This Friday, New York gadabout (and, like, living national treasure) Isaac Mizrahi hosts a one-night-only holiday cabaret performance at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. Following a successful stage run over the summer at Joe’s Pub, it’s a move that allows for a bigger audience—one that, he told me last week, he’s secretly terrified might actually show up. He also told me other stuff. Keep reading.
So how did this show of yours originally come about? I had a one-man show Off-Broadway that took me years to write and workshop, and after I finished that, I discovered all of a sudden that I wanted a show where things actually happen, like, on their own. Without music cues and light cues and stage cues, etc. So I started doing my little cabaret performances, and it was an incredible emancipation, this feeling of whatever happens, happens. I’ve done it at Joe’s Pub for, what, seven or eight years now?
Why the switch? Oh, I just love this place, the Blender Theater, so when it came up in conversation that it was available, I just thought, why not?
Do you get all jittery before you go onstage? I try to fly under the radar as much as I can. Like, I never tell anyone I’m doing it because I’m scared they would actually come, you know? But I have this great jazz band backing me up. And I, air quote, “sing”—because God forbid I take it seriously—and the numbers are very, very good, but I’m not a singer. So the show is shaped by these funny songs, songs I’ve fantasized about singing my whole life. It’s also very interactive with the audience. I talk to them, they talk back, and so on. I think the success of the show is usually about halfway between a really good performance and a really relieved audience—that I actually got through it.
Do you pick on them? Would I have to be, like, nervous about being in the front row? Darling, no! Nothing like that.
Any special guests? There’s a surprise guest, but it’s not necessarily a celebrity entertainer, and that’s all I’m saying about that, because I really do want it to be a surprise.
Now, did you grow up performing? Yes. Well, I grew up doing female impersonations. I had a cult following by the time I was 12.
I assume a lot of your holiday stories cover those years. How did your family celebrate? Holidays in my family went very unacknowledged. We’d do a little bit of Hanukkah, but not a lot, and now I overdo the whole season. I mean, I don’t have a Christmas tree, but I do prepare presents. The “celebration” of Hanukkah— ha! It’s not a celebration. I spend the whole time crying, just sobbing. I know I have to get over these things. So anyway, Christmas is good because there are no memories to torture me, so there’s no significance except in an art-directorial sense.
So you sing and tell stories. What else? Now I do this thing that’s so fantastic—the re-gifting portion. People send me such ridiculous stuff.
Oooh, like what? Oh, just crazy Christmas shit, honey. And I don’t want to leave the equivalent of a gift-giving carbon footprint on the world, so I just get rid of all of it. It’s great for me, it’s great for the audience—and it’s green!
Would you ever take the show on the road? Maybe! Maybe Saturday night will serve as the launch of my six-city, maybe eight-city tour. I want to go to Chicago—I love Chicago—and Philly, and Boston, San Francisco, L.A. Well, I don’t know about L.A. I have so many friends there. I’ll do L.A. as long as no one comes.
Isaac Mizrahi plays the Blender Theater at Gramercy December 21, blendertheater.com.