Cabaret legend-in-the-making Justin Sayre charmed audiences at Joe's Pub with The Meeting* of the International Order of Sodomites, a monthly variety show that paid homage to queer touchstones from Judy Garland to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sayre is back at Joe's Pub with I'm Gorgeous Inside, a celebration of sensuality and bad girls everywhere.
OUT: After ending The Meeting, what made you want to come back to Joe's Pub?
Justin Sayre:The Meeting was a great run and really helped me find my voice as a writer and performer but after eight seasons I wanted to try something new. I always want to be creating new work and exploring new ways to be with my audience. Joe's Pub is a home for me. With the entire team there, I feel like it's the perfect setting to try new work that not only pushes the audience but pushes the artist. I feel so lucky to continue my work there and it's one of the artistic relationships I hope to continue for a very long time. As long as they'll have me, I'll be at Joe's.
How is I'm Gorgeous Inside a departure from your other work?
Well first and foremost it's me. It's a new beginning for me of doing solo performance. After I did my solo play Love's Refrain at La Mama last year, I really felt good about holding an audience's attention and taking them with me on a journey. This show is a journey with an amazing team. Kenny Mellman as musical director, a fun guest spot with Jenn Harris, and my four "Bad Girls;" it's a little family along for the ride. It's still my voice and an exploration of a subject that I deal with personally and philosophically, but it's still about that intimacy with my audience. I think all my work will always come from that.
Has living in Los Angeles changed your work?
Yes and no. I'm still a downtown kid at heart. I still hold those values and that standard in my work. But Los Angeles has certainly informed my work. Being in a place that makes entertainment for the masses rather than a group of people in the know, has changed my scope for the work, but hopefully not by sanitizing myself or my voice. I think if anything Los Angeles has taught me to think about opening the circle to more people and more kinds of people. But I don't think to do that you have to change what you discuss or how you discuss it. I think you just open the circle and let more people in.
So much of queer art is about sex in some way, what do you think is your unique perspective of queer sexuality?
Well I don't think of queer sex as anything special. Most people are doing something with someone or many someone's, so the taboo-ness or the naughtiness of sex doesn't appeal to me. I think it's perfectly fine to start a story, "So I was blowing this guy," and for that not to marginalize or trivialize the subject of the story. I guess I have an "Everybody Poops" mentality when talking about sex. As for how it informs my work, I don't think I'm really ever talking about sex, I more interested in the motives behind it, the feelings that come with it. Sex when you think about it is pretty pedestrian, you all know how it's going to end. How you get there and what you get out of it is a far more interesting subject to me.
I'm Gorgeous Inside is about celebrating bad girls. Who are some of your ultimate bad girl icons?
Forever and always Divine, in everything and in every way. And of course my namesake Elizabeth Taylor. The Pink Ladies. Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones. Gena Rowlands in Gloria. Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Sandra Bernhard. Justin Vivian Bond. Martha Plimpton. Janet Mock. Cookie Mueller. Holly Woodlawn. But also so many kickass ladies I know in life. Strong femmes of so many colors and sexualities and genders who each in their own way take on the world on their own terms.
I'm Gorgeous Inside runs at Joe's Pub September 22-24, get tickets here.