This is the kind of underground event you thought you’d find more of in New York City. A two-and-a-half-hour, nonstop, soul-searching performance party hosted in an enormous loft owned by a Gepetto-like furniture maker on the second floor of a barely marked building that looks hours away from demolition. The address, spray painted on the door outside, offers the only indication you’re at the right place. You’re buzzed in unceremoniously, and the walk up, in a questionable, unkempt hallway, leads to an unmarked door, behind which could be anything from an empty room full of cats to a heroin den.
Well, pull back the curtain and take a look at Stephen Kosloff’s Deep Dish Cabaret, a roving circus of talent whose motto is, “We smoke crack so you don’t have to.” Yeah, you’re in the right place. Through the door is a beautiful loft space: Almost entirely void of furniture except for some chairs and couches, it’s nearly packed with people talking, introducing themselves, and waiting for a new round of ridiculousness to start.
The circus is in town once every two or three weeks (check Kosloff’s Web site, www.Ghentmag.com, for updates), and with it come acts so unique and ridiculous (in the best sense of the word) that you find yourself wondering where else they could possibly perform other than Deep Dish. This, of course, is a hats off to Kosloff, the man who organizes the event and manages to keep the performers and content new and different every time. Like “Ivan” the Russian guy, a real Russian guy (imagine that) who took the stage in a stained wife-beater and spent 15 minutes singing a rousing, army-inspired tune about “asshole macho American males” before a predominantly American audience. Then there’s the Ghost of Dale Earnhardt, wearing an exact replica of Dale’s former racing threads complete with pilot glasses and huge moustache, who riffs off people’s questions about what it’s like in heaven. “The other night I had three beers and decided to enter the 1938 Olympics,” he said. “Well, go figure. I won all the events, and when Hitler came over to wring that gold medal around my neck I gave him a quick strong one to the nuts.”
But the performances are only half the fun. In the audience was a group of filmmakers knee-deep in a project called Stalkin’ Walken, for which they were trying to garner information, stories, and details about Christopher Walken, his life, and his whereabouts. The ultimate goal of the project, of course, is to find the actor using all the clues from the filmmakers’ interviews . . . is that legal?
Kosloff, meanwhile, is a man on a mission. Besides the stand-up skills he displays as the event’s MC, he’s a father figure for his performers, priming them before and after their sets like a high-school football coach, and suggesting changes for their next show. Aside from organizing Deep Dish and poaching talent from all over the city, Kosloff runs Ghent Magazine, a print and Web publication dedicated to running real letters from real people (famous or otherwise). Most recently, he’s been invited to vie for the love of publishing diva and Fox newsperson Judith Regan on the March 11 Howard Stern show. When asked about the ultimate drive behind Deep Dish Cabaret, he offers an answer as scattered and unpredictable as the performances themselves: “We live in New York City, the cultural capital of the world, and nobody’s laughing. We’re all too serious.” Deep Dish is his answer to that seriousness.