Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Unitard, "NYC’s naughtiest, nastiest, no-holds-barred comic trio," just announced its new residency "Tard Core: There Are No Safe Words" at Joe's Pub, starting May 3. The group is made up of Mike Albo, Nora Burns, and David Ilku. They poke fun. It has come to my attention that they'll be poking fun of the hyper-gentrified city, so I asked Albo a few questions.

With Unitard, and in your solo work, you've roasted gentrifiers and gentrification. What makes the topic so right for comedy?

Well, greed is always something ripe for satire and parody. Its always amazing to watch, especially in this city, and now elsewhere, how insane and absurd-minded people get about real estate and what they can accomplish by selling avocado toast for 12 dollars.

What's so wrong about 12-dollar avocado toasts?

Oh, they are delicious! Especially when you make it yourself for an eighth the cost! Its just friggin' toast with some avocado on it! We have fabulized ourselves into financial oblivion. Somehow we need to make bad coffee and oily omelettes at diners cool again.

I'd love to hear your suggestions for how to do that.

Get Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner to take a pouty Instagram photo? One weird mutation with our food culture now is how people just buy things to take pictures of it. Have you seen the new “Unicorn Frappucino” at Starbucks? It's basically diabetes in a cup. But it's more a photo op than it is food.

I’m afraid diners don’t have eye-catching entrees, so maybe if we opened a diner and stuck a bunch of Smurfs and confetti all over it, we would have a business.

What gentrifi-centric subject matter can people expect in this upcoming show?

Oh, so much! We have “Ruiners,” who are three types of people who come and ruin your city. But then at the same time we also have a sketch of people who sit there and complain about how great things used to be.

So you'll also be roasting people like me! And yourself. When you complain about how great things used to be, what do you complain about?

See above about diners. Most everything I complain about has to do with the affordability of things before, say, 1999. My life “before” was so cheap, but I barely remember it. I made about $1,500 a month tops and somehow afforded to go out, eat out, enjoy myself. I produced a solo show or a play every year, too. I was still poor (I am always poor), but I wasn’t in a constant state of financial panic like I am now. A swarm of hidden fees and costs plague me now--my cellphone, my Netflix, my everything.

And this has affected me artistically. I can’t afford to publicize myself or my work and I feel like I am languishing in obscurity while the moneyed have assistants to tweet and Instagram and get their T magazine sidebar article. Have you noticed that everything is about publicity now? PR and events are what keep this city alive.

We also didn't used to see the rich everywhere. Now they're everywhere--or just about. And they're very conspicuous with their wealth. I think this constant visual has a big impact on how it feels to live in New York and not have that wealth.

Yes. And it sort of creeps into your psyche. I learned a hard lesson on how our culture is designed for the wealthy when I was canned at the New York Times, something I explain in my solo show and Kindle Single The Junket. In a nutshell, I was a freelancer there with no contract or salary, and I was invited on a free trip (which I made sure was on my own time and in no way associated with the Times), and that was “exposed” by Gawker (r.i.p., you bitch!), and I was "let go" for violating their ethics code. Now I totally understand journalistic ethics of keeping your reporters free of commercial influence, but there is a secret system of bread buttering going on that is WAY more egregious than one low-income freelancer taking a trip on his own time. Essentially, if you want to write about anything, especially travel or style, you have to be able to afford to pay your own way, know the right people, have the right access. It's why you see articles like “The Alluring Treehouses of Mozambique” in that insane T Magazine and wonder who the fuck wrote that. They are written for rich people by rich people.

And you are right the rich people are everywhere now! How are there so many?! Do they grow them on trees? After he saw The Junket, my friend, the talented Rob Roth, told me how, back when the legendary weirdo dance night Jackie 60 was happening in the Meatpacking District, there would be just one or two rich people in the mix of queers, trans people, drag queens, and artists. They were just part of the mix.

It’s awe striking how long ago and completely unlike our current climate it was when going somewhere fancy was getting a burger at Bowery Bar or maybe a mimosa at the Four Seasons if you were feeling ironic. But you went to Florent mostly to just feel the energy and be among your artsy peers, and get their goat cheese salad and spend under 25 bucks and feed your soul.

We have this whole repeat gag in our Unitard show about an 18 dollar glass of wine. I love that there are people out there who actually just pay for that breezily. If I did that I would be essentially taking a fork and stabbing myself in the stomach.

Check out Mike Albo and Unitard at Joe's Pub--starting May 3.


Laura Goggin Photography said...

Thanks for this - bought my tickets!

Scout said...

I first met Albo when I found him naked in my kitchen one morning. I think the Dazzle Dancers had just begun around that time. I still think of him as one of the last examples of genuine bohemianism left in NYC.

Unknown said...

Saw this last night and will go again June 28. Great show: Hits all the right targets.