One of the best known and most respected boylesque performers in New York City and beyond, Matt Knife’s sexyfun troupe Homo Erectus just rang in their fourth year anniversary at Stonewall. And this week they return, accompanied by boylesquers from all over the world! Thotyssey’s got the lowdown on this unconventially sexy/fun burlesquian badass.
Thotyssey: How did your performance with the Green Mountain Cabaret in Vermont go this weekend, Matt? It looks like one of the nights ended with you getting gang banged my muppets.
Matt Knife: It was great! The Green Mountain Cabaret is a very well-run, finely produced show with amazing performers! I was happy to bring up my puppets friends. The Muppet sex is consensual and loving.
I’m glad to hear it! Fozzie’s pretty hot. Did you think when you started in boylesque that you’d be travelling so far and wide, and having such wacky adventures with puppets, and what have you?
No, honestly after four years of doing this I am just starting to believe people want me to come from far and wide; it’s not a mistake, or charity. I have unique gifts to offer, and I am very blessed to have the opportunities I have been given. It’s confidence-boosting and humbling at the same time. It’s hard to describe.
Sounds like a nice place to be in life! I see you’re from Cincinnati.
Yes! I love Cincy, so much my arm tattoos are off the Cincinnati Museum Center. I am proud to be from there, but happy I live in Brooklyn now.
What were you like when you were younger? Did you always want to be a performer of sorts?
I have always been an artist. One of my first memories was raiding my mother’s desk, looking for paper and scribbling with crayons, trying to capture what was going on in my head. I have always loved to dance, loved music and art. I was a band geek, and later moved my attention to costume design, which I studied in school. I have dedicated my life to art.
As far as what I was like as a kid… I was very shy, nerdy, insecure, sad–but very hopeful the future was going to hold treasures beyond my dreams. I was still the same person, but so scared to be true to myself. Being gay in Ohio in the 80s and 90s was not a good fit for me. So I had to wait, grow up and move away.
And you came to New York to pursue art and performance, or just live life?
I came to NYC to be a costume designer, which is still happening. The costumes are just the ones I strip out of!
How were you exposed to the world of burlesque, and what about it appealed to you?
I met Teddy Turnaround at a “cooking with pot” party. He was about to take Chris Harder’s boylesque 101 class. Teddy and I became fast friends, and started seeing shows together while taking the class.
It was appealing because it was so inclusive, loving; gender, body and sex positive. The community seemed to understand and celebrate what I did. I hadn’t really felt that before.
So, what are you trying to express through your dancing and stage presence?
I like telling stories, transforming moods and energies in the room. I like to go out and share my ideas and body with receptive living audiences. Be unapologetically myself.
Does burlesque always have to be funny/kitschy to work, or can it be dramatic too?
It can be all emotions, the full human experience.
Congratulations on four years of your troupe Homo Erectus, by the way.
Yes, the show has been running four years at Stonewall, and I have loved every minute of it.
It was a great show hosted by my drag mother, World Famous ☆BOB☆ and starring all of my favorite performers. It was a fun way to celebrate my birthday and our show.
What’s the history of Homo Erectus? Why did you start it?
After I took the class, I realized there was no monthly boylesque show, so it was a great opportunity to round the guys up and to continue performing myself.
Plus a lot of us boylesquers are really annoyed at the “masc4masc only” culture online. It basically amounts to “no faggots”. As someone who is comfortable being a man, but celebrates women and his own femininity, I wanted to rebel against that “manly men only” mindset.
So you basically invented NYC monthly boylesque!
Well I don’t know about inventing it. But I started a show, and it just keeps going.
Is your spouse Cubby Hall a member too?
Yes, Cubby Hall is the graphic designer/stage manager and sometimes performer in the show.
How did you meet him?
We met in grad school, in North Carolina.
I am sadly not a full member of White Elephant, but I am a regular guest of theirs at Rockbar.
Burlesque / boylesque performers in the city seem like they’re kind of this big, extended family. Is that true?
It’s very true and it extends beyond NYC. I have family in Burlington (Vermont), Seattle, Denver, Portland, LA, Philly, Helsinki, Vienna, England, Toronto and Pittsburgh.
Lots of folks in the bear and boylesque worlds have given you props in previous interviews! Bradford Wakefield from Bad Apple said you were a big supporter of his troupe, and Florence D’Lee said you guys helped set her up with her collaborator Tucker Bowles.
No one can really do this alone, or they run the risk of alienating themselves. Plus, you miss out on the community aspect of burlesque if you do. The community is small, even on an international level. And if you want to keep getting booked, it is best to play nice. “Nice is the new fierce,“ to quote my drag mother.
And I see you appeared in the Naked Highway “Call Girls” video?
Yes. Chris Harder also appears in the video. Naked Highway is the best!
Who’s a rising burlesque star, male or female, that we should be watching?
Broody Valentino. He took Jonny Porkpie’s boylesque class a year ago (I was the teaching assistant, or the T&A). He comes from a musical theater/puppetry background, and is really a great performer and innovator.
Home Erectus is having another show at Stonewall on June 9th. What’s to be expected?
Are you going to be involved in the Boylesque Festival at all?
Sounds like a great night. Any other projects or appearances coming up?
What about in Coney Island? That seems to be the burlesque capital of NYC.
We’ll look out for those! Final question: what’s your absolute favorite number to dance/perform/strip to?
Oh, that is too hard a question! I love all of my acts for different reasons. I do enjoy making people laugh, and showing them a good time. I can’t pick, it’s like asking me to pick my favorite child!
We’d never ask you to do that! Keep those kids coming, Matt, and thanks!
Matt Knife will perform with Homo Erectus at Stonewall on Thursday, June 9th (7pm). He’ll perform June 10th at the House of YES for the New York Boylesque Teaser Party (6:30pm), and will assist backstage for the main event of the festival at the Gramercy Theatre on June 11th. Other summer performances include Bizarre Bushwick on June 16th (9pm), Crimson Kitty’s birthday showcase at Stonewall on June 19th (8pm), and July 19th & 30th at Coney Island USA. Matt Knife can be followed on Facebook & YouTube.