One recent night at Queer/Bar on Capitol Hill, burlesque performer Faggedy Randy strutted out onstage wearing a full turkey costume, leather straps lashed across his body, and a leather-daddy cap perched atop his iconic pink hair. This was not part of the plan.
But then again, there really IS no plan at BurlesKaraoke, a monthly show that smashes together sexy stripteases, improv hijinks, and booze-lubricated audiences belting karaoke.
Starting with a few prompts from the audience in the form of song requests, each performer must construct a burlesque routine on the fly, relying on a mish-mash of props and costumes and their years of experience. It's a celebration of chaos, mayhem, and titillating flesh.
The show is the brainchild of burlesque pro Ruby Mimosa and DJ Baby Van Beezly, who dreamed it up in 2019 on a car ride with Seattle party mastermind Nark. “It was quite the party from the get-go,” Ruby says. She credits much of the fun to audience members who challenge the performers with unexpected songs, ranging from pop tunes to show tunes to opera. Whatever the audience requests, the performers must find a way to make it work – usually with only a few minutes to prepare. For one opera number, Lady Drew Blood threw on an astronaut costume and roller skates to glide majestically through the audience.
BurlesKaraoke sustained nobly through lockdown with online shows that featured people stripping in living rooms and on balconies, but now they’re back to in-person extravaganzas every fourth Wednesday of the month. Shows start around 8 pm, and attendees can expect an average evening to feature … well, there’s no such thing as an average evening, so leave your expectations at home. Tickets for reserved tables usually sell out right away, but there’s always room for general-admission attendees throughout the night.
“Each one is a party,” says Ruby, recalling the time she twirled off a bra that landed on the head of a man about to bite into a cheeseburger.
Though the last few years may have primed us to dread unforeseen surprises, BurlesKaraoke makes unpredictability into something delightful: “It’s so freeing,” she says. “There’s beauty in the not-knowing.”
BurlesKaraoke kicks off every fourth Wednesday, starting at 8 pm at Queer/Bar.