Last week, BB’s David Chiu interviewed Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen and Daily Show co-executive producer Steve Bodow their new project Kings County: a WNYC-produced, Brooklyn-centric variety show. On Sunday, I checked out the second of the three-evening series, at the Bell House in Gowanus.
While some Bell House staff members seemed somewhat unable to deal appropriately with the packed house (the show was never listed as sold out on their website, and I watched a straw-chewing bouncer mock a patron–to her face and then behind her back–for inquiring if there was a wait list), the laid-back, rustic venue was a perfect match for the friendly, slightly hokey, dorked-out tone of the evening.
Andersen’s hope was to get the audience (a mix of podcast people and NPR people, largely differentiated by age, all frequently accused of being half-drunk), “feeling like they’ve stumbled into a friendly, surprising, fun clubhouse filled with kindred spirits.” He succeeded by applying an aw-shucks unpretentiousness to the proceedings. This isn’t Brooklyn the brand, ever-slicker and too cool for school. This is Brooklyn the backyard, where nobody’s too sleek, but everybody does know each other, or at least dated someone a few years back who did. This is how Brooklyn (sometimes) feels from the inside.
Sunday’s co-host, performance artist Lucy Sexton, was also the evening’s featured Brooklyn native. Sexton grew up just a few blocks from the Bell House, and credits her success as an artist to the support of her large Irish family, who raucously cheer on cue.
No matter how great the hosts, a variety show is nothing without guests, and this week’s lineup was a dream:
*Deadpan Daily Show comedian Wyatt Cenac has no Twitter account, so he shared some random musings that would otherwise have been tweeted—for the record, he’d like to start a White Power Bakery called KakeKakeKake, and White Power is different from Wyatt Power, which is the support he gets from a “bunch of [his] aunts.”
*Greenpoint’s Chairlift, skinny and white-clad, brought the evening’s “surrealist pop” quotient, shifting uncomfortably when asked to talk but rocking out sweetly and powerfully when the time came.
*Last but not least was the evening’s secret special guest, the ever-adorable comedian/musician Reggie Watts, and his secret special guest, everyone’s favorite funkmaster Questlove. Together they rambled about sandwich shops, mocked NPR, looped some beats…and…does it really matter what those two do, as long as you can be there for it? Or if you can even see this backstage shot of the “3 amifros?”
The night wound up with a few variety show chestnuts, including two bouts of This is Your Life-likeness: a meditation from Sexton about her stoned stint as a Home Shopping Network announcer, and a full-cast reading of Andersen’s story about his favorite park and future resting place, Greenwood Cemetery. There was also a short foodie quiz show and a très Public Radio “condensed anthology of Dan Warren audiobooks” (don’t ask). These last two weren’t the evening’s highlight, but everyone was in a good enough mood to go with it.
Like the borough it claims to represent, Kings County is still looking for way to sum up its identity. At the beginning of the show, index cards were passed out, and the audience was asked to brainstorm some taglines for the show. Best effort goes to “Kings County: Putting the Super Fun in Superfund,” but they’re still looking. Sexton, still angling for The First/Only Nude Radio Show, showed up with less clothing every time she hit the stage, appearing comfortably nude for the finale. Few eyelashes were batted—she may be on to something. Only way to tell is to come back next week.
Kings County has one more upcoming show, on June 29, at Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo. The final segment features actress and comedian Kristen Schaal as co-host, as well as comedy writer Jessi Klein and musical guest Eleanor Friedberger of Fiery Furnaces. Tickets are $10, doors open at 6pm. If you miss the live shows, Kings County will be broadcast on WNYC on the following dates: Kings County #1: Friday, June 29, 9pm, 93.9 FM; Saturday, June 30, 1pm, 820 AM; Sunday, July 1, 6pm, 93.9 FM; Kings County #2: Friday, July 13, 9pm, 93.9 FM; Saturday, July 14, 1pm, 820 AM; Sunday, July 15, 6pm, 93.9 FM; Kings County #3: Friday, July 20, 9pm, 93.9 FM; Saturday, July 21, 1pm, 820 AM; Sunday, July 22, 6pm, 93.9 FM.