As I type this sitting in my room tweaky from caffeine and listening to the 20th anniversary reissue of Integrity’s soul-scorching Humanity is the Devil, I can’t help but be grateful for friends who actually aren’t the devil and insist on trying to be creative or encourage community activity, building bridges of sorts in a year that has been nothing but divisive. Now, comedian and provocateur Frances Gunn might not be considered the most unifying as Gunn’s never been one to pull many comedic punches. Still, the Kingston-area resident is hosting an awesome event called The No Thanks Given Variety Feast on Thursday, Nov. 17 at The Anchor featuring an array of local talent from Jarrett Mayo, Esther Gin, Duval Culpepper and Radio Wiltwyck with Chris Livecchi to Kevin A. Smith that will be sure to bring a night of side-splitting laughter to our city.
“People have always found me funny and of course there’s a huge ego charge in making people laugh,” Gunn says. “I think a lot of artists and especially comedians tend to be messed-up people in one way or another. It’s not universal, but there’s a reason it’s a cliché. I see the world through dark lenses, so looking for the funny side of things is a coping mechanism in my life and my art. … And let’s face it, this world deserves a snarky mirror held up to it. Also there’s nothing in life better than making a girl laugh so hard she farts.”
I ask Frances if the intent leans more towards shock or enlightenment. “It’s never really my intent to shock, though it’s an inevitable side effect and if that’s what gets a laugh, that’s fine with me,” Gunn says. “There can also be something people find very relatable in the nakedness and honesty of a shocking statement. I think comedy is about taking people off guard and sometimes that means saying really off-color things to get a reaction, but it already exists in my head before it hits their ears, so none of it is shocking to me. No one ever calls themselves, ‘shock-rockers,’ or, ‘shock-jocks,’ they’re just doing something they think is awesome and that’s how people describe it. My sensibilities are grisly, so that’s what works for me. It bothers me when people regard clean comedy as somehow more difficult to pull off. Everybody’s different. It would be just as hard for me to be clean as it would for Jerry Seinfeld to open with an incest joke.”
Gunn formerly fronted rock bands growing up and I ask if comedy is even more rock ’n’ roll than rock ’n’ roll.
“There will always be a music sized hole in my heart,” says Gunn. “It just gets so complicated and exhausting after a while. It’s more physically demanding performance-wise. There’s all the gear you have to buy and maintain and lug from venue to venue. Everyone has to get along. It’s like having five girlfriends without the sex. I ran a burlesque troupe for awhile and that was like having 15 girlfriends with way too much sex, so that’s probably what finally burned me out. I don’t even own my own microphone anymore. I’m the only person I have to worry about. It’s refreshingly beautiful and simplistic. So that’s why I decided to put together a huge, multi-media variety show with go-go dancers, music numbers and sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads.”
It sounds like an insurance liability, but how did the night at The Anchor come about?
“My bosses and close friends, who I cannot thank enough, Brandy Walters and Mike McGrath, offered me the opportunity to put something together and I can’t resist the urge to over-complicate things by throwing glitter on them,” Gunn purrs. “I’ve always found the multi-faceted way more appealing than the straightforward. Like I said I ran a burlesque troupe the content of which was all over the place. So I set out to frame a comedy show like a burlesque show, with music, variety and a visual aspect. I wanted something different than your average comedy show that people will find interesting and memorable. We have go-go dancers, music, live singing, drag queens, musical standup, satirical local news and some traditional stand-up to round things out. DJ E-Bomb, who is doing the music for the actual show, will be spinning trashy, sleazy tunes into the night for dessert after the main course. So I really wanna show Kingston a good time on several levels. Wear your dancing shoes and your laughing diaper.”
As is sort of par for the course in my column, I like to get an idea of how people are responding to Kingston’s recent changes for [mostly] the better.
“If someone had told me 15 years ago that all this would be going on in Kingston now, I wouldn’t have believed them. Just the talent that passes through The Anchor on a daily basis is astounding. The fact that places like us, Keegan Ales and BSP are focused on fostering the arts has brought this community a long way and made it more than liveable for city-mice like me,” Frances says. “I’ve had some of the best moments of my life on that little stage at The Anchor. At the risk of sounding tribalistic, I think Kingston is doing everything right and I’ve even seen some surprising things happening lately in Saugerties. I never thought I’d see a roast battle in my hometown. But unfortunately I think Woodstock has really dropped the ball. There is virtually no music there from what I can tell. I don’t need to remind you of how much fun our little scene was back in the day, but it seems the locals really undervalued it and squashed it. Pretty weak for a tiny tourist town whose entire reputation is based on people’s inability to Google.”