To Bridget Everett’s veteran fans, much of Gynecological Wonder will be familiar. The hourlong special, which airs on Comedy Central Saturday night (technically, early Sunday) at 12:30 AM, was recorded at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, her longtime venue; Everett performs backed by her longtime band, the Tender Moments; and the musical numbers include longtime stalwarts like “Titties” and “What I Gotta Do.” Gynecological Wonder isn’t necessarily for Everett’s dedicated audience of New York theatergoers, though. It’s for her potential new one: Comedy Central viewers.
Gynecological Wonder is not, in any traditional sense, a stand-up special. Everett’s act comes from more than a decade performing at New York theaters like Joe’s Pub and Ars Nova, the site of her first live show, At Least It’s Pink, rather than comedy clubs across the country, though she does tour. And where traditional stand-up is a format that challenges comics to craft something distinctive out of the minimalist, universal platform of a stage, a microphone, and a solo performer, Everett practices what’s been called “alt-cabaret,” a bawdy combination of music and stage banter that’s influenced as much by “Barry fuckin’ Manilow” as Joan Rivers.
According to Gynecological Wonder‘s cold open, perhaps the most winningly distinctive since Chelsea Peretti’s homage to her predecessors in last year’s One of the Greats, Everett even sleeps with a “Fanilow” jersey, not to mention a row of wine bottles on her mantle that spell out “CHARDONNAAAY.” It’s a handy introduction to her profane theatrical persona, backed up by a murderer’s row of testimonials from the likes of Ben Stiller, Alan Cumming, and Amy Schumer.
Once Everett makes her way to the Public Theater, the show begins in earnest. The musical component isn’t ironic or even satirical, in the style of more prominent acts like the Lonely Island; Andy Samberg may have more name recognition, but he hasn’t performed at Carnegie Hall with Patti “You Text, You Die” LuPone. Everett’s voice is formidable, engaging with the tradition of cabaret — “everyone in this room” is waiting for the form “to catch fire,” she jokes, sort of, during her closing number — even as she delivers it in a highly unorthodox package: swigging a brown-bagged bottle of wine and sporting an outfit that’s not so much a dress as a staging ground for strategic nip slips.
Propelled by the Tender Moments (wonky types may recognize guitar player Adam Horovitz from his lesser-known side project, the Beastie Boys), Everett barrels through her set list with a force that translates surprisingly well from the intimacy of the theater to the more staged intimacy of the television. Those tuning in from their living rooms may not run the risk of getting played like a guitar onstage, experiencing simulated oral sex with Everett, or sitting quietly as Everett speculates at length about their genitals, but Gynecological Wonder successfully recreates the participatory feel of Everett’s small-scale sets for a much larger-scale platform.
Everett isn’t exactly a stranger to national exposure; she closed out the first two seasons of Schumer’s sketch show with “Titties” and “What I Gotta Do,” and earlier this week wrapped up a third with newer, absurdly catchy number “Put Your Dick Away.” But Gynecological Wonder is the purest, and longest, expression of Everett’s singular voice to air on such a large scale. Even if a late-night weekend broadcast doesn’t do gangbusters ratings, it’ll likely reach a larger — and very different — audience than the small but vocal group that is theater geeks.
That’s what really thrills about Gynecological Wonder: not the prospect of those who already know Everett seeing her in a new format, but the idea of viewers who come for more traditional stand-ups like Brooks Whelan or Michelle Buteau, both of whom also have specials airing this year, staying for a different subspecies of comic performance. It’s commendable that Comedy Central is willing to branch out; in the interest of finally giving Everett the mainstream success she deserves, hopefully its audience is, too.