This award-winning, Joan Rivers-worshiping queer comic slays the stage with his sharp humor and lavish costumes. This weekend, he’s bringing his new comedy special to the Duplex. We like Ike Avelli!
Thotyssey: Hey Ike! Thanks for talking to us! So, your big show is this weekend; has your whole week been about preparing?
Ike Avelli: So excited to be talking to you, I am a huge fan of Thotyssey! Oh my, it has been a CRAZY week. First, I had a bout with Krispy Kreme last week, so I had to make a sudden change, as I couldn’t fit in one of my costumes for the show. You can only stretch spandax so far, ya know?
Ha! I actually do know! I didn’t know until recently that outrageous costumes were part of your act.
Oh yes! depending on the show, I could have up to 7 costume changes. Each show is different, so for this particular show’s theme, I went campy biblical. Is that even a thing?
It is now! What usually inspires your looks?
My inspiration comes from a lot of the iconic divas. For one of my shows, I had a friend re-create Cher’s Ice Queen costume from many years ago. And another costume was a replica of Barbra Streisand from the Grammys, 1980!
I wanna hear all about this show, but first let’s get to the beginning! Where’s your hometown?
Right now I am living in Parlin, NJ. Nice, quiet town… lived here now for about 38 years.
By the way, are you officially an “Ichabod?”
[Laughs] I hear that all the time; mix that with Makavelli, and you have one Religious Gangsta!!
I’d download that! Did you always want to be a comic, or some type of performer?
Oh yes! When I was about four years old, my Mom was watching the Carol Burnett Show and I said, “one day, I want to do that. I want to make people laugh, do sketch comedy and sing campy songs.” I am the worst singer in the world, but that is what makes it even funnier.
I was always the class clown, impersonating the teachers. And when I turned 13, I discovered Joan Rivers, and that was it for me. I actually didn’t start performing till I was 43!
What was that performance?
I took a chance when a performer at my holiday party in 2009 backed out. I said, “let me try it out, let me do some standup.” How can you go wrong with family and friends around?
The laughter sealed the deal, and in 2010, I started performing at Open Mics in NYC/Philly/Las Vegas/Fort Lauderdale, getting my name out there as much as I could.
Fascinating to get into comedy later in life, like Joy Behar! How is the joke writing process for you–does it come naturally?
Yes, as long as the POTUS stays in office, I should have solid material! Seriously, I keep up with current events, my family, and my little-to-no sex life.
I am also very self-deprecating.
A perfect formula for comedy cold! I assume you must be a little crazy also… that is kind of the stereotype with comics, right?
[Laughs] you would think with my demented mentality I would have some kind of whack-a-doodle diagnosis. But I am, sad to say, as normal as I’ll ever get. I think it surprises people when they get me off-stage, that I am really down to earth and got it altogether. But hey, the year is still early, right!?
There’s always time for a turn!
What are the specific challenges of a queer comic? Do you do gay humor when you’re on a “straight” stage–and if so, does it play?
I will be honest: it’s always hard as a gay comic to perform in a gay bar/club. We all know the patrons are there to dance/drink, and sometimes the crowd gets loud. I do very well in “straight” venues. I am always myself, and I let the audience know, this is who I am. Once I do that, they relax and enjoy themselves.
That is why I decided to rent out small cabaret theaters–I started back in 2013. I have control, and can do what I want to do!
I always thought that straight comics who bomb on those open mic nights in the West Village did so because of the material… but you’re right! Gay bars are really not a good place for standup in general.
[Laughs] yeah, it probably was the material!
Well, “my wife’s tits” might not play so well in Stonewall, true.
HAHAHA!!! Yeah, I love straight comics who don’t research the venue before they hit the stage. Always a downer!
Is the queer standup community close-knit?
I am lucky to have a large, tight knit bunch of performers in the city. We continuously support each other by performing in each others’ gigs, and there is never any jealousy. Nice to know that you can say, “hey, I came up the same time as Ari Kiki or Miz Cracker.”
