New York Times

Forget Fan Fiction. In Nerdlesque, the Garters Come Off.

By Sonia Weiser / Published September. 20, 2017

 On stage at the Slipper Room this month, Lilly Hayes, the performer known as Miranda Raven, kicked off her black moon boots before zipping out of her astronaut costume to reveal a pair of jeans, white button-down shirt and denim jacket — the signature look of River Song, a character from “Doctor Who.” 

The theater that Thursday night was filled with fans of the BBC series — Whovians, as they call themselves — hooting and applauding at a noise level befitting a boxing match, as Ms. Hayes unabashedly jumped, swiveled, rolled on the floor and shimmied her way around the stage in time with Pink’s “Trouble.” 

By the end of the song, her jeans, shirt, jacket and space gear strewed the floor. Ms. Hayes was naked, holding up two black signs that said “Spoilers” — River Song’s catchphrase — over her breasts and pubic area. 

Lilly Hayes, known as Miranda Raven on stage, holding up two black signs referencing River Song’s catchphrase.Credit...Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times 

Welcome to nerdlesque, the geeky, pop-culture offshoot of burlesque that grew out of the art form’s 1990s renaissance. Rather than luring crowds through feminine beauty and glamour, nerdlesque, which has been compared to fan fiction, lets them revel in their nerdoms among like-minded people. It has gained such a following in New York City that it got its own festival in 2014. 

Hotsy Totsy Burlesque, which hosted the tribute to “Doctor Who,” has a lengthy catalog of shows that riff on movies, books and recent TV hits like “Mad Men” and “American Horror Story,” as well as classics like “The Muppets” and “Golden Girls.” Its Harry Potter tributes — this year’s was “Harry Potter and the Cursed Pastie: Parts Left and Right” — sell out, and every December the group skewers “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” the ill-fated 1978 TV movie George Lucas would surely like to forget. 

And if not everyone in the audience understands the inside jokes, deep cuts and nods to source material, that’s O.K. — the performers’ sincerity and the audience’s excitement are entertainment enough. 

Dancers dressed as “Doctor Who” characters, including, clockwise from left, Clockwork Droid, Weeping Angel, Cyberman and River Song.Credit...Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times 

“We tend to stick with the things that we love ourselves, that we’re true fans of,” said Joseph Naftali, who works at a costume company. He helped create Hotsy Totsy 10 years ago and co-produces its shows. “We’re always paying homage to these things, we’re not making fun of them.” 

Last summer, the Brooklyn-based Metropolis Burlesque held a show celebrating the Netflix series “BoJack Horseman” at the Slipper Room. The performer known as Petite Renard, who withheld her name out of concern for her personal safety, began her act by pretending to snort coke off a tray before stripping down to a purple muffin-shaped merkin to the Dandy Warhols’ “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth.” 

The references delighted fans in the audience, who instantly recognized her as one of the show’s characters: Sarah Lynn, a drug-addicted, former child actress who released a highly sexualized single titled “Prickly Muffin.” And for non-fans, it was still an opportunity to see a curvy woman’s nearly naked body. 

The burlesque performer known as Moe Cheezmo, who did not want to reveal his name for fear of losing his job, said the appeal of nerdlesque for fans is that it is more fun — and risqué — than just talking plot points and exchanging finale predictions. “If you’re doing a staged version of a ‘BoJack Horseman’ fan fiction, no one is going to come to that,” he said. 

But put nudity into the mix, and you’re giving people a forum for a kind of sexual exploration that seems less lewd than a strip show. “They can square it in their head with their own value system,” he said. “I’m not going to exploit people who are taking their clothes off,” he added, “I’m going to support my fandom.” 

Until 1942, burlesque in New York City was defined by glamorous women performing strip teases. That’s when the last burlesque house shut down, following Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia’s lengthy campaign to rid the city of vice. In the late ’90s, as Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani fought a battle similar to his predecessor’s, artists were reviving burlesque and transforming it into an outlet for self-expression and social commentary. Its goals were no longer solely to satisfy the male gaze or provide an escape from reality. It became a kind of performance art. 

Neoburlesque, as it’s known, also embraced performers whose bodies, sexual identities and ages weren’t often seen onstage. This is even more the case with nerdlesque. 

When Cyndi Freeman, a writer and podcast producer who plays the ditsy, pink-haired Cherry Pitz in Hotsy Totsy shows, joined the burlesque community a decade ago at 43, it was a defiant act against ageism and a declaration of pride for her body. 

“I was hearing people say, ‘You’re too old,’ ” she said. But she was adamant: “ ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ ” 

Ms. Freeman and her husband, Brad Lawrence, put on monthly nerdlesque shows at the Slipper Room, on the Lower East Side, which has served as a home to neoburlesque since 1999. Mr. Lawrence wrote in an email that, aside from some gentle ribbing, relationships between nerds like him and the more avant-garde performers have been supportive. “But maybe I just never cared enough to find out that people were genuinely mad because I was having too much fun.” 

At the end of the “Doctor Who” show that night, Ms. Freeman, wearing her signature pink bouffant wig, seductively removed her fishnet stockings, black tutu and silky blue corset — which recalled the police box the Doctor uses for time travel — to reveal a black thong and light-up nipple covers. A few minutes later Mr. Lawrence, dressed as the Tenth Doctor, re-emerged for some witty banter and Whovian humor. 

Almost nonstop for the duration of the act, the crowd screamed for more — more skin, more dancing, more merriment, more nerdiness. 

Before the performance, Mr. Lawrence had considered why people came to these shows. “Life is hard, and work is tedious,” he had said. Fans watch a funny strip tease with their favorite characters, they laugh, they drink. “They feel better at the end of it. If that is the only thing I can contribute to the world, that’s fine.”

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Sunday Times of London 

Nerdlesque: geeks a go-go

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

By Katie Glass  / Published: October, 26 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 ( 

My first experience of it was a night put on by D20 Burlesque ( 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 ( 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,

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Entertainment  Weekly

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

By Maane Khatchatourian / Published: July 24, 2012

 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. GET EW ON YOUR TABLET: Subscribe today and get instant access! 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.”

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Vitamin C4.

Published 2009

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.

— Vitamin C4.