I’ve known these guys for years. Nora Burns, Mike Albo and David Ilku are Unitard, the long-running sketch comedy troupe. I thought I might describe or review the show, “House of Tards” but, I have to admit, it all comes so fast and funny, that I don’t have the skills to adequately prepare you for what they deliver. Suffice it to say that’s it’s gay, gay, gay, UBER-topical (lots of social media jabs) and very New York-centric (plenty of digs at what the city is becoming, funny because it’s just true, which makes it sad.) It starts with the lament;
“Man we’re beat, we’re drowning in our funk, too young to hang with Warhol, too old to krunk”.
Nora is also a rich bitch who moves from Greenwich Connecticut to the new, much-hated luxury building located where St. Vincent’s Hospital used to be;
“Here I am reimagining West Village living at The Greenwich Lane, which delivers an unheard of level of character, it’s our own West Village Versailles!”
Mike is tongue-tied as to how to address transgender actress Laverne Cox in a meet and greet, Nora is a girl with a black bar over her eyes in her gay pals Grindr profile photo, and David is Karl Lagerfeld hawking for Purina with an insane song. And they all three are GUTTED at the death of various celebrities and think “it’s important” to post pictures of yourself with said celebrities when they die. It’s smart and hilarious. Oh, and sit in the front row and you may get to dance with Junkie Jones, like I did. (bottom right) Catch them tonight upstairs at The Stonewall Inn, October 28, and next Tuesday, November 4, 8PM. Be a tard, trust me just GO, it’s only 20 bucks.
Unitard–that sterling comic trio consisting of Nora Burns, David Ilku, and Mike Albo–were a scream in their show at Stonewall tonight, as they lovingly lambasted the foibles and pretensions of patronizing, needy New Yorkers–you know, “cis-gendered” people who take ubers to their Scruff hookups and gluten-free muffins. Ilku scored as a burka-wearing comic (“What did the terrorist say during Fashion Week? ‘Does this bomb make me look fat?’ “) Albo rocked as a robotic gay best friend to two overly enthusiastic straights, who love the way he does their hair and escorts them to sample sales. And Burns was a scream coming out with her arm around an imaginary person and a black bar over her eyes, saying, “Hi, I’m the girl next to you in your Grindr profile pic.” Be sure to catch the ‘tards next week and don’t be surprised if you find yourself up on that stage. Maybe even literally.
This hilarious show just keeps getting extended but there is only on more to go on Tuesday 12/4. At Stonewall Bar, which converts the upstairs to a cozy cabaret. I went last Tuesday and it was completely sold out. And everyone was laughing their @sses off. I’ve enjoyed all of these performers for decades, but their sketch comedy has really gone to a new level in House Of Tards. Rarely have I seen such sustained laughs in sketches ranging from David Ilku as a stand-up comedian from ISIS to an asexual vampire to a several jabs at NYC’s snotty new residents. Mike Albo always excels in his passive/aggressive male and female roles and Nora Burns has never been funnier. It isn’t a huge space, so reserve a seat at the last performance of this smart comedy sketch series. It will sell out. Producers take note–if you’re looking for a rare gem with all new material to take to the next level, don’t miss this show!i
I have been saying “Linkedin is the new Facebook” to people so much recently, mainly as a an ironic icebreaker, that I’m pretty sure at this point, I believe it myself. I tried the line again the other week when I was stuck for conversation at the Stonewall Inn with a hottie. Turns out he was a Digital Social Media Consultant Coordinator or whatever, and he didn’t think it was very funny. I guess it wasn’t? I’ve since given up on social media jokes.
Fitting perhaps that I returned to the Stonewall Inn last night in the hopes to see Mike Albo, Nora Burns and David Ilku deliver a better round of social commentary that me, and boy, did they ever. Opening up with a fresh angle roasting our addiction to social media, the trio unleashes multiple acts of genuine, brilliantly funny and honest social commentary covering everything from Ebola to ISIS, from our (healthy? unhealthy?) obsession with Kale, to the girls in Grindr profile pictures. It’s a sassy display of brilliant, contemporary comedy that even prompted one lady in the audience to yell “GENIUS!” halfway through an act. That would ordinarily annoy me, just like people who clap when the pilot lands an aircraft successfully, but I was prepared to let it slide this time. She was right.
Mike told me that the trio have been performing together for 15 years, and over the past 2 months they “just got together and just talked about what really pisses them off.” Isn’t that great? Everybody loves to bitch.
The term ‘must see’ gets thrown around a lot, but there’s only one show remaining. So if you’re the guy who’s updating Facebook with the number of miles you ran with your Nike+ app or making sincere status updates about the changes in your diet, you won’t enjoy the show. But considering that’s not you, there’s no excuse to miss out! Like it, share it, endorse it, whatever, November 4 is your last chance to see it.
Unitard – House of Tards is playing at Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher St. Nov 4th, 8:00PM, $15 (advance tickets), $20 at the door.
September 26, 2002
READY TO CROSS OVER: ‘Unitard’ takes up where it left off the last time the troupe was in Boston, by Robert Nesti
If and when there’s a gay cable network let’s hope that those behind it asre smart enough to give “Unitard,” the edgy New York-based comedy trio, their own program. Certainly all three of its members Mike Albo, David Ilku and Nora Burns–are ready for prime-time (or a slot on “Saturday Night Live”). But why wait until them when you can catch their latest show “Unitard: Now More Than Ever”–at the Boston Center for the Arts this weekend.
