In a series of comic short videos on YouTube, Jeffery Self and Cole Escola have set themselves up as a kind of queer George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Self's orderly, deadpan reasoning up against Escola's demented cuteness. The black-out sketches they do usually have a disconcerting edge; references to 90s pop culture by Self always bump up against Escola's id-like lurches toward exhibitionism and murder. Escola has described their act as "kind of like Laverne & Shirley if Laverne and Shirley were 100 times hornier and high all the time." Their shorts seem to have a structure, but they generally move off into directions that can only be described as surreal.
On January 28 and 29, at Joe's Pub, under the direction of Ben Rimalower, Escola is doing his first live solo act. Asked to describe the act, Escola offers, "Take the sexual energy of a middle-school locker room, combine it with the titillating danger of drunk driving, add a bunch of ballads and Liza Minnelli-like hand choreography and that's basically what my show is like." Escola has been doing songs at Joe's Pub for a while on their Our Hit Parade nights, and he has a special, almost non-ironic affinity for the music of Taylor Swift. "Swift writes lyrics that are as unapologetically stupid as the feelings she had that inspired them. And who can't relate to stupid feelings?"Escola asks. "She's like the love child of Neil Sedaka and Alanis Morissette. I really admire her.”
As a resident of Williamsburg, Escola feels the Swift-like crush of too much opportunity. "There are a lot of attractive people in this neighborhood, and that makes me really uncomfortable, like I'm showing up to a party I wasn't invited to,"Escola says. "Or like I'm a mom who keeps interrupting her son's sleepover to everyone's annoyance. When I walk down Bedford, everyone looks at me like, ‘GET OUT MOM! GOD!' Even though all I want to do is make the boys some pizza rolls, ya know?"Escola's darkest solo character is Joyce Connor, a mother who is cheerfully bent on suicide, but the lure of past pop culture usually brightens his sensibility; he and Self use TV-land names like Annie Potts and Laurie Metcalf as a bulwark against their non-sitcom urges toward sex and death. "Someday I'm gonna do a sitcom based on the 1987 Diane Keaton vehicle Baby Boom,"Escola says. "I'll play the lead, J.C. Wiatt, a high-powered, no-nonsense businesswoman who inherits a baby when she's least ready for it. The pilot will be shaky at best, except for a really solid bit when I hold the baby for the first time and it pees on me. From there, the comedy routines will just write themselves and America will fall in love. Colin Hanks, Mary Steenburgen, and Iman will all win Emmys for their supporting roles. I'm nominated every season, but somehow lose every time, which only endears me to the public even more."
(Photo credit: Liz Liguori)