No stranger to Australia, Taylor Mac returns with a brand new concert. “I’m so thrilled to be coming back, every time that I’ve been there I’ve just had a blast and I just find the Australian audiences so open and game and it’s just a real treat,” he says.
The show is referred to variously as Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim or Comparison is Violence, depending on Mac’s mood. The theme came about through rather unlikely circumstances, explains Mac. “When I perform I have this rather extravagant drag thing: it’s not female impersonation drag really, but some people call it freak drag, you could call it circus drag, you could call it really whatever you want, but it’s somewhere in between glam and performance art. People started comparing – some guy thought that I was Ziggy Stardust meets Tiny Tim because Tiny Tim plays the ukulele. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie right, if you’ve got glitter on your face you get compared to David Bowie.”
It wasn’t a comparison Mac initially warmed to. “I was a little peeved, because I’m thinking, ‘I’m doing my own thing’ and it really doesn’t tell the story, it really diminishes what I’m doing because the stuff I do is very theatrical, but in no way was it rock and roll, in no way was it variety show shtick which is really what Tiny Tim was, kind of a burlesque performer, in the traditional sense of burlesque, not stripping, but you come out and you sing a song and you’re part of a variety show. David Bowie was a rock star and I wasn’t doing either one of those things, so to say that I was a mixture of the two of them was kind of like, ‘you didn’t get it’. If they’d compared me to Karen Finley or Charles Ludlam, I’d go okay, well they’re closer. But instead it was the most obvious choice I was like, ‘oh can we get a little more creative’, but understanding that what they’re trying to do is explain what they saw to a larger audience that doesn’t have the context necessarily. If you say Charles Ludlam to a bunch of people – most of them don’t know who you’re talking about. What I would suggest is that someone not compare, use adjectives rather than comparing them to something that they’re not. And part of the show is me coming to terms with all of that. It’s like, ‘what’s wrong with being compared to David Bowie?’ It’s awesome you know,” says Mac, trailing off into laughter.
Bowie wasn’t someone Mac had considered an influence at all. “I grew up in the eighties so that was when I became aware of him. He was doing all the dance stuff so it wasn’t so interesting to me, so I kind of ignorantly wrote him off.” Mac’s influences are many. “Patti Smith, Judy Garland, Nina Simone, would be the ones that I’m inspired by as performers, and writers: everyone from Shakespeare to Sondheim. Real craftsmen are the people who really inspire me. And then the community I’m part of, they’ve been a major inspiration: performers like Justin Bond, people that I know in New York City there’s a cabaret performer Lady Rizo who is somebody that I’ve been really into lately - we’ve been bouncing off of each other.”
Despite Mac’s preferences though, he found himself continuously compared to Tiny Tim and Ziggy Stardust. “One day I decided, ‘oh well, this is what I’m going to get labelled as, because it just kept happening over and over again. I decided that rather than get angry about it to just embrace it and let it help me make an entire show. I’ve never done a cover show before and it’s been a lot of fun, just doing other people’s songs. What I do essentially is I do David Bowie songs and songs that Tiny Tim sang and then through them I talk about comparison and why people compare and what are the pros and cons of comparison. What is it about our culture that immediately goes to comparison first rather than describing somebody with adjectives? Why do people do that, why can’t we see something and see what it is rather than trying to force it to be what we want it to be or what the context of it has been? So it’s not really a judgement on it as much as it’s an exploration and we have just a lot of fun singing these songs,” says Mac. An exploration worthwhile witnessing. Just remember to describe it with adjectives.
MELBOURNE RECITAL CENTRE
The stunningly outrageous
14 – 16 FEBRUARY
This performance is in cabaret mode with bar service and light tapas plates.
Contact the Box Office or go online for information regarding food and
beverage packages. Book at www.melbournerecital.com.au or call the Box Office on 03 9699 3333