Shanta Thake offering her a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Back home, Everett sat with the idea. She'd have to write a whole new show, and she didn't know if she had it in her. She started, she says, "to shit my pants."

"Sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself, and then I get a writer's block," Everett acknowledges. "I think everybody does that, but I never would have written a new show if I didn't get a grant. I'm always someone who's like, 'Book it, and then do it!' "

Along with financial backing, the NEA grant provided Everett an opportunity to partner with collaborators of her choosing, and they turned out to be a couple of industry heavy hitters. Five-time Oscar nominee and Emmy-winning songwriter Marc Shaiman — who has worked on Saturday Night Live, numerous Academy Awards telecasts and 70-plus films — was enlisted, as was his partner, Scott Wittman, whose directorial credits extend to the 1970s and include live shows starring Bette Midler, Martin Short and Dame Edna. Together, Shaiman and Wittman won a Best Original Score Tony and Best Musical Show Grammy for Hairspray.

Rock Bottom is an entirely different beast than Everett's regular gig. The show arrives less than a year after the Tender Moments — bassist Horovitz, pianist Matt Ray, guitarist Mike Jackson and drummer Carmine Covelli — released its debut album, Pound It, on Everett's own Beavertails Music. (The label name nods to a line from "Titties": "You got them little nippy titties/Put 'em in the air/She got them tube-sock titties/She put 'em in the air/I got these beavertail titties/Put 'em in the air/Put 'em up, put 'em up, put 'em up!")

"She's a great singer, she writes really great songs, and she's an amazing performer," says Horovitz, who co-produced Pound It and contributed the Rock Bottom rhythm tracks alongside Ray's piano compositions. "[But she's] not necessarily a perfectionist. As long as the vocals are right and the feeling of the song is how she wanted to portray it, she's not necessarily detail-oriented. [It's] more broad strokes. In music and in her life."

Like At Least It's Pink, co-written by Mellman and former Sex and the City honcho Michael Patrick King, Rock Bottom's narrative is both autobiographical and inordinately graphic.

"If they can get over the shock of many of the elements of it, her compassion and her humanity really comes through," says Shaiman. "And that's what makes all the greats great."

Wittman lists Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as multiple Grammy- and Tony winner LuPone, among those who have been taken with Everett's dynamic performances. "Everyone I've brought [to see Everett perform] has fallen in love with her," he enthuses.

LuPone was smitten from the first time she saw Everett perform. "When she came out in her underwear and everybody screamed, it wasn't in shock, but it was in great appreciation," LuPone says. "Then she opened her mouth, and I couldn't believe what came out of her throat. When I went backstage, I said, 'You've got a lot of guts and a great voice!' And that was the beginning of our friendship."

Her relationship with LuPone is hardly an exception, as Everett possesses a demonstrable knack for winning over fellow artists. She and Schumer became friends after sharing the same flight and hotel shuttle heading to the 2010 Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. The industry-heavy pressure cooker unnerved Everett to the point that she wanted to hide out in her hotel room.

"It's hard for me to hang out with comics sometimes, because everyone is so rapid-fire and everybody's so funny," she shrugs. "And I'm not really like that in person." (Wittman concurs, describing Everett as "a schoolteacher" offstage.)

But she and Schumer, then a rising standup, bonded over a shared love of Chardonnay. Everett appreciated the JFL vet serving as a wingman in unfamiliar territory; Schumer identified a kindred spirit.

Schumer soon asked Everett to open a run of shows at Atlanta's Punchline Comedy Club. "She's my favorite live performer, and I think that she changes people's lives when they see her perform," Schumer says. "So I want people to see her. If I have any say, she will be a household name."

Everett worried her cabaret sensibilities wouldn't translate to the world of mainstream comedy rooms. Schumer saw things differently: "I couldn't follow her [onstage]!" she says.

"No one can follow her! It was like, 'She'll make me raise my game. She'll make me work so hard to go on after her.'"

Schumer asked Everett to open roughly two dozen road dates throughout 2012 and 2013. They've also vacationed together, including a trip to New Orleans that Schumer calls "the fucking best time." Schumer now considers Everett one of her best friends.

Everett soon moved on to headlining comedy clubs herself. "It's really blown things wide open for me," Everett admits. "The cabaret world has limited options where you can go do your thing, so I was happy that she put me on that path."

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