Grab My Junk
If only all diplomatic missions were this fun. After touring through 31 cities in five countries, self-appointed burlesque mayor of New York City Jonny Porkpie finally brought his outrageous game show parody to the British capital. Grab My Junk hit London with a cross-section of local burlesque talent, offering a fresh, fast-paced take on the hackneyed genre of game show parody.
The show’s format is simple and direct, alternating acts with escalating rounds in a mock quiz show where audience members are picked to compete for VHS tapes, vibrating poop scoopers and other exclusive prizes carefully sourced from whatever junk is lying around the performers’ homes. The questions? Intimate details of the burlesquers’ sex lives, to be guessed by the participants.
Other details mark the show as a distinctly American production, namely an interval act and the addition of a co-host on compèring duties. Common practices on US variety stages, they feel like very welcome novelties from a London perspective.
Porkpie owns the evening with the unfaltering wit of his rapid-fire banter. In addition to his brilliant turn as MC, the Mayor boasts edgy boylesque acts of his own, full of uproarious antics. His first number at the London debut saw Porkpie twirling tassels after rapping about the implications of having a small penis, sending waves of laughter through the crowd with hilarious metaphors (or similes). Vegas, the follow-up, is a physical theatre tour the force, in which the boylesquer finds a new bottle of booze on himself after every item of clothing removed. All real liquor, too – I was there, I could smell it.
Female presence on the bill included some of the finest acts in London, like V.J. Spankie’s eerie satanic dance and the salacious bondage pin-up romp of Emerald Fontaine and Sophia St Villier (both audience favourites at previous London Burlesque Week events). Miss Rose Thorne, co-producer of the show, opened the proceedings with her signature Elephant Woman act, a charming strip number with inspired comic turns. Sienna Lately only contributed a stiff, tepid fan dance, while Crimson Skye closed the show with her provocative multi-fetish hit Black Hole routine.
Co-hosting the show was underground champion Mat Fraser, who milked humorous sidekick clichés with consummate flair before launching into a solo skit of his own. The only cabaret performer in the programme, Fraser sang Edwyn Collins’s A Girl Like You, naked except for a miniature tailcoat and shoes, endowing his nudity with the shocking irreverence that only a flapper boy can achieve (no, we’re not talking about pearls and feathers – Google him).
Rounding up the male section of Grab My Junk was boylesque troupe The Bears, in all the hirsute glory that the name implies. Kicking off with leader Fred Bear’s live take on Bare Necessities (geddit?), the trio enlivened the interval with a shameless, comically clumsy strip act to All That Jazz. Their reputation for camp laugh-out-loud humour precedes them, and deservedly so: nothing says ‘camp’ louder than hairy overweight men in G-strings and pink feather boas.
The game show shtick is what makes Grab My Junk unique. Not because of the nature of the jokes – largely parodies of the popular TV genre – but because of its subject matter. Even if you’ve never seen the featured performers before, it’s hard to resist the temptation of finding out personal indiscretions about the men and women who have just stripped for your pleasure. Perhaps unsurprisingly, burlesque dancers tend to be private individuals. Where else could you find out that the stupidest thing Rose Thorne has ever heard during sex was “Hit the Hut,” or that Sophia St Villier fantasizes about Josh Hamm and Jeremy Irons getting it on? (Not sure I needed to learn that, though.) Unapologetically capitalizing on the lurid appeal of voyeuristic audiences, Grab My Junk is a guilty pleasure like no other burlesque show I’ve seen.
But it’s more than that as well. It’s a fierce display of the underrated boylesque genre, an intelligent take on media sensationalism, and one damn funny show to boot. The US economy may be in a shambles, with New York nearly frozen (literally, too), but American audiences are quite fortunate to have a show like this touring the country. Do yourself a favour and don’t miss it, regardless of which side of the Atlantic you’re on.
Grab My Junk. Hosted by Jonny Porkpie. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London. 10 November, 21:00. £10 (£8 advance). www.grabmyjunk.net
Photos by Tigz Rice