"You gotta get a gimmick, if you wanna get ahead," sings a gaggle of helpful strippers in the second act of Gypsy. This old showbiz maxim is nowhere truer than in the New York International Fringe Festival, where 200 shows vie for audience attention in the span of just 16 very hot August days. For a lot of shows, a successful gimmick starts with a compelling title. Here are 9 hilarious, obscene, and controversial shows that caught our eye based solely on their titles.
1. Murder at the Food Coop
Direct from the minds of composers Gersh Kuntzman and Marc Dinkin (SUV: The Musical) comes this thrilling musical farce. When Doris Chiang Kai Shenkman, the founder of a popular Brooklyn food coop, is found dead inside a hemp-powered freezer, an investigation begins to find out whodunit. Kuntzman and Dinkin describe this murder-mystery musical as "part Agatha Christie and part Julia Child."
2. A Microwaved Burrito Filled With E. Coli
Such an appetizing title! This is the next chapter in the continuing adventures of security guard and poet Molly "Equality" Dykeman. Writer and performer Andrea Alton first introduced Fringe audiences to Molly in her hit 2011 show, The F*cking World According to Molly. In this episode, Molly attends a lesbian wedding at a Mexican restaurant in deepest, darkest Brooklyn. Will she catch the bouquet, or merely a fistful of churros? Go and find out!
3. Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show!
Comedy and rock duo Slanty-Eyed Mama (Kate Rigg and Leah Ryan) brings you this electric casserole of all things Asian: math nerds, gay Pokémon, and those golden cats with the waving arms you see in Chinatown. In addition to the standup comedy and electric violin riffs, the show features songs like, "White Girl Problems," "Bowl Cut Blues," and "The Hello Kitty Song." This one looks fierce.
4. Machine Gun America. A play with guns. And songs.
Joseph Huff-Hannon's dark satire of gun culture takes its name from a "shooting attraction" (read: jazzed-up gun range) just outside of Disney World (and 30 minutes from Pulse Nightclub, site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history). Composer John Turner has set some of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre's speeches to cheerful musical showstoppers while telling true stories of gun violence in America. Expect the politics to get very heated.
5. My White Wife, or So I Married a Black Man
Standup comedy team Rick Younger and Vanessa Shealy discuss their interracial marriage in this 75-minute routine that "promises to give people of all complexions permission to have a difficult and desperately needed conversation about race — and laugh about it." Fringe audiences may recognize Younger as a regular panelist on the "Guys Tell All" segment from the boozy fourth hour of the Today Show. This show conveniently takes place in the Huron Club, so there will be plenty of drinking there too!
6. Naked Brazilian
He had us at the title. Watching all the sexy cariocas on television has made us really wish we could be in Rio for the Olympics. Gustavo Pace offers the next best thing in this solo show, which recounts his own personal journey from Rio to Harvard University. Sure, East 4th Street isn't quite Copacabana Beach, but are you really going to get any closer to a hot Brazilian this summer?
7. Poops, I Did It Again: True Tales of an Angry Colon
In this hour-long solo show, Brie Henderson unloads about her Ulcerative Colitis, a medical condition that has regularly caused her to defecate in her pants. "I used to be really embarrassed about my condition," she confesses, "but even though I'm really gross, people like to hear about it." No matter how squicked out you may be, you have to admire Henderson's bravery in helping this seldom-discussed issue float to the surface of New York City's biggest theater festival.
8. Steve Got Raped
This dark comedy by Sam Gooley is about a particularly wild bachelor party and subsequent events that threaten to sink Steve's engagement to Katie. In producing the show for the Fringe, theater company The New Collectives aims to start a conversation about consent, monogamy, and societal expectations. With a title like that, they've certainly made a provocative opening statement.
9. You Don't Matter
Black Lives Matter? All Lives Matter? How about, No Lives Matter. Just in time for the hottest month of summer comes this depressing orgy of nihilism about a suicidal God who realizes that nothing and no one really matters. The show even comes with a snackable online quiz that promises to let you know if you, personally, matter. I think we already know the answer…