Tuesday, February 19, 2019

NOT Burlesque

Corey Ruffin is one of three original members of Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, which began titillating, shocking, and challenging audiences fourteen years ago. but Ruffin seems to have  re-thought the whole burlesque thing. Debbie Klein ("me") had the opportunity to pick his brain recently.

Me- When I hear the term “burlesque” I think about bawdy doctor/nurse routines, strippers, and Take My Wife Please jokes. Wikipedia’s first definition boils burlesque down to “literary, dramatic, or musical work intended to cause laughter.”   

Ruffin- We don’t call ourselves burlesque but everyone else does, basically.  We started out as a burlesque show fourteen years ago and that’s when we bought our website domain name, so that’s the only place you’ll see burlesque next to our names.  The venues say, “We’re bringing in a burlesque show next week.” We just shrug our shoulders and let it happen. We have a lot of girls in pasties, so to a bunch of people that’s burlesque. There is no single “burlesque” show in the nation that is even similar to ours.We have a live band playing original music.  That alone sets us apart.

We do shows about life and the struggle of living.  We are dripping in satire of the human condition and take a nihilistic approach in the guessing game for what humanities’ [y’s] future may hold.

We always get a good five to ten people who show up expecting to see feathers, sequins, and jazz. We don’t think we’ve had a good performance if a few people don’t run for the door in the first ten minutes.

SIDE NOTE- A review of a skit in an Indianapolis paper (Indy’s Alternative voice,) “Michigan-based Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, wove quite a story of intergalactic intrigue as the setup for all the teaserama business to come. The main story, such as it is, squeezes the cast into wardrobes of various sci-fi archetypes — warrior maiden, robot, et cetera — on a mission to rid the galaxy of an evildoer who's half Jabba the Hutt and half Baron Harkonnen.” 

Me- Who came up with the concept of SHFB?

Ruffin- No one did. There is no concept. We just get up on stage and do stuff about whatever we happen to be thinking about or dealing with.  We’re just being ourselves.
SIDE NOTE-I’ve watched several videos and I’m not sure I buy that they just get up and “do stuff.”  These are choreographed routines and original lyrics and music that I am pretty sure doesn’t happen without some coordination and ideas bandied about. 
Ruffin- There’s no writers. When you live on a bus with nine other people year round, stuff happens by osmosis.  We are inspired by our experiences and just translate those experiences to stage.

Me- I have to say the costumes are really fun, disturbing, and wonderfully sexual and surreal. Do you have a costumer? (Is costumer even a word?)

Ruffin- There’s no costumer. We just wear our normal clothes. I guess by being creatives we just dress differently than “normal” people.  There’s zero costume budget so we just slap together what we have and cover it in rhinestones.  Then we make a bunch of props out of cardboard or whatever is lying around and suddenly we have a show.  The costumes are just stuff we pull out of the trash and add staples and glue.

SIDE NOTE- In the videos one performer wears soft sculptured organs, or meat(?) that hangs from him. The women wear big papier-mache breasts.  There is an act were they wear neon-colored jumpsuits with a cutaway tops.  There’s satin and masks and and and… there’s a bunch of stuff. I have no doubt that much can be obtained from a dumpster or a closet, because I’ve done it.  But I believe that there must be creative talent involved in order to make these things, sew these things, and pull them all together. I don't think they just “happen.”  Methinks Mr. Ruffin may be down-playing a bit.

Me-Are there any introverts in Super Happy Funtime?

Ruffin- Every member of Super Happy Funtime is an introvert.

Me- Was it hard for anyone to get naked and prance around on stage at first?

Ruffin- No.

Me- Where do the performers come from?  You have musicians, dancers, comedians, acrobats, etc.   Do people come to audition?

Ruffin- Our people come from all over the country. It’s very hard to find people willing to not have a day job and be an artist full time.  Most people aspire to work in retail for forty years, cash in their chips, and peace out in the cemetery.  I can’t even find ten people in my own Michigan community willing to approach life as an experiment. A staggeringly small percentage of those types of people have the wherewithal to actually develop a skill or craft, like playing an instrument or being an aerialist.

We were looking for a guitarist for this tour and 99 percent of the people responding were white kids with dreadlocks who smoke weed sun-up to sun-down and barely know three chords. If you are a white person with dreadlocks we want you nowhere near us.

SIDE NOTE-   I don’t know many people who “aspired” to be in retail unless it was merchandising, etc., or aspired to work in a cubicle, retire, then die. It’s just survival. Very few people actually get to do what they really love for a living. Besides, if there were no retail clerks, online or otherwise, who would sell you your underwear? Or deliver your underwear? Or stand at a factory machine and MAKE your underwear?  But that’s just me.

Me- Would you ask a hopeful, potential member of the troop to audition?

Ruffin- We don’t have auditions. Everyone in the show is part of our larger gravitational pull, the community around this thing.  They knew someone in the show first and started coming around a lot.  We hired some people for our day jobs as corporate entertainers (office parties, etc.) and circus performers. Then they wanted an alternative to doing family-friendly stuff for audiences who wear khaki pants and polo shirts.

Me- How would you describe the current administration?
Ruffin-I would describe the current administration, and all administrations, as something to make fun of.
Come see Super Happy Funtime.   This is an adult only show.  If you are easily offended, this is not your thing.  If you like edgy anything, please don’t miss this!   2/27/19 @ 8 PM.  Doors open at 7 PM.   Ten bucks in advance.  Fifteen bucks night of the show.
This will be a night like NO OTHER so please take the plunge and come.
I know I’ll be there!   And I don’t go out much. 

By D. Klein

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