Alan Cumming

Scottish performer, foreskin champion.

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You’re taking your cabaret show uptown to the swanky Feinstein’s. Will audiences there appreciate all your talk about circumcision?
I don’t expect many of them will think they’re gonna get genital mutilation along with a Stephen Sondheim number, but that’s what I’m gonna do. I came [to America] and I realized how many people were circumcised, and not for any reasons that anyone could give me—besides that it’s cleaner, which is such a ridiculous idea. I mean, if that’s your logic, then you should cut off your ear because you might get earwax in it. I was shocked by how little people understood what a real uncut penis is. They would point at my penis like it was this strange, exotic animal: “I’ve never seen one like that. What does it do?” Right now, with my friend Francis Hill, who’s a really good photographer, we’re doing a book of people getting photographed with turtleneck sweaters, to raise money and to raise awareness.

You recently became an American citizen. Do you feel different somehow?
Hmm. I guess so, yeah. I definitely do. I sort of feel more justified to be so vocal about my opinions about America. I start the show now with a new song that Lance Horne wrote called “American.”

Do you find yourself resenting it when foreigners criticize America?
A little bit, yeah. But it’s more complex now because the whole sensibility of how America’s perceived has changed so radically with Obama being in. So it’s a little old-hat to just be, Oh, you know, stupid Americans. But there are stupid Americans too, just as there are stupid people everywhere.

In your performances and general demeanor, you usually project a fairly chipper attitude. Does that come naturally to you?
I’m quite a positive person, but I’m also proactive. If there are things that aren’t making me feel chipper, I’ll do something about them—change them. I think that’s quite an American thing too. I suppose I’ve realized that there are things about me that are more connected to the American spirit than I realized.

Well, you also always manage to seem very youthful.
You wouldn’t say that right now, if you saw me with my gray hair. I’ve stopped coloring my hair. I’ve got it growing really long. I quite like it, actually. I’m embracing my inner middle-aged man. I’m 45, so officially middle-aged, I would say. This is what I did for my birthday: I had a Tupperware party. I think staying youthful is just kind of like being in the moment and engaging and not feeling you’ve got to be a certain way. That doesn’t mean I’ll be going to clubs when I’m 75—but I just think it’s really important to not deny yourself possibilities because you are a certain age. I have friends who are 96, and friends who are 19, and I think that’s actually helpful too. Just kind of stick to your guns and be interested in what you’re interested in.

Which of your movies did you have the most fun making?
Well, Spice World was just such a laugh. I think it’s hilarious, the pastiche of all those sort of band films. And I just had such great fun. I was back in London for a whole summer with the Spice Girls when they were at the height of their craziness—just going to work every day with these amazing girls who were such a laugh.

There was a period where I felt like every time we saw you onstage we saw your naked butt.
Lucky you!

There were something like four or five shows in a row. Even in your Nol Coward play on Broadway, it was like, all of a sudden—hey! Alan Cumming’s butt!
That was just a phase. I don’t know why it became this sort of thing. I’m really not someone who goes around just pulling their pants down. That’s not my thing at all. But sometimes work calls for it.

How much did you have to do with the aroma design of the Cumming cologne?
Quite a lot. You know, the nose guy, Christopher, and I sat down and...you just know what you like, and sort of approve things. Obviously I left it to the professionals. But the ingredients were all smells that I liked. So you start there and then you kind of find a blend.

What are the major elements in that smell?
There’s like...peat. Leather. Burnt rubber was one. And whiskey. The sweetness is from—oh, what do you call it?—bergamot.

What adjective are you most bored of seeing used in descriptions of you?
I hate the word flamboyant. I think that’s mildly homophobic, actually. I mean, nobody uses the word flamboyant unless they mean gay. And I’m not actually flamboyant.

It’s kind of a fancier way of saying flaming, really.
Flaming. Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I don’t like that. When I get flamboyant, it’s always from some fuddy-duddy newspaper or something. And I got very tired of the frolicking pansexual sex symbol for the new millennium. But you know, it could be worse.

So how would you like to be described?
I don’t know...I don’t know what I would like. Sorted out, maybe.

Sorted out? Like well-organized? Well put-together?
Yeah. Just like, got it together. Like that.

Cumming plays Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency through Sat 1, then returns June 22--26.

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