- CHARITY BENEFIT
Written & Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons
At her July 30 show at 54 Below, Lea DeLaria informed the crowd that she learned how to sing jazz from her father, a jazz pianist in St. Louis who liked to show his talented little daughter off to his friends. That might explain her visceral sense of the blues and her amazing ability to scat. But it doesn’t reveal the source of her marvelous sense of humor, which kept a reviewer like me (who is not a particular fan of stand-up) in stitches the whole evening.
DeLaria, who in 1993 became the first openly gay comic to be featured on late-night talk-shows when she appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, has performed stand-up comedy for over 25 years. She has also been a presence on Broadway and in film. But what makes DeLaria truly unique on the cabaret scene is the way she integrates music into her comedy routine.
The singer is backed by a tremendous jazz combo (Aaron Kimmel on drums, Joshua Richman on piano and Dylan Shamat on bass). She often interacts with the musicians (as well as the audience) and even gets the guys a round of drinks.
A self-proclaimed “Fucking Dyke,” Delaria holds no punches, in either her foul-mouthed comedy or her full-throated rendition of songs that range from the traditional “Welcome to My Party” to the raunchy “My Cat Fell in the Well.” Dressed in jeans, a knitted vest and bow tie, with a large, colorful hanky hanging out of her back pocket, DeLaria does a juicy and ironic version of “I Enjoy Being a Girl.”
DeLaria is an excellent raconteur with a terrific ability to communicate with her audience – men and women, gay and straight, and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Her story of her adventure with her partner (whom she calls her “traveling companion” in the style of a Jane Austen novel) in the Loehmann’s changing room is a hilarious tale of pluck, irony and provocation.
The comedienne can be ruthless with others, but is equally unflinching on herself. “Inside this bulldyke body beats the heart of a vicious queer,” she declares. But by the end of the show, the true Lea DeLaria is revealed in all her glory: a very warm, funny and fun-loving woman with a unique perspective on life, love and sexuality. www.54Below.com