Bridget Everett is larger than life


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One day in June in Romeoville, Illinois, a small town outside of Chicago, an HBO crew encountered an unexpected obstacle: smoke billowing from a crematorium. The new series “Somebody Somewhere” was set in a funeral home, and the smoke had pissed off a lighting designer. After a few catches, another oxidizing force entered the room. “No. 1 is here,” the assistant director announced. “Everyone’s behaving better.” Number 1 on the call sheet was Bridget Everett, the 49-year-old actress, singer and, as she loves, Describing herself as a “regionally acclaimed cabaret singer.” Everett is the star of “Somebody Somewhere,” which premieres this month and is largely based on her life and hometown of Manhattan, Kansas.

Everett isn’t known for sticking to her best demeanor, or even her best demeanor. In her live shows, which she and her band, the Tender Moments, perform regularly at Joe’s Pub, the Public Theater’s cabaret, she prowls audiences in skimpy and outrageous outfits, drinking Chardonnay from a bottle and burying faces. spectators in his chest. Traditionally, she ends the show by picking a man from the crowd and sitting on his face.

Everything about Everett is vast: her pipes (she studied opera singing in college), her libido, her stage presence and her body, which she uses as gelignite to set off a willful frenzy in a crowd. In a signature song, she sings, “What do I have to do to get that cock in my mouth?” then blackmail everyone. She talks about botched sex, abortions after botched sex, drunk blackouts, the many varieties of “boobs”, her genitals, her parents’ genitals, the genitals of her spectators, but this he is too happy to feel particularly transgressive. Her voluptuous sexuality is less a weapon than an invitation to feel as uninhibited as she is. Years ago, in a phone interview – she called me from a nude beach, where she was hanging out with Amy Schumer – she described her stage character as “a crazy maniac who doesn’t kiss. enough, then I’ve got to put my energy somewhere. In his 2015 Comedy Central special, “Gynecological Wonder,” Everett throws himself into the audience, pours a glass of water over a spectator’s bald head , then thrust his fingers into his mouth, singing: “I’m coming for you”.

The alternative cabaret scene is not your typical path to stardom, but Everett has many influential admirers. Patti LuPone once stood up in the middle of a performance at Joe’s Pub and shouted, “There is anybody like you. ”She then invited Everett to do a duet with her at Carnegie Hall, and the two are now developing a Broadway double act titled“ Knockouts. ”Schumer featured Everett on her sketch show“ Inside Amy Schumer ”and the ‘took her on comedy tours, not opening act but closing. “I couldn’t keep up with her,” Schumer tells me. On stage, Everett drifts through meandering, half-melancholy accounts of her dysfunctional childhood ( her mother is a recovering alcoholic and her father was largely absent) on sultry ballads. It’s a hot mess that has total control over a room.

“Somebody Somewhere” forced Everett to close Pandora’s Box, only to gradually reopen it. She plays a more withdrawn version of herself named Sam, an alleged diva trapped in a small American town. She had come to the funeral home in her capacity as executive producer. A team member asked him to choose between two sachets of fake jar candies, one orange and red and the other green and yellow. The next day, she would film a scene in which her friends meet for poker and food. “I’m leaning towards these,” she said, choosing orange and red. When a showrunner told her about the crematorium delay, she let out a cry. “Oh, my God,” she said. “Just a day in the life.”

After watching a few takes, she introduced me to the director of photography, a woman. “In the good old days you used to say, ‘I like having that pussy power behind the camera,’ but now you’d just say, ‘I like having that feminine energy,'” Everett said with a laugh, then turned. is directed out to the parking lot. She was wearing a black tank top with a hoodie tied around her waist. The hoodie was printed with a big lightning bolt, matching his lightning collar and tote bag. The emblem, she told me, was inspired by the self-help slogan “Dreams have no deadlines,” popularized by LL Cool J. “It’s a reminder to grab it. , to make it count, ”she said. “Really cheesy.” Another necklace had “No. 1 “spelled out in pavé diamonds.” Not every network calls a perimenopausal woman singing cabaret to do a TV show, “she said.” You have to celebrate the moments. “

