Our Hit Parade
Downtown artists hit the pop charts-hard.
Tue Sep 22 2009
(L-R) Mellman, Medlyn and Everett
Photograph: Erica Beckman
On the last Wednesday of every month, the raunchy, surprising, totally fabulous Our Hit Parade tramps through Joe’s Pub in a spirit of wild celebration. Louchely inspired by the 1950s TV program Your Hit Parade, the show invites a shifting group of artists—from stars like Moby to downtown freaks and child actors—to interpret the top pop songs of the day. Hosted by Kenny Mellman, Neal Medlyn and Bridget Everett, this is a show in which anything and everything goes.
Kenny Mellman is best known as the dilapidated pianist in the late punk-cabaret duo Kiki & Herb, but his talents extend well beyond the Herb garden. At OHP, he often provides a melancholy counterpoint to the zaniness, singing darkly to his own demented, gorgeously complex accompaniment. “It’s easy to write a slapstick arrangement,” he says. “But the show is more interesting if there’s a bit of sincerity.”
Key song: A bruised-up medley of Kanye West’s “Street Lights” and Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”
Neal Medlyn is in on the joke, but don’t tell him that. A conceptual comic and performance artist in the Andy Kaufman vein, the garishly bespectacled Medlyn combines balls-out antics—literally, given his propensity for nudity—with insouciant enthusiasm and self-confidence. An idiosyncratic icon of geek chic, he’s a hipster without the smugness.
Key song: Miley Cyrus’s “Wake Up America,” performed in a thong made of candy necklaces—ripped off for the number’s climax.
Bridget Everett is Green Lantern--level fearless. A formidable blond with a booming rock voice, she knows no limits in her commitment to outrageousness. (After Medlyn tore the candy from his crotch, she had an audience member eat it off hers.) But what makes her so thrilling to watch is the vulnerability that she injects into the exhibitionism, like the sweet filling in a decadent bonbon.
Key song: Cyrus’s “The Climb,” culminating in an erotic encounter with the central pillar at Joe’s Pub.
Here are some of the performers who march to Our Hit Parade’s different drum.
Big-belting old-school cabarettist Molly Pope gives edge to her Ed Sullivan Show verve with sharp dramatic renditions of tunes you wouldn’t expect to be up her stylistic alley.
Key song: The 3OH!3 ho-down “Don’t Trust Me,” squealed out in cheerful vaudeville baby-doll mode.
When an OHP show needs a booster shot, it can rely on the high-octane goofiness of the extremely excitable, Up with People--style mock troupe known as the Varsity Interpretive Dance Squad.
Key song: Estelle’s “American Boy,” complete with absurd audience dance-along.
Bizarre, character-shifting performance artist Erin Markey is so totally out there that she fits in perfectly with the OHP aesthetic.
Key song: A funny-creepy version of Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex,” performed in the diaper, bonnet, bib and voice of a newborn baby.
“Caburlesque” star Lady Rizo appears regularly at Joe’s Pub with her girlie group, the Assettes. At OHP, she brings real chops and retro-chanteuse glamour to the table.
Key song: A highly dramatic musical reading of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” culminating in a knife fight.
Best known for his leading role as a gay teen on Showtime’s Queer as Folk, Randy Harrison also has a surprisingly strong and sweet tenor voice.
Key song: Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You,” reimagined as a choirboy’s confession to a priest.
A specialist in the rarefied art of live video editing, Myles Kane helps redefine the concept of the VJ, using his computer as a visual turntable.
Key song: Drake’s horny-romantic “Best I Ever Had,” ironically juxtaposed with a shifting array of wedding imagery.
An expert vocal coach who specializes in wrangling child performers, Trapper Felides brings flocks of young lambs to help cut through the raunchiness.
Key song: A medley of Jackson 5 hits, performed by six adorable preteen vocalists, which brought the cynical Our Hit Parade crowd to its feet.
An unlikely mix of Paul Lynde, Chris Rock and Sam Kinison, Creation Nation demiurge Billy Eichner has a savagely skewed love-hate relationship with pop culture, channeling his gay rage into raucous comic rants.
Key song: A surreal Yiddish translation of Rihanna’s “Disturbia.”
Our Hit Parade plays Joe’s Pub on Wednesday 30.