We Ask Off-Broadway's Isaac Mizrahi Some Questions Before You Get To
The iconic designer answers our random-fire questions about Brooklyn, Les Miz, and his upcoming cabaret Ask Isaac.
Fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi is no stranger to theater. He spilled his guts off-Broadway in his one-man-confessional, Les MiZrahi, two years after his big 1998 breakup with Chanel. Ben Waltzer and his Quintet accompanied Mizrahi's debut, and the duo has staged numerous cabaret shows ever since. Their latest is Ask Isaac, which will hit The Laurie Beechman Theatre, following successful runs at Joe's Pub and The Blend, on January 10, 24 and 25. The shape-shifting artist described the production as "an exciting mix of a cabaret and a talk show." Mizrahi will perform nine songs with The Ben Waltzer Quintet, and in between he will let the audience grill him -- about anything. In an effort to cut the line, TheaterMania spoke with Mizrahi in the spirit of an audience Q & A. Meaning, we asked him whatever popped into our heads.
I'm from Brooklyn. You're from Brooklyn. I have to ask. Knicks or Nets?
I'm not a basketball fan, but if you sent me head sheets I would be able to tell you -- because it's based on their looks. That's why I like the Yankees so much better than the Mets: …[T]hey look better in their tight, tight knickers.
What's your favorite Brooklyn neighborhood?
I love Brooklyn. I'm from Midwood, which is not the Brooklyn that is flourishing now. Midwood is deep, deep, deep suburbia. [I] do love going to those little farm-to-table, boutique neighborhoods…The thing I find difficult about Brooklyn now is telling who is gay. They are all in flannel with beards, and the way they style their apartments, you would think they're all gay.
Can you make a line of jeans for short girls? ‘Cause we really need a line of jeans.
How short are you?
That's not short. If you got that there are people foaming at the mouth for people who are 5'3, you'd be working it…I think the people who really succeed in the world get that. Renée Zellweger is not thinking about how terrible she looks. She's thinking about how terrible you look. [Laughs] Those girls, they get it -- they work it.
Totally. I'm with you. It's still hard to find jeans that fit me.
I think the only answer is tailoring. And just try everything. Go [shopping] with an open mind.
You grew up in a religious Jewish family, I understand. How has your upbringing impacted your work?
You grow up having people tell you everything you do is crazy. I remember when I came out of the closet – and I'd been in therapy since kindergarten, all through grade school, ‘cause they wouldn't let me back into the Yeshiva until I went to therapy. And then in college, I actually paid for therapy and [my therapist] encouraged me to come out…My mom accepted it once she heard it was from a therapist, and that I was teaching at the New School. It's a trade off: You either spend life miserable as a married accountant, or you're miserable because you have no connection to where you're from. [Pause] That was a serious answer.
Yes, it was.
Come to Ask Isaac! I will give you serious answers. [Laughs] Maybe.
What should we expect from Ask Isaac?
[It's] very casual, and a lot of music. I'm not exactly…Kristin Chenoweth, but I do have it in me to do these numbers. I do feel great about the songs in this show -- they feel organic and funny. About five of the nine [songs] are completely new. I just love being on stage with Ben Waltzer. And I am building [the show] so it will be slightly more interactive. It's like a non-virtual chat room. They're going to ask me questions. Hopefully they won't be impossible questions.
Is there anything you don't want to talk about?
I don't think so, you know, I really don't. I passed 50, and once you do that, there isn't much you won't talk about. And even back in the '80s, I never had a problem telling the truth.
Have you seen the Les Miz film?
I haven't seen it yet…I don't know if I need to see that movie. No one I know has actually gone to see it and yet, [it's the] biggest grossing movie. There's these things that you see and say, ‘Oh, that'll never work, no one in New York City will go see that,' and then the rest of the country goes crazy for it. I do love Anne Hathaway. She's so commited. When James Franco left her out to dry on Oscar night, she stayed committed. I will go to see it just for Anne Hathaway.
Would you like to ask yourself a final question?
Well Isaac, what's next?
Well, I just hope this works. On New Years, I made a resolution that I would not worry about the future and just take it one thing at a time. That's another thing about your 50s: you learn how to just be on stage…to just be in the moment…to be present.