INTERVIEW: The Kinsey Sicks Win Their Battle With Electile Dysfunction

The renowned "dragapella" group take on the political scene in their newest touring show.

The Kinsey Sicks in Electile Dysfunction
(© Kurt Peschke)
The Kinsey Sicks in Electile Dysfunction
(© Kurt Peschke)

Take four singing activists, add high hair and high heels, sprinkle with camp, carefully strain all ingredients, and you have The Kinsey Sicks, the “dragapella” group that was born out of the shared experience of being the only drag queens at a 1993 Bette Midler concert. Almost two decades, several CDs, hundreds of concert appearances, and a few personality transplants later, the Kinsey Sicks are still going strong — and are currently presenting their latest show, Electile Dysfunction: The Kinsey Sicks for President, at San Francisco’s Rrazz Room for a two-week run as part of their national tour. TheaterMania recently caught up with founding member Irwin Keller (Winnie) to talk about the show.

THEATERMANIA: So the Kinsey Sicks are really running for President?
IRWIN KELLER: I guess the current Kinsey Sicks presidential campaign is a natural outgrowth of the Citizens United case. You know, if corporations are people, then there is no reason we cannot run for President. We have the added advantage of being a foursome so it helps distribute the burden of the Presidency. You are your own Cabinet! We are. Or at least a wardrobe or a dresser.

TM: How did this show come about?
IK: Electile Dysfunction is actually our first commissioned work ever — by Theater J. Still, we are doing what we wanted to do. The commission was to create an original work that relates to the election. We were given complete free rein. Theater J didn’t impose any restrictions on us, which is wonderful. I am not certain that every theater would be like that, but they were. They really wanted to know what would come of our own process. The show is very political and the music is great. This particular election has been harder to satirize than any election that we have worked through before.

TM: How much has the show evolved since you wrote it?
IK: We premiered it in February and ran it for a few weeks in D.C. Since then, we have been touring it around and it really has been very interesting seeing how it plays in different places. We played it in Kansas, we played it in Wyoming, as well as playing it in big cities. We are going to be doing it in Tampa opposite the Republican National Convention.

TM: Things can turn on a dime and all of a sudden the thing that was topical has changed. Has that been a challenge?
IK: Frankly, that is one of the things that we love, because we follow the campaign. One thing that is really fun for us is that we read the morning news and then we all e-mail each other. We’re like “Did you see that? Oh my God, this has to be in the show!” Within just a few minutes there are three different ideas about where to fold it in. We’re all quick on our feet and it is pretty easy for us to re-do a lyric or re-do a line or throw in a new joke. And sometimes we even have to remove jokes.

TM: Can you give an example?
IK: We had a joke about President Obama’s glacier-like evolutionary thought around marriage equality — that it would take another hundred thousand years, another ice age, or whatever to change his mind; I don’t remember what the joke was exactly. We were happy that it lent us some credibility in that we were also leveling a critique at our side for their actual failures. We want to make sure that — while obviously we have a viewpoint — our viewpoint is not just about Republicans. That it is also about having progressives in America actually stand by their word and stand firm on principle. Of course, the good news is that we had to take that joke out.

TM: Are you all naturally political creatures or have you become more so in the process of creating this show?
IK: I think Ben and Jeff are really quite the news junkies. I think all four of us are activists; but, for instance, I cannot sit and watch Bill O’Reilly. It upsets me. Whereas with Ben and Jeff, we will be on tour and we’ll get up the next morning and be talking about what Rachel Maddow said, and then all of a sudden Ben and Jeff will be talking about what Bill O’Reilly said, and I can’t believe it. I have to channel surf right past him. I think a lot of us feel brutalized by the kinds of things that he says. I take him very personally.

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