For more than 10 years, Bridget Everett has been making a name for herself as a raunchy but quite tuneful cabaret singer in New York City. Not only did Everett sing X-rated songs with her band The Tender Moments (which includes one Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz from the Beastie Boys), but also it was not uncommon for Everett to stroll into the crowd, get very physical with audience members, and perhaps even “accidentally” let a boob pop out for good measure. I’ve seen her perform live, and it’s an event like no other. And it’s exceedingly funny.
But in the last few years, Everett has taken on a new role as actor, showing up in sketches on “Inside Amy Schumer” as well as roles in “Girls,” “Lady Dynamite,” and “2 Broke Girls.” She also popped up in smaller film roles, including appearances in the first SEX IN THE CITY film, TRAINWRECK, and GAYBY. But in the last year or so, Everett has taken on larger, more substantial, occasionally dramatic parts in such movies as the recently released FUN MOM DINNER, the Tribeca debut PERMISSION and the upcoming Netflix horror-comedy LITTLE EVIL. But it’s her role as the full-on dramatic role as a boozy, neglectful mother in writer-director Geremy Jasper’s debut feature PATTI CAKE$ that is getting the most attention right now, and it’s the part that brought us together in Chicago recently.
Everett is a powerhouse performer on stage and now in films, and I can’t wait to see what else she lines up next (actually, she tells me about a pilot that should be debuting on Amazon at some point, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, so look for that). Please enjoy my talk with Bridget Everett…
Capone: Last night, I think I mentioned I've been a huge fan of yours for a very long time, and I’m so happy you’re here.
Bridget Everett: Oh, thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Capone: I was really excited that you were in two very different films I saw at Sundance, including this one that I consider high-drama work from you.
BE: Yeah it is.
Capone: When you're entering this world of serious acting, you're like somebody out of drama school. You've had years doing this music thing, which you've been very successful at, and now you’re essentially starting from square one with acting. Is that thrilling or terrifying?
BE: It's really terrifying, but you know the cool thing about Geremy is when he was asking me to come to Sundance, because most people would jump at the chance, but I live my life in fear. But he was like, "Just take the pressure off yourself. We'll just come, we'll do it." And I think he did the same thing for Danielle, so I didn't feel like I was going to fail. I thought that there might be something inside of me, but what a luxury to have somebody take a gamble on you and do it in a way where it's not threatening and nobody loses. So it was a perfect opportunity for me.
Capone: This was a Sundance Directors Lab, so what was your experience like as an actor, because it's more about the director, who's also the writer in this case, getting notes and getting ideas. So what are the actors do, and how did that help you get ready for the eventual shoot?
BE: Yeah, well actors are actors. They want to please and they want to do it right and be good, and there were all these mentors. And it was like a safe haven. They make this like a real utopia. And what do the actors do? That's a good question. I showed up like it was my first day of camp. Danielle had already been there, and she's like the happy next-door neighbor that you want to greet you to the neighborhood.
I was sitting alone at a table, and she's like, “Hey!" Puts down the tray right next to you and is just like, "Welcome, how you doing?" And that's who she is as a person, so it really was disarming, but in the most wonderful way, because I live in New York, and everybody is just like "Gimme mine, gimme mine." And all of a sudden, you're working with people that just want to do a cool thing and be great together. But definitely, we would eat with the other actors, and then the directors sit with the directors, and the mentors with the mentors. You talk about your experience and you learn how to let the bullshit go in your head.
Capone: Has this got ahold of you now, this acting thing? You'll do comedies, I'm guessing, but are you also keeping your eye open for something more serious?
BE: Well, I just did a pilot and I never would have the confidence to do that without this experience. I wrote it with Bobcat Goldthwait and Michael Patrick King. I worked with Michael like 10 years ago, and that was my start, when I finally started getting out of the karaoke scene and doing real shit.
Capone: You were in the first SEX AND THE CITY movie, right?
BE: Yeah. And we did this [cabaret] show together called “At Least It's Pink”” in 2007. And then he wrote a part for me, a small little part, in the SEX AND THE CITY movie. But he made me audition for it, cause he wanted me to get out of my fucking head. But he was like, "Don't fuck it up." So I went in there, and they were all very nice and I got the part.