What was your first time working in any capacity with a drag queen?
OMG! You are taking me back now! I did an open mic back in 2010–my first open mic–and I asked Viki Villainess (to join me onstage). I’ve never done a show where I didn’t involve a drag queen. They literally give me life!
Do you know queens who can make it as standups without the drag, if they wanted to?
I think Bianca Del Rio and Lady Bunny out of drag are probably just as funny as they are in drag. Everyone is different–we sometimes put on a wig/makeup to become this being that we are afraid to be when we are ourselves. It gives you that platform!
Random question: why have there been so many more super popular crossover lesbian comics, compared to gay men, over the years?
There are sure a ton of lesbian comedians, but let’s face facts: women are funnier. The myth, “comedy is a man’s world,” must be stopped!
Amen! You mentioned Joan Rivers… who are some other comics, past or present, that inspire or influence you?
Joan Rivers will always be my first. I am a fan of the old school comics. Loved Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller. Today, I love Sandra Bernhard, Chelsea Handler, Rita Rudner, Wendy Liebman. Just a huge fan of women comics
Here’s something that I’ve been wondering lately: Joan and Trump were close friends because of The Apprentice, which helped revive her career. If she lived to see him run on his presidential platform, do you think she would’ve eventually turned on him?
That is a GREAT question. Yes, I completely think she would turn against him. Just for LGBTQ rights… and she was very close with her daughter Melissa, who I believe said her mother wouldn’t approve.
What do you think about the rise of politically correct culture, and this call for very controlled language, these days? Does that hurt comedy?
I am so tired of people having to walk on egg shells. Say what you feel: it’s a stage, and it’s your time to make people laugh. If they don’t get it, remember: there are 70 people in the audience; one guy with a stick up his ass will not hurt your material. I think there are enough comics out there that would still do what they want, and will always be politically incorrect!
YES! Robbyne Kaamil came up with the brilliant “2 Queers and a Bitch,” and I have to say it is a great platform for Robbyne, Tym and myself to do what we do best, and then come together and do sketch and sometimes ad lib and crack up mid-scene. It’s a lot of fun, and the audience eats it up.
This year, “2 Queers and a Bitch” will be taking a new turn. Right now it’s Robbyne and myself, and we will have a special guest “Queer” in each of the cities we visit on our tour. Plus, we are lucky to have an Official Tour Sponsor “UBERLUBE”, so we will continue with our amazing giveaways at each of the shows!
Oh,yeah! I actually wrapped up a holiday show at The Duplex in December, and didn’t think I would be doing another solo show till the end of 2017, as I will be traveling with 2 Queers and a Bitch. But the week of Christmas, someone mentioned the Book Of Mormon, and I thought, a show must be done. I invited Robbyne Kaamil and Lauren Ordair to be a part of the show, and it will be a night of comedy/music and lots of audience participation!
That stage at the Duplex is such s great spot for an intimate show. How many have you done there now, would you say?
This will be my seventh original show at the Duplex. I love it there–not just the atmosphere and the great staff, but it’s also the home where Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand got their start early in their career!
It all comes back to Joan! I see you have another performance coming up on April 21st, on Long Island.
YES! I am actually one of many artists who will be performing for Auntie M’s Helping Hands, a Non Profit Organization on Long Island working within the LGBTQ community.
Excellent. And I know you are also no stranger to the world of podcasting and YouTubing.
In between The Book Of Ike and traveling with 2 Queers and a Bitch, I will be starting a podcast coming in May called Tea and Dirt, with Tyrone Desperado. More on that info will be coming on my website.
And there’s The Tym and Ike Show On YouTube. We did one season and started filming again, but that [new material] may not be released until the summer!
Lots to look forward to! Okay, so last question: if you ever go full queen someday, what will your drag name be?
Crop Dusta! That name was given to me [laughs]!
Thank you, Crop! See you Saturday!
Ike Avelli’s stage show “The Book of Ike” will be at the Duplex on Saturday, March 25th (9:30pm). Click here for future appearances, or check his website. Ike can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.