Catherine Cohen is a girly girl – and that’s how she wants it.
In his new Netflix special, titled The twist…? She is magnificentCohen first appears in front of a mirror wrapped in a fluffy pink dress, sporting her signature cat eyeliner, white boots and dazzling earrings.
Laughing to herself, she thinks, “I feel completely crazy, but I’m literally gorgeous.”
What follows is an hour-long musical odyssey inside the comedian’s mind, where she mixes the glamor of an old-school cabaret star with the scattered thoughts of an Instagram #girlboss who never happens. just not to put down his phone. But she has enough self-awareness to bring out the absurdity of her stereotypical millennial antics.
Cohen took The twist…? She is magnificent on screen after the solo show won Best Newcomer of 30 at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is also a co-host of the podcast seek treatment and author of God, I’m Feeling Modern Tonight: A Girl’s Poems About the City.
From New York, Cohen spoke to NPR’s Debbie Elliott about bringing the special to Netflix, learning to laugh at herself, and leaning into her 30s for her new material.
Click on the audio link to listen to the full interview, including an excerpt from one of his poems.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
By bringing the series to Netflix six years after we started writing it
It was a journey, a labor of love. Henry Koperski – with whom I write all the songs [and who plays piano in The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous] – he and I wrote our first song together at the end of 2016, and some of them are in the special, and then something we wrote in 2019 is in the special. So I would just add things over the years until I found the perfect combo, and I kind of locked it down at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. That’s basically the version we filmed for Netflix. I’ve added some post-pandemic shoutouts to keep it up to date, if you will.
If she always knew she wanted to play
Absolutely, that’s what I was born to do. I’ve always loved singing and I grew up doing theater and stuff and luckily I fell into acting when I moved to New York because I wanted to be able to write my own material and not have to wait for someone notices me.
I feel most at peace when I sing a silly little song. I’ve always been drawn to music and poetry and anything confessional and immediate. I love any type of performance that feels like a little secret that you watch, and that’s what I always try to do.
On the artists who inspire him
You know, I love Cher – nonchalantly, Cher. The look, the glamour. She does everything. Fabulous. I remember being a little girl and watching Molly Shannon in Super star and to think that was like the funniest performance ever. I love it. He’s a genius. And then my musical theater heroes – watching Bernadette Peters as the witch in In the woods. All these incredible, incredible women.
On the art of oversharing and making fun of herself on stage
I have to make fun of everything I love. It’s very therapeutic. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then no one else will laugh at you either. Or maybe they will. But you don’t want to participate in the joke?
I can’t really keep a single thought to myself – it would be glamorous if I could, but I guess something will end up in a song or poem eventually. It’s a way of working on things that happen to me.
What kind of material she hopes to explore in her thirties
It’s a lot about being in a relationship, my experience with therapy and medication, and deciding – am I going to freeze my eggs? Bigger questions, like what’s the point of being alive and why? Even when I get what I want, why do I still feel like there’s a painful emptiness inside of me? So I think that’s going to hopefully get into some bigger issues over the next hour that I’ve started to work on.
On where she’s happening now
I do a show every Wednesday at Alan Cumming’s club in the East Village. It’s called Club Cumming. It’s the best. I’ve been doing it for about four years now, and wow, every Wednesday we have different guests. We have comedians, musicians and I sing songs and make jokes. It’s very laid back. It’s like a little party every week.
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