As they proved last winter when they came to town (also under the auspices of the THEATER OFFENSIVE) they can be wonderfully on-target satirists of urban life, both gay and, to a lesser degree, straight. And the good news is that this show boasts all new material–a dozen-or-so skits that show each performer off to his or her best advantage.
Some of it may seem familiar as they recycle some of the funniest aspects of their earlier show. In the previous show, Burns played a pregnant woman who boasts of her superiority to everyone; here, with equal skill, she plays a new Mom meeting an old work colleague whom she all but dismisses as she plays with her baby. There’s also a sense of “deejay-vu” about one of Albo’s best routines, where he plays a man meeting an old boyfriend at a party whose conversation reeks of a passive-aggression dynamic. “He looks like you,” he tells his ex about someone at the party, “except he’s younger and things are going really well with his career.”
Ilku is especially funny as a 35-year-old gay man who hangs around with a 16-year-old girl and as a seemingly sincere guy attempting to connect with another man at a bar, only to reveal that he’s pushing a product. (“Soon it’s going to be your favorite Alco-pop alternative.”)
Perhaps because they tried out the material in Provincetown this past summer some of the material is skewered to the resort culture. One sketch has Ilku play a kitschy guesthouse owner hiring a young hustler as an anniversary gift for him and his lover. In another, Burns plays a club kid on the dance floor who offers a deadly commentary on those around him: “If those are washboard abs, he’s left a few loads of laundry on the line.” She’s also especially good as a self-described fag hag attempting to bond with a new guy: “Will you be my David Guest and I’ll be your Liza?”
Albo saves his best bit for last–a parody of a dance performance piece that involves a bathtub and bottled water that’s priceless; but so is virtually all of Unitard’s work.
BAY WINDOWS Arts Plus
March 7, 2002
THE VERY DEFINITION OF EDGE
Black Box Theater is littered with the sacred cows this comedic trio brilliantly brings down
by Robert Nesti
At the onset of their hilarious show, the three members of “Unitard” come through the audience each promoting their one-person show, skewering everyone from David Drake to Karen Finley to Lily Tomlin in the process. “I call my answering machine from my cell phone from the stage and ask the audience to leave a message,” says one. “I sit in a bathtub filled with yams exploring my Hungarian heritage,” says another.
And the trio–Michael Albo, Nora Burns, and David Ilku–are so good at this that you may never think of solo performance artists in the same way again.
Coming from New York where they’ve played in a number of downtown venues over the past year, the three are sharp satirists in the Mike Nichols-Elaine May tradition. And in this breezy, 70-minute show take on a variety of contemporary topics and view them through their distinctive (and very gay) sensibilities.
Each comes from a different performance background: Albo is a solo theater artist and writer, whose first novel, “Hornito: My Lie Life” (HarperCollins) was published last fall. Burns is best known for being part of the comic quartet “the Nellie Olesons”: and David Ilku is one-half of the drag duo “The Dueling Bankheads.”
I have no idea what brought them together, but it was a smart move–if a gay cable network ever happens, they deserve their own late-night comedy show. In fact, Comedy Central should give them a look–they’d be perfect after Primetime Glick.
Under the direction of Roland Tec, their skits and monologues are nearly always on-target, taking recognizable urban types and situations and lampooning them with a wonderful sense of irony.
Take, for instance, Burns as an upscale Urban Mon, the kind you may bump into in an upscale shop on Newbury Street. Speaking with a privileged smugness, she announces “I’m having a baby…and that makes me better than you,” before running through a litany of snobbish reasons why.
Lesbian mothers also get sent up in another skit where she plays an adopting mother obsessed with the status of her child. It was both very funny and unexpectedly un-p.c., and made for the only moment in the show when there was a sense of unease in the audience’s response.
Albo’s comedy is more on the personal level; that is, making fun of relationships and dating. In one routine he plays a man who is dating himself and whose hilarious description of his personal epiphany makes droll fun of 12-step jargon. In another he plays a self-obsessed actor who dismisses his friend with this passive-aggressive manner. “I just did another voiceover. You should try it. It’s hard to get into but you should try it,” he tells him.
In another he appears with his arm filled with shopping bags from upscale shops to berate the new economic reality. “Where did you go, big fat, flush economy?” he asks, while longing for what he calls the Enron illusion of wealth. “Gay people embraced shopping so that shopping and gay became the same thing,” he observes.
But by far his most ingenious bit is his take on an MTV video in which he plays a dancer backing up a singer like Jennifer Lopez, running through a Debbie Allen-like dance routine.
The character actor
Ilku is much more the character actor of the troupe, taking on a more eclectic group of contemporary types. In one he’s the kind of European lounge lizard you might find on “Sex and the City,” who puts down his friends with acidic comments. (“Your travel agent called about your ego trip. You’re overbooked.”)
In another he hits a note of recognition as an angry Starbucks employee, while in a third he does a funny take on actor Jackie Chan promoting his workout video in which “vogueing” gets mispronounced as “wogueing.”
Burns takes on a variety of media types, from a junkie talk show hostess to a Dr. Laura-type with a know-it-all attitude to her audience, both gay and straight. One of her most memorable skits has her playing a tough-as-nails New York publicist whose shark-like attitude pushes the limits of taste. At one point she says that Muhammad Ali is changing his name back to Cassius Clay “for obvious reason”; at another she says that she has good news for her client Father Geoghan–she’s signed a book deal for him with Disney.
If edgy humor’s what you want, then look no further than “Unitard.”