From left: David Ilku, Mike Albo, and Nora Burns | Photo by Stephen Elledge
Unitard, the sketch comedy trio formed by Mike Albo, Nora Burns, and David Ilku have a new show, titled House of Tards, causing plenty of diehard fans to cheer. But I'm new to their shtick, and I wasn't sure if I should be laughing out loud or quietly appalled.
Take the monologue in which Ilku portrays a member of the Islamic terrorist organization, ISIS. While some in the audience were keeling over in laughter, my inner Southern boy was disturbed by the ISIS bit. To this, Ilku says:
"One of the magical things about comedy is making people uncomfortable. When a room is uncomfortable, eventually the tension has to break, and it breaks in the form of a laugh. So, you just keep pushing until they can't take it anymore. Then, eventually, someone cracks and laughs because it's just too absurd." If that sounds like it's too much to handle, Nora Burns would like to remind you that "with our show everything is pretty short. If you don't like it, it'll be over in three minutes."
Other hilarious sketches introduce the audience to a particularly awful babysitter, the prize accessory of a G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend), everyday people utterly distraught over the passing of celebrities, Facebook narcissists, and more.
"We usually start with things that annoy us in life: people being selfish, people being evil," Mike Albo explains as to the inspiration for these sketches and monologues. Or as Burns elaborates: "It's so fun to be a nasty character or just to comment on things we find funny. We all have this sort of similar pop-culture, gay sensibility. It's just fun. We'll all riff off each other and come up with the next thing we have to do."
Unitard: House of Tards is packed with edgy humor that playfully flirts with the fine line between being hysterical and a twinge offensive. Forget political correctness. Yet, they also don't intend to demean or poke fun at any marginalized groups of persons either. So the result is comedy that is off-kilter with laughs intended for self-aware audiences that are capable of thinking on their own. "I don't even know how to be mainstream, honestly," Albo admits. "I'll never get on stage and be like, 'Don't you hate cats?' I'm not going to be that person."
Performing at Stonewall, it's clear that queer-identifying folks are an audience target, but the trio insists that's not the only people who will enjoy the show. "We're all old-school New Yorkers. David and I have been in New York since 1979," acknowledges Burns. So anyone who has, as Albo puts it, "experienced a degree of political corruption, gentrification, and has seen how people can be greedy," will enjoy their commentary. So, why Stonewall? "We don't want to charge a lot of money. We want to keep it so people can afford to go out, have a full belly laugh, and have a drink and not break their budget," Ilku explains. "Greed is killing New York, and all the great, little performance spaces are just disappearing. So, thank God, that Stonewall is cool and great and has opened their arms to us," he expounds.
As if being intellectual comedy meant for cultured peoples isn't enough, Unitard is endorsed by celebrities such as Debbie Harry. She was in the audience, along with funny lady Julie Klausner, for the opening night performance at Stonewall Inn. During their run in L.A., Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, RuPaul, and Lady Bunny enjoyed the clever trio.
Unitard: House of Tards continues through April 23. For tickets visit, UnitardComedy.com.