By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Lizz Winstead has returned to standup! And she remembers how! "It's like getting back on a bike," says Lizzwho's playing Comix on the 16th and 17th"but without a seat. It's a little painful at first, but once you get settled in, it's fine."
The sardonically funny ladywho co-created The Daily Show and co-starred on Air Americais also riding that butt-defying vehicle to her weekly Monday-night revue at Ace of Clubs called Shoot the Messenger. "It's the world's worst morning show," she explained to me. "Sort of like Regis and Kelly or, actually, Mike and Juliet. We have a guy in Iraq who doesn't know why he's there"like Bush!"and various guess-perts, because they're not really experts." Meanwhile, she's an actual expert for Lifetime, where busy Lizzie is hosting Gift Intervention, "web-isodes" of which have her accompanying people who received lousy presents to find out what the fuck the givers were thinking. The worst gift ever? "A woman got an ugly brown elephant bookend for her weddingone bookendand it turned out the guy had made a bet with her sister that if the marriage lasted five years, he'd give her the second one." That's a pretty good reason to break up in four years.
Speaking of breakups, is Winstead more insanely bitter about The Daily Show or Air America, both of which she fled amid much publicized internal tension? "I'm not really bitter about either," she swore. "Both projects are still doing well. I feel like I created the Schwinn bike!" And with a seat yet. But more importantly, would she vote for Stephen Colbert for President? "Yes!" she exclaimed. "When he's not being that character on the show, he's an awesome guy." "Wait a minute!" I said with a hatchety smirk. "You mean that's not what he's really like?" "Oh, what have you done, Liz?" she said, laughing. "I screwed up Stephen's whole show!"
In other downtown-kid-makes-good news, drag star Edie just landed the Mistress of Seduction role in Cirque du Soleil's Zumanitythe previous mistress, Joey Arias, is laying down his whip to return to Gothamso she's heading to Vegas in January for some raunch and showmanship. But that's not what she's really like! "I have to be a little more naughty than I usually am," said Edie (sounding a lot like Christopher Kenney, who plays her) by phone last week. "It's a sexually charged, underworld, dark cabaret." Sounds like home to me.
Kenney certainly has the high-kicking credentials. He danced like a demon in his native Portland, which led to a ballet troupe's offer for him to apprentice at $125 a week. "So I called Wendy's and quit!" he remembered, fondly. He jetéd and tapped with various troupes for years, but the routine changed when he did Edie for Halloween in '96 ("a friend made me") and it clicked, the new creation landing a hostessing job and loving the intimacy of all that meeting and greeting. A plucked, primped, and still-kicking star was born.
Will Kenney be able to stand living in the surreally ka-chinging world of Vegas? "I'm hoping it's like when my friends come to New York," he related, "and say, 'I could never live here.' But that's because they're running around Times Square and shopping all day. Our lives are different than that. I'm hoping I won't be hanging out on the Strip and doing slot machines!" Or hanging out stripping and being a slut machine, ba-dum-pum.
Meanwhile, if you're running around Times Square and shoppingfor $450 seatsyou'll be seeing Young Frankenstein, that lavishly mixed bag of tricks and shtickery that will forever be measured against its creator, The Producers. Like everyone else, I liked it, but I didn't like it. At first, the show isn't zingy or maliciously clever enoughnot enough of a sexually charged, underworld, dark cabaret. But then Megan Mullally and a chorus of soubrettes sing "Don't touch my tits!" and Sutton Foster yodels in a moving hayride and Andrea Martin's name alone makes the horses neigh. Things seem to be electric-bolting to lifebut then come some showslowers (as opposed to showstoppers) with those where-have-I-heard-these-before? Mel Brooks melodies and not always essential lyrics. And from there, the whole sumptuous thing veers from inspired set pieces (generally lifted from the movie) to dispiriting patches, and one realizes that like the monster himself, Young Frankenstein is an oversized creature with an abnormal brain. Next time let's have Claire Danes as the creature.
For the record, Roger Bart starts out sans much inspiration but eventually eases into the looniness; Megan Mullally and Andrea Martin are pricelessly cured hams; Sutton Foster does great work with the hayride, then tends to fade into the revolving bookcase (and she doesn't look the part for the "knockers" joke); Christopher Fitzgerald is a hoot but his cutely winky character grows tiresome; and Shuler Hensley is everything he should be, convincing you it's he and not the show that's been put together from spare parts. The numbers that should have been cut or rethought: "The Happiest Town," "The Brain," "Join the Family Business," "Transylvania Mania," and "Surprise." But please don't tell that to Mel Brooks or you'll get the surprise.