Everett directed his driver to a weed dispensary in Naperville, looking for some real edibles to get him through the shoot. Since the real Kansas doesn’t have a lot of movie infrastructure, producers found the area closest to Chicago that most resembled Kansas, and we drove past cornfields, malls, and stations. -service. But Everett had brought part of the New York avant-garde with her. The showrunners, Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, are the co-founders of Brooklyn-based theater company, the Debate Society, and Sam’s friend Fred Rococo is played by drag king Murray Hill, who dresses as a used car salesman dandy and bills himself. as “the hardest working middle-aged man in show business.” Everett and a few co-stars were staying at a rented house they called the Ding Dong Dorm.

Inside the dispensary, which was lit by neon signs, soft jazz was playing. A guy reading a Hunter S. Thompson book verified Everett’s identity and directed her to a row of touchscreen menus. She scrolled through the flavors: black cherry, pumpkin pie. “Brunch?” she read. “Fuck no.” She picked out two packets of “Sparkling White Grape” gummy candies (“We just made them the other night, and it was so fun ”) and a flavor called Snoozzzeberry, to help him sleep.

“Mum, dad, I’m not a baby anymore and I can open this door!” “
Caricature by Liana Finck

On the way home, Everett asked to stop at an Indian supermarket for a “spice check.” She walked the aisles, inhaling the aromas. “What am I going to do with a handful of Thai chili peppers?” She wondered aloud. “Nothing, is it?” Moving on, she held up something called a snake gourd, which had a suggestive shape and firmness. “What are you doing with any of them?” She said, with a hint of Mae West. “I know the winter has been long and lonely. But aren’t they all?

“Somebody Somewhere,” which executive producer Carolyn Strauss calls a “story of the coming of the Middle Ages,” is an alternate story: what if Everett had never left Manhattan, Kansas, for Manhattan, New York? (Strauss, an HBO veteran, previously worked on “Game of Thrones.” Everett said, “So it’s like a sideways move for her, for this tiny little show about this plus size woman in her 40s.”) Her character, Sam, is a suppressed dead end who works to correct standardized tests, sleeps on her couch, and, as Everett said, “doesn’t really take life by the breasts.” Sam’s modes of expression – singing rock hymns and writing dirty song lyrics – were laid to rest, until a new crowd attracted him to a “choir practice” at a local church, which s. Turns out to be a secret party, and an open mic night for the city is unsuitable.

“She’s terrified of singing, because of how much singing is going to do for her,” Everett told me of her alter ego. In one of the first episodes, Sam sings “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin and finds himself ripping his shirt to reveal a black bra, much like Everett used to do at karaoke parties in his twenties. , when she served tables in New York. City. Independent filmmaker Jay Duplass, who has directed episodes of the show and is a producer with his brother Mark, told me, “The character is becoming Bridget Everett.” Like a comic book hero discovering a superpower, she unleashes the wild thing inside.

One day this fall, I met Everett in his apartment on the Upper West Side. The decor was retro glam: a hot pink daybed, posters from B-movies, and a neon flamingo by the door to a wrap-around patio, where she occasionally spots Michael Moore on a patio across the way. from the street. (“I see him out at night, taking his steps.”) Everett, in her zip-up hoodie and tie-dye pants, was sitting in an armchair, clutching a breast-shaped pillow. She was mourning her Pomeranian, Poppy Louise, whose remains lay in an urn on the coffee table. “You’re basically in a pet cemetery,” she said.

On the way up, the doorman asked me to deliver a bag from a jewelry store – a gift from Jessica Seinfeld, to thank Everett for participating in a fundraiser at the Seinfelds in the Hamptons. Otherwise, Everett hadn’t performed live in two years, and she was brooding. “Once you get that fucking animal out of the cage, I’ll feel a lot better,” she said, tears in her eyes. “The show is my outlet. So everything that happened in the last couple of years is still fucking there “- she patted herself on the chest -” and I just need to take it out so I can come back alive. “

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