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Sunday Times of London! - October 26

Nerdlesque: geeks a go-go

Nerdlesque is burlesque for nerds, and it’s the coolest way to take off your clothes in New York


Katie Glass Published: 26 October 2014

The theme was Doctor Who. Our hosts were a Peter Capaldi-alike with a bad Scottish accent and, for some reason, a girl dressed up like Frenchy from Grease. We drank Tardis-fuel cocktails among a crowd wearing fezzes and white coats, while on a red-curtained stage, the oddest and funniest striptease I’ve ever seen took place — a Dalek was taking its clothes off.

After the burlesque boom, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a new way to make watching people take their clothes off hip. And in New York, they have. Nerdlesque is burlesque for nerds, combining cabaret with the rise of the geek. It’s Dita Von Teese meets The Big Bang Theory, and the growing scene has even spawned an annual Nerdlesque Festival (nerdlesquefest.com).

My first experience of it was a night put on by D20 Burlesque (d20burlesque.com) at the Parkside Lounge — in the East Village, of course, Manhattan’s answer to Shoreditch. It was as “dive bar” as I’d hoped: a red neon sign buzzing outside in the rain, like something from a noir film; the show unfolding in a curtained-off room out back; an audience bunched around round tables facing a low wooden stage; waitresses ferrying cocktails.

Reassuringly, nerdlesque audiences aren’t too creepy or cool. They’re genuine geeks in Atari T-shirts, fiddling awkwardly with iPhones. The girls on stage, none of whom looks like a Stringfellows stripper, perform routines to Japanese animé songs, K-pop and horror soundtracks. My favourite performance, a strip re-creation of a scene from the horror film The Ring, was as weird as it was freakily hilarious. A bit sexy, too.

My second eyeful of nerdlesque was the Doctor Who night hosted by Hotsy Totsy Burlesque, who are not just slutty, but self-knowing, funny and clever (hotsytotsyburlesque.com). After the Dalek strip, an astronaut did her thing to Trouble, by P!nk, struggling to get her helmet off mid-routine.

In the name of sexual equality, Captain Jack did boylesque, a “de-fabricator machine” removing his glitter-covered phantom mask and eventually revealing a black corset and white stockings. While in a nod to an episode called Vincent and the Doctor — I told you this was for nerds — a man dressed as Van Gogh ripped off his shirt and writhed beside a canvas of Sunflowers. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages.

You’re probably too obsessed by nerd culture if you’d be prepared to fly to New York just to watch nerdlesque. But if you’re in town and looking for the kind of underground alternative that makes this city feel alive, I insist you check some out.

Katie Glass was a guest of Virgin Atlantic, which flies from Heathrow to New York from £501 return (0844 209 2770, virgin-atlantic.com)

Katie Glass - Sunday Times Of London (Oct 26, 2014)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

'Game of Thrones,' 'Mad Men,' and 'Doctor Who' spoofed in burlesque show

Our favorite TV shows just got hotter: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Doctor Who have been given a makeunder by a New York City burlesque troupe.

Hotsy Totsy Burlesque’s rotating cast hosts themed performances every third Tuesday of the month. Last week’s tribute show to Game of Thrones pushed the TV show’s R-rated envelope further with booze, blood, fire, and flesh (lots and lots of bare flesh). In the burlesque act, host Cyndi Freeman (AKA Cherry Pitz) drank a toxic alcoholic concoction that landed her in the hospital. GoT played in her mind during her unconscious state and she channeled the character Tyrion Lannister during her risqué performance.

Khal Drogo, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Sansa Stark were some of the other characters brought to life by Hotsy Totsy’s fire-breathing, sword-wielding, belly dancing cast of women.

Joseph Naftali (AKA Joe the Shark), the show’s co-producer and talent coordinator, said the shows are often in the form of sketch comedies that pay homage to old-school Saturday Night Live skits (with nudity). The acts don’t always celebrate pop culture, but the group’s most popular performances have had TV or film themes. Event-goers often come dressed in costume and recite their favorite show tag-lines in unison with the performers.

Image credit: Stephanie Keith

“It’s an easier marketing job when you’re referring to something that everybody knows,” Naftali said. “It’s like putting a star in your movie. There are people who show up for the star alone.”

The key to their success is to stay faithful to the original material, he said.

In June’s Mad Men show, Naftali cast 400-pound, 6-foot-4, handlebar-moustached actor Peter Aguero (dressed in lingerie) as Betty Draper/Francis, referencing the character’s buzzed about weight gain.

“Making fun of something that people love adds another onion layer of fun,” Freeman, the show’s creator and co-producer, said. “The hope is that the people in the audience have seen [the show] and they get all the tiny little jokes.”

Hotsy Totsy’s Doctor Who show was so successful last year that Naftali and Freeman plan on giving it a facelift in September.

“The quote from one of the doctors, ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff,’ was a hit,” Freeman said. “Applause broke out so loud that we had to pause.”

Future pop culture-themed shows include October’s ”Cherry Pitz: Vampire Hunter” and parodies of The Avengers, Wonder Woman, and Star Trek. Past shows centered around Harry Potter, The Jazz Singer, and Groundhog Day may be revamped as well. The troupe performs in New York City at the Lower East Side’s R-Bar.

vitaminc4.com

Last night Ethan and I went to Hotsy Totsy’s Dr. Who burlesque show. As an avid Dr. Who fan (I carry around a sonic screwdriver in my bag everyday) and have very little experience with proper burlesque shows, I was not sure what to expect – more-so, how they would combine the two.

This show, as advertised here, was recommended by a friend of ours, Mykle Hoban, that instructed us to attend. The venue was in the basement of The Delancy located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Small, dark and limited seating, Ethan and I got a beer and found the most comfortable standing area.

A woman danced half naked to warm up the crowd and then the host, Cherry Pitz, started. With a big red wig and a high pitched voice she was interrupted by The Doctor, who resembled Tennant, and gave the audience a wonderful introduction as to who and what The Doctor is. The highlights of this were the references he threw to those there for the The Doctor. Yes, he even said “Wibbly wobbly”. Another amusing part was when The Doctor (as the 10th) used the 11th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver – this error in continuity was noted with a scream here-and-there from audience members.

He ran off the stage with his gorgeous red-haired companion and the show continued. The first dancer performed, Cherry returned to the stage to present the next dance and The Doctor is found back on stage. This would be the format for the rest of the show with the narrative that a alien poop monster (my kinda monster, right?) that had escaped from space prison.
The dancers were lovely, of course. The high lights of the burlesque dancers:

1) The second dancer walked up to the stage naked and covered in chains, tape over her mouth and nipples, with what sounded like Sunn O))) playing. Once on stage she used a slow twisting dance to remove the chains from her body. When she was unbound from the shackles she removed the tape and spit out blood. It was so awesome and brutal. Ethan and I did not see this one coming. (Note: if pictures or videos were allowed, there would be one here)

2) During the intermission I met The Doctor, discovered several other attendees had also brought their sonic screwdrivers and once I returned to the basement I watched as one of the performers was dancing to a remix of the Dr. Who theme song. She later danced to “Human Fly” by The Cramps – which has forever been a fantasy of mine to watch (TMI?).

3) We got to see The Doctor’s companion get naked. AND – the only thing that can stop the alien poop monster was Cherry Pitz’s boobs – naked dancing followed.

All in all, it was a great experience. In a nutshell, it was a burlesque show intended to introduce Dr. Who fans to burlesque, and burlesque lovers to Dr. Who. I would even consider going to another event preformed by this group of gals.