129 Minutes With Bridget Everett

Photo: Allison Michael Orenstein

Watch out!” yells Bridget Everett, the alt-cabaret singer in possession of an extra­vagantly dirty mouth, an unexpectedly pure voice, and, until a moment ago, a softball she has now lobbed in the direction of her friend Neal Medlyn. He looks up just in time for the ball to sail over his head. Everett is at McCarren Park for “Catch Club,” as she and her friends call their weekly softball practice, but so far this Catch Club hasn’t involved all that much actual catch.

Today’s session includes Medlyn, a ­gangly performance artist also known as the rapper Champagne Jerry (sample lyric: “I have a medium-sized dick, my dick is medium sized!”), and Murray Hill, a gender-bending entertainer who frequently opens for Dita von Teese. Their softball squad, Team Pressure, has been playing in McCarren Park for years, but they don’t quite know what to make of the scrum of humanity they’ve encountered this time—it’s a sunny Saturday in mid-October, and the field is full of so many individuals engaged in so many recreational activities it looks more like an architectural rendering than real life.

“Who are all these people?” Medlyn keeps asking.

“We’ve never been here on a weekend,” explains Hill. “We’re showbiz types.”

Everett’s particular brand of show ­business involves a blend of bawdy humor, discomfiting sexual references, and a healthy dollop of self-empowerment. In person, Everett, who has been performing for over a decade, is practically demure, still the girl who used to get so nervous before dates she’d show up with a list of things to say. But onstage with her backup band, the Tender Moments, she treats ­performance as a kind of extreme sport, one that involves the telling of very dark stories and demands the frequent ripping off of clothes. “It’s like the beast is unleashed,” Everett says, lobbing another ball over to Hill. This one lands in his glove with a satisfying thwap.

It’s still rare that a woman broad-­shouldered enough to hoist an audience member, WWE style, and carry her (or him) to the stage, as Everett regularly does, presents her body in all its raw power. Watching her can be almost revelatory. Over the years she has attracted an all-star team of celebrity fans. The comedienne Amy Schumer brings her on tour (and onto her Comedy Central show), and ­Justin Vivian Bond cheers from the ­audience at her monthly Joe’s Pub gig, where special guests have included Flea and Fred Armisen. Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz is such a supporter he plays in her backup band (he’s also an occasional member of Catch Club), where he mostly keeps a low profile, at least until he and the drum­mer perform a synchronized dance to the repeat­ed refrain “What I gotta do to get that dick in my mouth.”

Horovitz also co-produced Everett’s just-released album, Pound It!, and helped write her last show, Rock Bottom, which premiered in late October. (The Tony-winning writing duo Marc Shaiman and Scott ­Wittman were on the writing team as well.)

Rock Bottom marked a bit of a departure for Everett—it was less a showcase of individual numbers, more a story told through song. Or, as Everett puts it, “less pussy, more voice of an angel.” The performances went well, putting aside the moment ­Everett accidentally dropped an audience member. “I finally found out how far is too far,” she says. “He had the imprint of the monitor on his back.”

In early November, Everett hit another milestone, appearing with Patti LuPone at Carnegie Hall, where she and the Broadway dame harmonized to “Me and Bobby McGee.” “I wasn’t lifting anyone up, but people were definitely looking at me with disbelief, like, Who is this ­person?” Everett says. “There’s just no ­reason I should ever be on that stage.”

Her current upward trajectory can ­actually be traced to this softball field. When she joined the team, at Hill’s suggestion, she was close to giving up singing. “I was spending all my days inside, watching Law & Order, and at night I’d go wait tables,” she says. But with Team Pressure, she found a family. The players, mostly actors and musicians, have their own rules—for example, no one can strike out. “It’s a self-esteem booster,” says Medlyn. “But the games go on a long time.”

For Everett, the team “changed everything,” pulling her out of her slump and motivating her to book a show at Joe’s Pub for herself and a yet-to-be-determined band, which she recruited from the league. “Adam was the first to join,” she says. “I really couldn’t believe that.”

Softball has also provided musical inspiration. She came up with her single “Titties” while shagging balls in the outfield during Catch Club. “I just started singing to myself, ‘You got them little nippy titties, put ’em in the air, you got them beavertail titties.’ ” She went over to Horovitz, who was at practice that day, and told him she had an idea for a song about all different kinds of breasts. “But I was like, ‘I dunno. This is ridiculous.’ He just said, ‘I think pretty ridiculous is working pretty well for both of us.’ ”

Catch Club often involves sprints, laps, and even grounders to second base. But there are two kinds of Catch Club—­Legitimate Catch Club and Casual Catch Club—and today is most decidedly the ­latter. Whenever a throw goes long, the group shouts, “Relay!” and whoever is nearest chases after the ball. There have been a lot of relays, and eventually the crew retires to a nearby tree.

Hill and Everett have known each other for more than a decade. “The first thing I noticed when we met?” Hill says. “Her build. Maybe the personality.”

“Not my pretty smile or my tits?” says Everett.

“Well, build is just another word for tits,” Hill says. “She’s come a long way,” he adds. “For a while she would wear, to every gig, the same bustier and cropped pants.”

“Now she has gowns,” says Medlyn, though a typical Bridget Everett “gown” might cover her front but leave her backside completely revealed from the waist down. (At Carnegie Hall she went for something a bit more “tasteful,” she says—a floor-length dress that made her look “like an electric-blue Big Bird with tits.”)

During her Joe’s Pub show, she often goes through five or more costumes, all of them glittery, shiny, or both, none of which comes close to covering her profusion of curves. For a recent performance of “Titties,” she wore a sheer skirt and a tube top that drifted precariously close to her nipples as she stalked the room, grabbing women’s breasts and commanding they “Put ’em in the air.”

Catch Club comes to an end, and the three athletes pack up and head out in search of lunch before Bridget needs to head home “to Westchester,” as Medlyn puts it (the Upper West Side). They stop at a bodega for sandwiches. “Somebody sent me this video clip of LL Cool J being ­interviewed by Oprah,” says Everett between bites of her egg and cheese. “He was like, ‘Dreams don’t have deadlines.’ I’m 41, but things are finally kicking into gear. DDHD, girl! I should make that into a song.”

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129 Minutes With Bridget Everett