What greater homage to Joan Crawford is there than having a gay sketch-comedy
troupe (who named themselves after a petticoat-wearing bully from Little House
on the Prairie, a sappy TV show about farmers in the 1800s) reincarnate her
as either Evita or Annie Sullivan teaching Helen Keller to spell O-S-C-A-R? The
Nellie Olesons — John Cantwell, Terrence Michael and Nora Burns — have been perfecting
their brand of queer comedy for 10 years, spoofing everything from Calvin Klein
commercials to gym-cruising etiquette (“I think it’s so great that no one’s dying
anymore, ’cause, you know, AIDS is so three years ago”) to every dance number
ever staged for the screen, with no-holds-barred humor that’s closer to John Waters
than lisping gay camp. Mink Stole and the original Nellie herself, Little House
on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim, have taken part as guest performers. Now,
the Nellies are holding us breeders hostage again with Older! Uglier! Meaner!,
their latest buffet of tastelessness. We caught up with them backstage at the
Cavern Club in Silver Lake. (They’re playing at the Village in Hollywood this
L.A. WEEKLY: Isn’t this sketch-comedy business just an excuse for
you to dance like you’re on an ESPN National Aerobics Championship?
TERRENCE MICHAEL: Please, any excuse to jump around like demented “women-men.”
JOHN CANTWELL: I feel absolutely blessed to wear a woman’s leotard onstage and do “sugars” and “compulsory pussy thrusts.”
Joan Crawford, via Mommie Dearest, is one of the troupe’s
MICHAEL: We know the movie so well, we might as well have Mommie Dearest
tattooed on our backside. And how sad that is . . .
CANTWELL: It’s all very sad.
Nora, what are the criteria for being a fag hag these days?
NORA BURNS: Fag haggery is very competitive these days. You can’t just
be a wacky fat girl with funny glasses who sings show tunes. You have to know
DJs, wear D&G and have a hunky entourage.
Since the Olesons often mock old Calvin Klein perfume ads, what would the
Nellie Olesons’ eau de parfum smell like?
MICHAEL: Our fragrance would be a heady combination of sass and
pizzazz that would grab you by your hair and bitch-slap you to the ground.
CANTWELL: It would definitely burn a bit.
Is there anything funny about the Hurricane Katrina media coverage you’d
like to point out, aside from Mike Myers’ deer-in-the-headlights look alongside
Kanye West on the NBC telethon?
BURNS: Bush trying to look as if he gives a shit. The only mission-accomplished moment he has is giving his cronies rebuilding contracts. We hate that motherfucker.
So what do you envision for the Olesons after your upcoming Comedy Central
MICHAEL: The Nellies will discover Jesus, form a Christian schlock band
called “Holy Trinity” and make a shitload of money touring through the Deep South.
CANTWELL: I would like to work with Kay Lenz one day.
Older! Uglier! Meaner! is playing at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza,
Davidson/Valentini Theater, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood, through October
1. Call (323) 860-7300.