One of my favorite kind of interviews is one that comes from a performer doing something fresh that I have not seen before. When Shane Shane was brought to my attention about his show Tonight's Special which is an all request format of jokes, stories, songs, and videos chosen by the audience, I immediately ordered up an interview and Shane Shane was kind enough to answer my call.
One of the my favorite parts of our interview was learning about our mutual love and inspiration of Boy George.
Shane Shane's Tonight's Special plays the FIRST TUESDAY of every month at Sid Gold's Request Room (165 West 26th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I read an interview with Boy George where they asked him when he decided to start wearing makeup and he responded "These things are inborn." For as long as I can remember I always liked making a spectacle of myself foremost, and happily that dovetails nicely with singing and telling jokes which I also happen to enjoy. And tangentially, I also stole my mom's makeup from a very young age.
2. The first Tuesday of every month, your show Tonight's Special with Shane Shane, will be playing Sid Gold's Request Room in NYC, each month featuring a special guest. The show is an all request format where upon arrival, every audience member is presented with a menu of jokes, stories, songs, and video pieces that you will perform based upon what the audience orders you to do. How did you come up with this style for the show? The format popped into my head because it followed the form my work was taking recently. I've slowed down on writing songs, but sped up on making videos and telling stories. It takes a lot of work to write a cohesive, well-executed cabaret show that really hunkers down into a theme and sinks its teeth into its little world, and I haven't yet had the time to really flesh out a show like that (although I'd like to soon). But if you treat the evening like a live mixtape that the audience is recording as you go, there's built-in participation, there's stakes for the audience, and there's a constant stream of fresh material.
3. What excites you about performing this show? What makes you nervous? What excites me the most is the pressure to create new material for every single show. The show gets stale if you keep reshuffling the same material, so I love holding myself to a deadline. That pressure also makes me nervous.
4. How do you prepare for this kind of format, not knowing what the audience will ask you to do? I don't prepare for it. The night before I make sure the tech is up and running and I kind of mentally scan through the options I'm offering, but I like to keep things spontaneous and alive for this show, and what better way to do that than slightly underprepare?
5. Do the jokes, stories, songs, and videos change from month to month or is the variety in the not knowing what will be asked of you to perform? The whole show is kind of an exercise in topping-from-the-bottom situation: the audience gets to choose the material but the material isn't a choice unless I say it is. There's always a mix of old and new material. Down the line I'd love to do more thematic shows: all piano numbers, all video numbers, all torch songs, all songs and stories about paper etc. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
6. How do you decide on who you want your special guest to be each month? Choosing the special guest is easy. I'm lucky to constantly be meeting talented and wonderful people who I admire and want to see more of. Asking them to be my guest is a really low-impact way of forcing them to hang out with me without the stress of actually asking them to hang out.
7. Usually when you are presented with a menu, you order off of it, as you are asking the audience to do each month. What happens if someone wants to order a special? Is there room for a special performance? There's some wiggle room, I guess. If we get to the point where a public notices that something is missing and demands it I'm going to be VERY proud of myself.
8. What do you like about taking orders from people? Apart from the psychosexual implications? Just making people happy by giving them what they want. I suppose that's also a psychosexual implication right there, isn't it?
9. What's your favorite meal to order? Food always looks better on someone else's plate. My favorite dish is whatever my boyfriend is already eating.
10. If you could have ordered me to ask you a question, what question would you have told me to ask? (Please provide the answer to the question you wished I would have asked). I'd order you to ask "is there any reason our readers shouldn't buy a ticket right this instant" and I'd answer, from the bottom of my heart, "No. There is no reason. Buy a ticket now." Tickets!
Shane O'Neill is a writer, performer, and video-maker. He and his work have appeared at Joe's Pub, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Refinery29, ArtNews New York, and at too many gay bars and DIY queer venues to mention here. He has performed extensively in the US and Europe with his Shane Shane music project. His one-man variety show Tonight's Special occurs the first Tuesday of every month at Sid Gold's Request Room. He has a cat named Wanda, a boyfriend named Dusty, and a wonderful family--both chosen and by blood--all of whom he loves a great deal.