James Bradford is a comedian, musician, and former cast member of the VH1 reality show Can’t Get a Date. He’s also formerly offered up his services as an escort on Craigslist. All of these experiences will be used in his show James Bradford is…Thick to take the audience on what is promised to be a “wild trip with some unexpected, uniquely interpreted cover tunes sprinkled between stories about prostitution, growing up queer in the American south and the perils of starring on reality TV.” We caught up with James to ask him about his upcoming show.
WITOUT: It sounds like you are going to be telling some deeply personal stories on stage – is that something you’ve had to work on being comfortable with or have you always had a knack for being open about all the sad/dirty/funny details of your life?
JAMES BRADFORD: I think the sad & dirty parts of life are the only ones worth talking about. In comedy there are so many comedians interested in shocking people, so they just blathering about graphic shit that makes people uncomfortable on its face. People are far more shocked to hear me give a list of tips for wanna-be prostitutes (based on personal experience) than they would be if I just told a bunch of dick jokes.
I don’t think there’s any shame in the truth, so I don’t have any reservations about telling it. I actually spent a good part of my 20’s being a compulsive liar – this is absolutely true, I’m not bullshitting. I had zero self-confidence. I would pass other people’s songs off as my own, anything that wasn’t representative of who I actually am. Then I did the reality show. My theory is that if you do reality TV, once it’s over you have to either completely own who you are, or move into a cave in the center of the Earth. I chose the former.
WO: Is there anything that you won’t talk about on stage?
JB: There’s very little that I won’t talk about. Nothing is truly ‘off limits.’ I do tend to not try to be funny about things I don’t really understand. Unless that *IS* the joke, you’re just going to look like an asshole. I don’t talk about cancer. My mom died of pancreatic cancer when I was 17, and I have a throw-away line about it in the show but that’s it. Something is always not funny to someone, but more than that it’s like…who is coming to my show to hear that sad sad story? “Hey my mom suffered and died, now here’s a Rolling Stones cover!!!”
WO: How did you pick the songs for the show? Are they personal to you in any ways, or fit the stories you are telling? Are they all covers?
JB: The music in the show is a combination of covers and originals. The entire concept is inspired by comedienne Sandra Bernhard, particularly her 1985 one-woman show “Without You I’m Nothing.” We’ve tried to weave the musical performances linearly with the monologues. This is not a Glee moment. No one is going to burst out into song as narrative. A lot of the songs are obscure tracks by really well known artists that you wouldn’t expect to come up: Paula Abdul, Genesis, Janet Jackson… and though I loathe the idea of falling into the American Idol territory of ‘reinterpreting’ a song (which to them juts means turning a dance track into a ballad,) nothing we perform sounds anything like the original artist.
WO: Tell us about your band.
JB: I’ve put together a group of friggin’ awesome people to make up my band The Mana-Manas. The musical part of the show is directed by Toshio Mana, who is also our guitarist. Toshio and I met when we filmed the reality show “Can’t Get a Date,” and we’ve been performing together ever since. He’s like this Jack of all trades when it comes to music. Seriously, you could hand him a didgeridoo and say “Play me a Bjork track!” and in twenty seconds it would be done. We’ve got Melinda Gervasio, this kick-ass redheaded metro-dandy dyke with Billy Idol hair. She’s like our white Sheila E. Well. Whiter.
Andrew Connors is on bass, and he’s the token breeder in the band. It’s not his fault. He is in former VH1 battle of the bands winning band Jumper. I never asked him, but I assume their band name refers to the article of clothing and not a suicidal person. Bianca Lindblad is on backing vocals and comes from a majorly heavy metal place; but she’s also a trained opera singer. She has very large breasts and will be wearing a corset during the show…just so Andrew has something to look at during the monologues.
WO: Tell us about who else helped you out with the show.
JB: That’s it for peeps actually on stage, but we’ve had some pretty amazing contributions from other people. Natasha Vargas-Cooper is a feminist journalist and ex-union organizer who writes satirical pieces for GQ, among other publications. Her book “Mad Men Unbuttoned” is all about 1960’s pop culture. Julie Klausner is a comedian and TV writer who seems to be doing EVERYTHING these days. Her book “I Don’t Care About Your Band” details her entertainingly disastrous dating history; and she currently hosts a podcast called “How Was Your Week?” that has had Joan Rivers, Steve Agee and Maria Bamford as guests (among others.) These two women both wrote somewhat similar essays that I’ve put together into a monologue for the show.
Nadya Ginsburg is a comedian and actress who has sort of become part of a power trio of comedy along with comedian Selene Luna and drag queen Jackie Beat. You may have seen their viral video spoof of the “Corn Syrup” commercial. Nadya is best known for her show “Madonnalogues” where she plays..guess who? She has contributed a special audio piece for the show that quite frankly might be better than the show itself!
Was this as unfunny as it felt? I should say something overtly funny…
James Bradford is…Thick plays September 13th and 14th at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar. Tickets and more information can be found online.