I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Over the course of the last five days, I’ve accumulated 1.25 moleskin books worth of notes, and I haven’t sat down to write it them out for you. The thing is, I’ve been living and breathing TBA around the clock, and I haven’t wanted to steal away to write. I feel like I’m constantly running in and out of workshops and theatres. I’ve frequently been late to shows because the one before ran over. I’ve locked my bike to the same pole three times over the course of the day, and traversed town just as many.
But now it’s time to get down to business, time to share with you, dear blog, everything that’s been happening. It’s 2am, and I’ve found myself finally making some dinner/lunch, sautéing tofu and humming R Kelly songs (you’ll understand). Earlier tonight I saw Kiki and Herb, and I’ve just left The Works for Neal and Kenny Mellman (Herb) in Neal + Kenny= Robert Kelly.
Now, there are times when I’m saddened that I don’t live in New York, but TBA is not one of them. Last week, while flipping through the September copy of Paper magazine, I came upon an article on Kiki and Herb. For once, I was able to not just to look at a website, but to refer to my PICA schedule. Ah, I could see them this week, check. And I don’t even have to leave my favorite town.
So there I am, at Kiki and Herb on 9.11.06, surrounded by familiar PICA faces, at a show sponsored by the City of Portland. It feels so right. Then Kiki—Justin Bond as an aging cliché sporting painted on age lines, a cigarette voice, and a crumpled blonde bouffant— breaks into Gnarls Barkley “Crazy.” “I think you’re craaaaaayzeeee, just like Kiki,” she wails to the accompaniment of Herb (Kenny Mellman) hammering out dramatic piano chords. Both are amazingly energetic for actors who I know just got off the plane from NY after closing out their hit Broadway run. And here they are, in our own quiet town.
Kiki and Herb performed the hell out of their show. They’re an outcast duo that witnessed the birth of Christ and inadvertently obtained immortality. They haven’t been able to die since, and have spent the years bumbling around together. Well, they were apparently also dropped off at mental institutions as babies, but who needs a matching story? Not Kiki and Herb, and not me.
“Herb,” Kiki asks, “what year is it?”
“2006” Herb responds, quietly.
“Is that right?” Kiki asks the crowd. “Well, for arguments sake, let’s say it’s 2006.”
They mixed standard ba-dum-bump jokes with totally derogatory interludes about every major group. Kiki warmed up the crowd with accessible material before taking the first of their socio and political turns.
“We had a contract with Carnival Cruises,” Kiki explains, “who you may know were fined for throwing trash overboard. If they’d just asked us, we would’ve been happy to leave. We washed up in Florida and have been on the comeback trail ever since.” Ba-da-bump. Then Kiki and Herb get down to business. The show is gorgeously written, and balancing act between relevant and irreverent holds out for the entire two hours.
“When Herb and I use the word retard it’s like when black people use the word nigger—we own that word. Herb is a homo and Jew. When we were growing up it wasn’t trendy to be a gay Jew tard like it is today.”
I was most taken by Herb, who dumbly smiles and hums with Kiki while deftly playing piano. He’s hilarious. “Je suis un verb parle—I VERB!” cries Kiki. Totally like Kiki to describe her own show.
Kiki is the queen of contrasts, whipping out two hours of hyper-informed, biting naïveté.
Herb, meanwhile, is happily playing piano, wide-eyed and open mouthed giving Kiki “yups” and “uh huhs” and the occasional high eyebrow smile, laughing at her jokes, all the while churning out gorgeous piano notes.
In this show, everything takes a beating, including the characters themselves. “When I got cancer, I took a case of vodka and an electric blanket and said, I’m just going to sweat this one out.” Describing gay couples that adopt, “If you see two gay guys with a white baby they must be doing pretty good for themselves, because those things are a status symbol.” Just when things get heavy, “Jazz hands!” Kiki cries, shaking out the worst jazz hands possible.
“Ladies and gentlemen” Kiki crows, sloshing scotch everywhere, “let face it, at one point we’ve all been Kiki.”
Gay rights, getting rid of our president, global warming. In the end, Kiki and Herb remind us it’s all about being good to each other: “I don’t care what you say behind my back, just be nice to my face. You can go home and be the biggest bitch, but when you leave the house, I’ll see your fake and I’ll raise your fake.”
Tell it, Kiki!
Freelance writer, enthusiast
Kiki and Herb, I verb!