Because I had the experience of PATTI CAKE$, I've discovered that maybe I have more ability than I think I do. I still struggle with that. So we show up to this pilot, and I'm in every single scene and I just kept feeling like I was going to fail everybody but I was too tired to care. And Bobcat directed it and Michael was there every minute of the way, and I want to just do things where I continue to grow. I mean, I love live performance. It’s my favorite thing in the world. It’s like my sister and my heart and my best friend. And the experience with the audience every night is so euphoric, but can I be 70 years old motorboating people? I’ve go to think of some other shit to do.
Capone: You can do other shit and that too.
BE: Yeah, I'll probably still be motorboating people.
Capone: This festival I help program where we played PATTICAKE$ back in May, in past years, we’ve had a couple of Bobcat’s films over the years. And I just saw him shortly after the fest this year when he was in town directing Patton Oswalt's new Netflix special.
BE: Which I heard is fantastic.
Capone: Both devastating and very funny, yeah. But Bobcat was just telling me, "I'm doing this this and this. Oh and I just directed this pilot with Bridget Everett." I told him about PATTI CAKE$ playing the festival, and he's like, "Oh yeah, she said that was like the scariest thing she ever did." Were you every afraid that Barb was too mean? Maybe this’s something you worked out in the workshop.
BE: Yes. We talked about that after the workshop, because she was really acerbic. Is that the right word? A full-on cunt. And Geremy and I talked about how she would be more effective if we saw more than just that flavor of her. So he went back and did another draft. We just tried to add a little light to her, because I think that Barb is… when you're somebody who's that angry and that you're hurting that much, you just want love, so you have to see whispers of that. For me, it would be too much. And also, Bridget is playing Barb and that's who Bridget is, so we had to bring a little bit of that.
It’s all his script and its all his vision, but he's a real collaborator and he let me improv a little bit, because that's my comfort zone. Danielle and Cathy are actors, so for them, looking at the page and reading the words on the page and doing it is their skill set. My skill set is approximating what's on the page and doing it my way, and because he let me do that I was comfortable enough to relax and just be Barb.
Capone: By letting us glimpse her broken dream and see her be really kind to Patti at different times, that makes the other moments hurt even a little more. That story she tells about Patti's father screwing up her dream of being a singer by getting her pregnant is so painful because Patti realizes, “Oh, she's talking about me."
BE: I know, it's so mean.
Capone: Was one of the reasons Geremy looked to you to be in this is because you were a singer? Were we always going to get to see Barb sing?
BE: Yeah, that's a good question. I have to think that that's part of it because that's why he saw me singing and was like, "That's Barb," but it's interesting. I think he just went on instinct. And I think he knew that she was going to sing because she was singing when we did the Sundance Labs. There’s the scene in the bar where she's like "Give me a shot,” and then she sings karaoke. We did that.
Capone: Talk about establishing a character.
BE: In a short amount of time, absolutely.
Capone: Did you get to pick the songs at least?
BE: No, it was all Geremy.
Capone: They seemed so perfect for her.
BE: When I saw that it was going be “These Dreams” [by Heart] or whatever the fuck it’s called… That's what its called, right?
Capone: Yeah, yeah.
BE: I was like “Yes!" Because if you look at the words of that song and you're singing and you think about it, it was a perfect song for her to sing.
Capone: Clearly it's a go to song for her.
BE: What's funny is, I never touched Heart in the karaoke bars. I left that to my girlfriends because they love that shit. So I was like, "I'll do the meaner shit."
Capone: So you got to work the character out over several months for this film, with FUN MOM DINNER, the part that was more or less written for you. You do realize like that's not how it usually goes with most actors, right?
BE: [laughs] I know, but that's also why I've never worked before, because I would audition, and Bernie Telsey is this huge casting director in New York, and he's called me in for a couple things, and they have tried to hold my hand through an audition, but I just get so nervous. Julie [Rudd, who wrote FUN MOM DINNER] and Geremy had both seen me singing and thought of me. So if I hadn't created that, I wouldn't be here. So I'm just hoping that people see me do this and know that you'll see me audition, and I'll be fucking horrible, so I just keep writing myself things.
