5 Questions with ‘Comic Stripper’ Woody Shticks
This week, Woody Shticks returns to 18th & Union for a remount of his solo show, Who Cares! He’s an actor, dancer, stand-up comedian, producer, Moth GrandSLAM champion storyteller, and member of The Libertinis, a genre-blending, theatre-burlesque-comedy trio, whose solo shows have appeared at 18th & Union, Annex Theatre, and Portland’s Come Inside festival. Last month, NWT recently saw him perform stand-up — on queerness and sex and the always-hilarious religious bigotry — on the Intersections Festival stage this year, and couldn’t wait to see more.
Somewhere in between all that, he had time to chat with NWT about style, religion, art, and survival of the queerest on Capitol Hill.
In May, Shticks will bring his Schlong Song to the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival; and back in Seattle, he’ll co-host Butt Stuff (with Strawberry Shartcake) for Pony Pride in June, and join the cast of Kitten And Lou’s CAMPTACULAR! at the Triple Door. You can keep tabs on his travels on his website here.
Interview content is condensed and edited for clarity.
In your upcoming show, Who Cares!, audience members are supplied with and encouraged to chuck a tomato at you. What’s the deal?
For those not in the know, my newest show has a tumultuous twist: as in days of yore, everyone receives a tomato. If at any point you don’t care about the comedy onstage, you can throw it at me and I’ll skip ahead. I’m weary (and leery) of holding audiences hostage just because the lights are low on a solitary chair. I want to close the feedback loop by asking audiences to take back their taste and engage critically with art — especially an unlikely queer comedy quest in a fringe theatre.
At the snowy Who Cares! premiere in February, tomatoes were thrown every show and at different times, which is endlessly illuminating. As a natural instigator, this experiment is especially fun in scaredy Seattle; it would be a totally different experience in Atlantic City (my hometown), Philadelphia, Chicago, or New Orleans. And if any nervous soul doesn’t understand my billing as a “comic stripper,” I’d ask you lean into the mystery and discover what it means at one of my shows. I plunge into vulnerable situations and make it easy for you to join me, and before you know it, we’re confronting power and privilege while laughing our way through our favorite lies.
Speaking of power and privilege and lies — let’s talk politics. If you were tasked with designing a 45-minute show for “all the president’s men” (by which I mean Mike & Mitch & the most straight-hoping conservative White men imaginable), what would it look like?
For starters: the preshow music would be Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be An American, on repeat, too many times. If it’s a sit-n-stare, it’d be my solo Schlong Song, which is stand-up storytelling spiced with stripping that leans into common queer stereotypes hard enough to break them.
For a more participatory affair, it would be a site-specific conversation in a bathhouse sauna with everyone in tiny towels (or nude, as is my preference), with sweat dripping and defenses crumbling to the distant sounds of slurping. After a jovial conversational journey illustrating that queer expression shapes all culture and that they themselves are responsible for the things they fear the most, they’d be transported home by riding bitch on tricycles that blast only ABBA.
And now for the other favorite non-controversial, dinner-table topic … How has religion shaped your art? And while Who Cares! doesn’t contend with it overtly — how does your other art address religion & queerness?
I, like many of you, grew up in a Puritan cult in the New Jersey Pine Barrens — church four times a week, Christian school every weekday from kindergarten through high school, and Bible College at night.
All that Good News taught me everything I know about the sensory power of the performative setting: evocative music, dramatic lighting, arbitrary ritual, specific costuming, and emotional heft. My live-action memoir Caught One-Handed tackles head on my years of conversion therapy and sexual deviance, but all of my work is invariably informed by my many lives in the Church.
Religion (read: Christianity) is designed to dominate you. If you don’t WWJD everything — your personality, your company, your fantasies, and your actions — you’re doing it wrong and the Almighty will get you for it. It’s intentionally harder to shake than to submit.
[Is the church’s increasing “acceptance” or “tolerance” of queerness a ploy to maintain relevance?] It’s easy to mistake prevalence as relevance. I’m refuse to be hypnotized into believing that church equals community and to watch almost reasonable people try to mitigate their loneliness with generational tax evasion. Why beg for the scraps of heteronormativity when you can gorge on guilt-free gay goodness? Just come over to my house where we can pet my ancient pug, eat buckwheat, and discuss the fluid power dynamics of our favorite sex positions.
Capitol Hill seems a lot less gay these days. How’s a queer-mo to survive?
I think my li’l bungalow is the gayest thing about Capitol Hill that I still love. Tech bros and woo girls have taken most of the public domain by economic force. But I still boldly work the Pony pole, bake naked on lake beaches, cruise our pristine parks and college bathrooms, flirt with produce peddlers at farmers markets, and sob openly on public transit.
I still boldly work the Pony pole, bake naked on lake beaches, cruise our pristine parks and college bathrooms, flirt with produce peddlers at farmers markets, and sob openly on public transit.
What drives your work? And what do you want to see more of in Seattle theatre?
The endless rivalry between my taste and my skill keeps me very busy, whether I’m performing stand-up around the country, touring my solos to international festivals, producing socialist porn to bolster the masses, or building mentorships with budding queer artists wherever I can find them.
I want to see more levity in excellence that destroys preconceptions of success. The Libertinis, my interarts gang with Tootsie Spangles and Hattie HellKat, has long aimed to deal a low blow to high art. I’d love some more company in my constant struggle to get over and get into myself! Seattle Theatre: use your resources wisely to breathe life into new work from bold weirdos who carry plucky ingenuity and established skill. Stop sloppily producing the same five shows with the same six actors and a rotating cast of marginally marginalized extras. Show up for work that makes you laugh deeply, gasp audibly, and weep publicly, then invite those artists to create alongside you.
(Bonus question) You’re one of the few people who wears acid-wash well. What’s your style/fashion aesthetic?
I want to look like your bad babysitter. And Olivia Newton-John’s jealous neighbor who moonlights as Andre Agassi’s body double. I’m all about a thrifty-vintage hunt, and I find a lot of my coolest pieces on the street — wash (twice) and wear!
Who Cares! runs 4/25-4/28 at 18th & Union in the Central District. Tickets are $15-25 (sliding scale for all), available here. Accessibility notes: restroom is single-stall and gender-neutral; theatre is accessible through ramp access, though restroom is not — please contact venue ahead of time to ensure smooth access.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org. In a past life, he wrote Very Serious Law Things. You can read one of them here.