You may recall that the other night, I was all set to belt out a Michael Jackson medley at Hear Me Roar!, a benefit for the Sylvia Project, which helps LGBTQ youth.
So how did it go? Record contract? Death threats? Both? Well, people laughed all through the performance–but it was OK nonetheless!
It helped that I started cute by saying we were here to help gay kids–“so why does that make me think of Michael Jackson?” I then remarked, “I was thinking of telling tasteless jokes tonight, like the one about how Michael really died of food poisoning. He was eating 10-year-old nuts.” People were mock-appalled, with their jaws to the ground, so I added, “That was so off-base and inappropriate, I’m glad I didn’t tell it!”
By now, the crowd liked me–so I switched gears on them and spoke seriously about how Michael was so uncomfortable being black, gay, male, and human, but when he was onstage, all that self loathing dissolved and he was absolutely comfortable and magical. I finally launched into my medley of “Got To Be There” and “I’ll Be There”, which WASN’T magical because (a) My voice was cracking like a motherfucker from nerves and (b) The crowd was revved up from my intro and was expecting something knee-slappingly hilarious. So they laughed. And as a result, I played it up as shtick, with an adorably self-deprecating demeanor and ad libs like, “I can’t even write. Why am I singing?”. And somehow it all sort of semi worked.
Also stellar was MC Bex, percussion and dance troupe Segunda Quimbamba, and Emanuel Xavier, the once homeless poet who organized the whole thing and performed some of his rivetingly real gay poetry. So you’re welcome, gay children!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 25, 2009