My favorite thing about seeing Bridget Everett’s show Rock Bottom at Joe’s Pub was tracking the various elements that Charles Isherwood was unable to cite in his rave review in the New York Times. Such as the title of her second number, “Does This Dick Make My Ass Look Big?” A reference to “finger-banging” whizzed by, along with something about a “bloody little rectum.” She mentioned that she has two sisters: “one’s dead, one’s a cunt, both are single.” And Isherwood never said anything about Everett’s lengthy story about an erotic overnight with a movie star, the morning after which she woke up aware that “my mouth smelled like Liza Minnelli after she went down on Kathleen Turner.”
Everett is a big hefty gal with a deceptively middle-American innocent face, blonde hair, blue eyes, operatic training, good chops, a dirty mind, a filthy mouth, and equal amounts of comfort with inhabiting her fleshy body and rubbing it (sometimes literally) in the audience’s face. She does very little to cover up her enormous jugs. Her persona combines Bette Midler’s Sophie Tucker impersonation with Amy Schumer’s sweet/shocking demeanor, with a scantily clad bow in the direction of Justin Bond. (In an interview with Artforum, Everett mentions Kiki and Herb as a major influence.)
She’ll say and do anything. She stashed two bottles of Chardonnay onstage and swigged from them continuously throughout the show, spitting the corks into the audience and occasionally spraying the front row with a mouthful of vino. She suggested that her drinking helps her combat her social anxiety: “If I have 8 to 10 alcoholic units, I come out of my shell.” But she was clearly taught by experts. A reminiscence of home life began with Mom “listening to Manilow and getting shit-faced. Just before she blacked out, she’d say, ‘Get in the car, we’re going for a ride,’” usually to spy on Everett’s father and his new girlfriend.
Her material is nothing if not edgy. (The songs were written mostly by Everett with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, of Hairspray fame, with additional contributions from Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, who plays in Everett’s band, and Matt Ray. They’re not credited individually, but I assume that any song with the word “dick” in the title came from Shaiman and Wittman.) A story about terminating numerous pregnancies led to a song from the point of view of a month-old fetus; halfway through, Everett was joined onstage by a skinny boy naked except for a diaper and a stocking-cap singing “Let Me Live.”
The audience was an unlikely mixture of gays and straights, young and old. A hetero couple up front apparently talked so incessantly for the first half of the show that Everett stopped and told them to leave – a first, she said, and clearly unnerving even to her. Sitting next to me (in the back, safely out of range of Everett’s aggressive audience interaction) were four gals in their twenties who laughed loudly when Everett said, “Some of you may recognize me from the Hamptons…”
I always cringe when female cabaret performers come on sexually to obviously gay audience members. I guess I’ve never forgotten sitting ringside at a cabaret performance when Nell Carter shoved my face into her capacious bosom, which felt only humiliating to me. So I watched with some disapproval as Everett bore down on a shy theater queen I know from my gym, who gave every evidence of wanting to disappear under the table. She approached another guy in the audience commenting about his letterman jacket (it actually said Ptown on the back, which doesn’t have any varsity sports teams as far as I know) and tried to get him to lick a line of whipped cream off of her inner thigh. He was rescued by a 22-year-old girl named Phoebe who was sitting nearby with her parents and cheerfully simulated eating pussy.
Everett’s finale involves dancing with an audience member and then bringing him up onstage, laying him down, and sitting on his face. At this performance, she started out dancing with Phoebe, but before long she swapped her out for an enthusiastic Englishman named Paul. Apparently, she couldn’t in good conscience sit on a 22-year-old girl’s face onstage with her parents watching. “Maybe if she was 25…”