Give Lady Bunny props for making it through the first half of 2020 with her ribald sense of humor intact ― after all, a diva is nothing without her stage.
The New York drag icon will kick off LGBTQ Pride Month this week with the release of a new virtual special, “Lady Bunny in Cuntagious.” Co-written with Beryl Mendelbaum, the 35-minute stand-up set features sketches that playfully skewer current affairs as well as musical re-workings of songs by Lizzo, Madonna and more. (Catch a sneak peek at the show with Lady Bunny spoofing RuPaul’s “Sissy That Walk” above)
As her show’s title suggests, Lady Bunny’s brand of laughs isn’t for the easily offended. True to form, “Cuntagious” doesn’t shy away from the COVID-19 crisis and other topical subject matter. One skit finds her offering some tongue-in-cheek tips on surviving a pandemic.
Later, she hosts a mock newscast, with one-line zingers aimed at President Donald Trump and his presumptive Democratic presidential rival, Joe Biden. Musically, the highlight is a “deranged” take on Peggy Lee’s 1969 classic, “Is That All There Is?” performed in duet with punk-drag artist Christeene.
In an interview with HuffPost, Lady Bunny said her aim this time around was to brighten her own spirits as well as offer audiences necessary levity at a dark time for the world at large.
“My future, like that of many performers, is completely up in the air, and I cope with it by writing jokes,” she said. “We’re all freaked out by this ... it’s grim, and I see it every day. My act has always been tasteless, so I leave the feel-good platitudes and self-help to my older sister RuPaul. While I love that many of my friends have found success reading stories to kids, I’m just not that queen.”
For LGBTQ people in New York and other cities across the country, June 2020 will be a Pride Month like no other, with parades canceled and nightlife venues shuttered temporarily or, in some cases, permanently due to the coronavirus.
Last month, the queer community also lost one of its most pioneering voices. Larry Kramer, who founded the HIV/AIDS advocacy group ACT UP and wrote the seminal 1985 play “The Normal Heart,” died on May 27 at age 84.
The release of “Cuntagious” at a time when Lady Bunny’s calendar is typically stacked with in-person appearances is, of course, bittersweet. At present, her next scheduled live gig is set for August 2021.
These days, she said, “I’m a little more self-sufficient and learning new things ― which I claimed I never had time for. Good thing I wear a lot of muumuus with no need for tailoring!”
Taking a page from Kramer, Lady Bunny said she wants LGBTQ people to use this disruption in large-scale gatherings to rethink the ways they will honor Pride ― criticized in recent years for becoming too commercialized and corporation-driven ― in the future.
“[Larry] wasn’t afraid to challenge our government, pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street or the church to demand our rights,” she said. “Nowadays, we’ve been given a seat at the table of the powerful, and in our efforts not to lose that seat, we’re often reluctant to challenge it. Basically, we need more fight and fewer weak hashtags and glitzy galas filled with straight celebs.”
Though Lady Bunny misses the electricity of a live audience, she is excited that “Cuntagious” will allow her to deliver a fully-realized performance piece to audiences around the world. As for what she’d most like her fans to take away from the show, she said, “I want them to laugh their masks off!”
Of course, she is ready to get back to business in other ways once the pandemic is behind us, too.
“I’m most looking forward to sex with strangers,” she quipped.
“Lady Bunny in Cuntagious” will premiere June 5 on Voss Events.