Capone: Bobcat didn't reveal what the pilot was about, but can you give a sense of it?
BE: Yeah, I play Karen Best; she's a big girl with a big heart. There's a mess in her personal life and she’s making some poor decisions but she's great at her job, and I'm working at a home with young adults with Down syndrome, and there are seven Down syndrome actors, and my roommate is Loni Anderson, who's fucking amazing. And then my best friend is played by Brooke Ashmanskas, who's this great Broadway actor that I've known for years. That’s what it's about. And I get to sing in it; there's a musical element.
Capone: Who did you make that for?
BE: Amazon. It comes out September 1st. It's just a pilot and then they have people vote and they decide [if it goes to series]. It's so fucking hard. It's intense.
Capone: After years of steering your own ship on your live show, what was it like being directed?
BE: You have to ask Bobcat. He'd probably say, "She has some work to do there." [laughs] It’s great to have somebody to have eyes on you, because when it's on camera, it's forever and on stage, I just don't give a shit. But yeah, I've been lucky to work with people that I really trust and I think are guiding me well. After we did the pilot, I was like, "Oh my god, I owe Bobcat like a dozen sunflowers," because it’s hard for me to let someone in because I've been doing my own shit, like you said, for a long time. When they would tell me to do stuff, I'd be like "They're right," but I have to shift the mechanics in my brain to listen to somebody else.
Capone: Well, you work on instinct, and then suddenly someone's saying, “Here, try this,” but that wasn't the instinct.
BE: And sometimes they were wrong and sometimes they were right, but most of the time they were right. I see it one way, and Michael and Bobcat have been around for a much longer than I have and I have a lot to learn from them and I know that. And same thing with Geremy. Even though he is new at this, he's so clear in his vision, and I really just trust him.
Capone: At this point, does anything scare you?
BE: Yeah, I just don't wanna suck [laughs]. So there's a lot of things I don't do because I'm afraid of sucking. So I just try to work around great people and hope that they make me better.
Capone: Where do you want this crazy ride to take you? What do you think you'll be doing?
BE: Yeah. I would be on the road all the time. But flying and the hotels, now that I have Poppy [her dog], it's less devastating to be alone all the time because I'm already really alone, and I don't need to be that alone. I just want to keep trying new things and I don't have any idea of what that is. I'm always somebody that feels very fortunate to have a date in my calendar, like that Joan Rivers documentary, where she looks at the calendar, and there's nothing in it and she's like, "Who am I?” I feel a lot like that too. I just want to continue doing things that make people and myself feel joyful, so whatever that is.
Capone: I want to ask one question about FUN MOM DINNER because when Julie wrote that, she probably didn't know that there's about to be three or four movies about girls nights out. What was that like being in an ensemble where you're all doing different things, and you have to find the chemistry among you?
BE: Yeah, its interesting. I remember Toni [Collette] walked in the first day and I was like "Jesus Christ, she glows.” She's a fucking movie star, and then there's Molly Shannon and Katie [Aselton], and they've all been around for a long time. And I honestly leaned on them and asked them a ton of questions, and they're all such warm-hearted people, but I constantly was like, "What the fuck am I doing here?” But it was fun to try something that's not so subversive and to see if I could do that. So I felt like it was a challenge for me but the bones were there that I wasn't going to really fuck up too hard.
Capone: What is your go-to karaoke song?
BE: “Piece of My Heart.” And if I'm feeling tender hearted, it's “Lovely Day,” Bill Withers.
Capone: Oh yeah,“Piece of My Heart” you just did on Fallon the other night?
BE: Yeah. Isn't that crazy? I'd happen to be talking about the karaoke, and they were like, "Do you think you'd want to sing karaoke?" and I was like, "Yes." And I was sitting there singing with The Roots and I was like, "What the fuck has my life become?" It was really exciting.
Capone: Well, you do have a Beastie Boy in your band, so…
BE: That's true, that's true [laughs].
Capone: Anyway, well it was really wonderful to meet you.
BE: Yeah, you too.
Capone: Best of luck with all of this.
BE: I'll be back in Chicago; I'm playing Park West in October [19th].
Capone: No kidding.
BE: Is that a nice venue, have you ever been there?