Unitard’s back... Snarky As Ever!
When Unitard came to Boston a decade ago, the comedy trio - Michael Albo, Nora Burns, and David Ilku - turned their collective satiric eyes on such topics as self-promoting one-person shows, urban moms with babies, self-obsessed-friendly celebs like J-Lo, and gay consumerism in the (then) booming economy.
The show was so memorable that when I told a friend that they were returning to Boston (okay, Cambridge) this weekend, he said, "My God. That was one of the funniest shows ever."
Anyone who has seen this gay trio over the past ten years in New York City, where they perform regularly, or Provincetown, where they are a regular staple on Commercial Street during the summer, will likely agree. Their sharp barbs at all aspects of contemporary culture - gay and straight - would be right at home on "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report." Why they don't have their own cable show is something that should be taken up with Logo or Bravo or Comedy Central.
Each member has his or her own career: Albo for his solo shows, novels and career as a journalist; Burns as a member of the comedy group The Nellie Olesons; and Iklu as one-half of the satiric duo The Dueling Bankheads. Collectively, though, they make for comedy gold. Expect them to skewer everything from gay parenting to "The Real Housewives" when they come to Oberon for two shows, Friday and Sunday at 8pm.
EDGE caught up with the three earlier this week for a quick conversation.
What to expect?
EDGE: For those who have never seen Unitard, what can they expect?
David Ilku: A life-changing experience.
Michael Albo: Expect to be embarrassed that you are laughing at something and you have to look around to make sure other people are laughing too.
Nora Burns: To see things you never thought of being parodied, like gay Emo boys who work at Marc Jacobs, junkies, artisanal cheese and gay male middle-aged nudity to boot!
EDGE: Is this show all new material?
Michael Albo: It is for Boston! We haven’t been there since... Oh God, since Bush was in office! So the show is totally new and shiny and completely appropriate for our second Obama age.
EDGE: You’ve been together for what seems to be forever (okay, since the mid-1990s). Has satirical comedy changed much over that time?
Michael Albo: There is so much more gay visibility on TV and in the media, but one thing that hasn’t changed is lack of gay sketch comedy out there. We still seem to be one of the only sketch comedy acts out there that dares to skewer and satirize gay life from the inside, instead of some purportedly straight comedian putting on a gay character for laughs.
Nora Burns: The LATE 90’s, right out of high school, I beg your pardon. No, it’s still mostly fat white straight guys, maybe some fat white gay guys now too.
Pushing the envelope
EDGE: Have you ever pushed the taste envelope to the point where someone was offended?
David Ilku: Oh hell, to the yes! My Slim Poz body, the HIV educational mime, has garnered boos... and booze.
Nora Burns: Yes, thank God. We’ve actually been getting foul response to our Gaybe sketch on YouTube.
EDGE: What is the hardest topic to satirize?
David Ilku: AIDS, babies, and junkies.
Michael Albo: Rape maybe? Unless its rape that leads to a pregnancy that those twisted right wingers think is a precious life. That is so absurd and despicable its almost funny again.
I also find it difficult to make fun of Romney and Paul Ryan because I think sometimes being too funny and flippant about their agenda can sometimes blur the real and serious threat they pose to our country. Look at me gettin’ all serious!
Nora Burns: Whenever someone tells me about some obvious Republican hideousness, like rape shit or a stupid celebrity thing, like John Travolta, and says ’that would be good for your show’ you know the reality is much funnier than any parody.
EDGE: You focus on what annoys you. What is the most annoying trend of 2012?
David Ilku: Anything to do with the Kardashians.
Michael Albo: That Gangham-style song and all its parodies and remixes. The continued reverence of Lady Gaga as if she is an icon and didn’t JUST become famous last year. Young gay guys having unsafe sex. Sexual racism and thinking its OK to say that you are not attracted to Asian guys, etc... and finally: undecided voters: WTF is wrong with you?
I mean at least if you vote for Romney I know where you are coming from: You hate gay people, I get it. But undecided voters? What do you need, a massage by each candidate?
Nora Burns: Bespoke Barber shops.
EDGE: I know we are all suppose to love gay marriage. But aren’t gay parents annoying?
Michael Albo: Oh just wait till you see our ’We’re Having a Baby!’ sketch.
Nora Burns: All parents are annoying and I speak from intimate knowledge.
EDGE: How political is your show?
David Ilku: Oddly everything we do has some political over or undertone.
Michael Albo: We definitely have an agenda. We can’t stand bigotry and corporate-government collusion.
Nora Burns: We touch on it, with passion, at the end, but again, the current reality is so much more intense than we can satirize.
EDGE: Now with the election over and the Romneys dismissed to any one of their four houses, what did you think of Mittens and his wife?
David Ilku: Yes, he looks like a funeral parlor director.
Michael Albo: They have, but too many people I think do political humor just for laughs and miss the true underlying evil of it all.
Nora Burns:: Ugh, no, I fall asleep halfway through even saying his name, Romnzzzzzzz. I leave the brilliant politician comedy to Stewart and Colbert.
EDGE: Do you have a favorite Mittens story?
David Ilku: Yes, this guy fisted someone with a mitten and then rolled a brown snowman.
Nora Burns:: I just want him to go back to his car elevator in the Cayman Islands.
Michael Albo: Who’s Mittens?
slug>EDGE: This time you’re coming to Cambridge, which many of us who live here have an ambivalent attitude towards. What is the most annoying thing about Cambridge?
David Ilku: Not enough late night spots to eat and drink.
Michael Albo: That every student walks around thinking they are the next Mark Zuckerberg, or at least the next Jesse Eisenberg.
Nora Burns:: I grew up there and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t even a mall yet when I lived there. I think the most annoying thing is the lack of fashion, I mean, I know it’s cold, but there other options besides fleece and Uggs?
EDGE: And you guys perform in Provincetown. What is the most annoying thing about Ptown?
Michael Albo: The Gucci Queens prancing in and buying up everything and making it too expensive for us much more interesting and fun Garbage Pail Gays.
Nora Burns: See the answer about ’Gay Parents’ (which means expect in the topic in the show). But the real problem with Ptown (and NYC and Boston), is that there were real people who’d lived there for generations and then the gays and freaks came and co-existed with them in a dandy soup. But now it’s just yuppies and guppies w/ puppies.
EDGE: And interviews such as this one?
David Ilku: Why this has been perfectly charming.
Nora Burns:: What’s annoying? Who doesn’t love talking about herself, not this ’tard?
Michael Albo: That its not naked and doesn’t include a free lunch and BJ!
Unitard perform Friday and Sunday, Nov. 9 and 11, 2012 at Oberon, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA. For more information, visit the Oberon website.
Watch Unitard’s video "The Real Housewives of Dusseldorf":