Is surprise burlesque really the plague overtaking our cities? Are people out there really being forced to endure countless unwanted burlesque shows? Sure, if you live in certain neighborhoods or anywhere near Brooklyn there is a good chance of a charity burlesque show going on in one’s Starbucks, but a recent article has me a little concerned that a crack team of ninja strippers is burlesquing their way into people’s living rooms, because apparently at least one writer just can’t get away from it.
“Please stop imposing these performances on us,” writes XO Jane’s Meghan Murphy in a typically click-baity installment of the site’s “Unpopular Opinion” feature, which she titled “Burlesque isn’t just sexist, it’s boring.”
“We are just trying to eat dinner/watch a band,” she complains. “Surprise burlesque is more awkward than it is thrilling.”
Where is Murphy eating that random burlesque shows start up without warning? I’ve been to a fair number of burlesque shows in my day, and I don’t remember a single time that’s happened where I did not first google “Burlesque show” or at some point receive a message from an acquaintance that included the line, “Do you want to go to a burlesque show?” Most such events included my standing in a line and saying the words, “I’d like one ticket to the burlesque show, please.” A wicked fairy definitely did not show up at my christening and declare that I would be followed throughout my adult life by women in spangles.
Apparently surprise burlesque does happen to some people, though. There you are, eating your cheeseburger, and suddenly there’s a lady ripping off all her clothes to music. I can see where that would be an awkward surprise, and similar things have actually happened to me with opera on multiple occasions. I love opera, but do not love live opera at dinner. Still, I do not think opera needs to stop happening and feel no desire to berate opera singers for singing opera. When surprise opera started happening to me, I just learned to start googling Italian restaurants before going to them, because I now know that Italian restaurants occasionally spring opera singers on you.
One time I was sitting at dinner with my cousin from out of town, when suddenly a lady started singing a piece from Carmen. She wasn’t a bad singer, but we were there to eat food and talk to each other. My cousin kept talking; the opera singer came and stood over our table and sang over our heads while throwing some serious opera shade. Awkward.
But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with opera, or that the opera singer should not have been there. It just means my cousin and I should pay more attention to signs in front of restaurants that say, “Live Music Tonight.” Googling the restaurant beforehand would have informed us that Wednesdays are Opera Night. Oops, our bad. Worst case scenario: We sit quietly like grown-ups for a bit and suck up an unsolicited performance for a few minutes before finishing our dinners.
Murphy thinks burlesque is boring. That’s fine. It is perfectly OK to be a person who does not like burlesque. There are lots of people who don’t like opera. (Those people should avoid Italian restaurants on Wednesdays.)
Me, I like burlesque. I’ve seen a fair amount of crappy, boring burlesque, but in general I think watching tattooed strippers jumping around enthusiastically at a hipster bar is a pretty fun way to spend an evening. Bad burlesque is at least better than bad comedy, which I run into about as frequently. (My personal favorite burlesque experience is at Gorilla Tango Theater in Chicago, which stages full sci-fi and fantasy parody burlesque plays like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Boobs and Lord of the Boobs, with all the absurdity and camp that could possibly entail.)
Murphy also frequently runs into unwanted burlesque at music events.
I’ve had a number of similar experiences. At a folk music festival, a local musician feels the need to surround himself by be-thonged ladies for no apparent reason; at a bar, watching some bands, unsure as to why we have to watch women strip in between sets; at a birthday party, suddenly everyone is trapped in a small space, awkwardly trying to figure out where to look as a woman strips for the room. It feels rude leaving in the middle of a performance (though I did).
Eh. Griping about the opening act is a time-honored tradition of music festival attendees.
If burlesque is fun and people want to do it, then I’m glad burlesque happens. If a person does not like burlesque, that is fine, but it might be a good idea to start better vetting one’s destinations. That’s what I had to start doing to avoid all the opera.
Via XO Jane/Photo: Shutterstock