I love brassy New York broads like Susan Jeremy because there ain’t no diva bullshit. Take the time Susan won the Just For Laughs prize at the Montreal Fringe Festival’s Frankie Awards in 2000 for her internationally acclaimed one-woman show P.S. 69, in which Jeremy played several characters.
There I was backstage at the Frankies dressed in a glorious green sequin dress and Jeremy – looking fabulous in her Joan Crawford-shoulder-pads leather jacket – got emotional because the ghost of her late father was looking out for her (her dad was Montrealer François Lawrence, his buddies called him Frank, and here was Susan winning a Frankie Award).
"My father was born in Montreal [during the city's Sin City jazz era] and grew up on Ste-Catherine Street," NYC-based Susan told me last week while in rehearsals for her new, much-anticipated one-woman play Brazil Nuts, which is having its world premiere at the Montreal Fringe on June 15.
"So coming back to Montreal is a spiritual thing for me," Susan continues. "I’m not there for the money or the audience or the press. I’m just drawn to the city."
To be frank, no pun intended, Montreal has been pretty damn good to Jeremy too. She’s won two Just For Laughs awards here. Critics swooned over P.S. 69, as well as 2005′s Moving in Reverse ("Just fucking great!" Hour wrote), and Susan’s ridden the accolades on highways across Canada and America, and been embraced by audiences at the mother of all Fringes in Edinburgh.
This time around, Brazil Nuts tells the story (loosely based on Jeremy and her own Brazilian girlfriend of several years) of Brazilian die-hard soccer fan Fabiana and Jackie, Fabiana’s NYC girlfriend who works as a dog-walker, office temp and cater-waiter when she’s not writing her thesis, Third World Atrocities Today (T.W.A.T.).
But the one-woman play’s really about how U.S. immigration does not recognize same-sex partners. So one of the girls marries a gay go-go boy.
"Wait until you see me strip on stage!" Susan laughs. "I’m so excited! I got a breakdance number and a strip number! I’m not getting naked, but I’m adding to the costume and stripping down. It’s a raunchy nasty boy dance!"
If all this one-woman show stuff reminds you of Tracey Ullman and Lily Tomlin (not to mention if Susan’s long-time co-writer and director Mary Fulham reminds you of Tomlin’s long-time writing and directing partner Jane Wagner), well it should: They are Jeremy’s idols.
"My girlfriend and I aren’t married yet because it’s not legal here [in New York]," Susan sighs. "So I’m making a statement with this play. But because it’s a comedy, people don’t feel like they’re being lectured to. They don’t tune out. They laugh. And they will remember it and take it home."
Essential buttplugs Do not miss Susan Jeremy starring in the Montreal Fringe Festival’s world premiere of Brazil Nuts at Cabaret Juste Pour Rire (2111 St-Laurent), June 15-21. Surf to www.montrealfringe.ca for showtimes.
Other promising queer-themed productions at this year’s Fringe Festival include the get-up-and-boogie Dance Animal Presents Dance Animal (co-starring superhot twinkie Joseph Bembridge); Montrealer Johanna Nutter’s My Pregnant Brother, about the world’s first pregnant man; and the dance theatre piece Perverts! by the London, England-based queer collective PanicLab, who celebrate perversion and sexuality.
In PanicLab’s own words, Perverts! is a play about "a woman who can’t get enough, and a man who likes it rough; of two girls playing grown-up games, an underwear sniffer, and an exhibitionist; of sex toys, sex dreams and sex in parks, planes and Eurostar trains."
Finally, in what surely must be the best-named play at this year’s Fringe, Fucking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada, McGill grad and Toronto-based actor and journalist Rob Salerno’s solo comedy show was inspired by Salerno’s real-life coverage of the 2008 federal election and the federal Conservatives’ ongoing refusal to grant him any interviews.
Maclean’s magazine raves, "A hilarious take on Canadian politics, the media, the gay community and what Stephen Harper’s balls feel like."
All these shows run through June 21. Surf to www.montrealfringe.ca for venues and showtimes.
Finally, don’t forget to check out Montreal’s legendary drag bitch Mado La Motte hosting her ninth annual, hugely popular Fringe Festival Drag Race, an all-out battle royal pitting Montreal’s best known professional drag queens against a bevy of Fringe beauties like me! I will be the bitch drinking tequila shots. The fun starts at 4 p.m. on June 20 at Parc des Amériques (corner Rachel and The Main).
Final note Check out Montreal’s ab-fab gay and lesbian choir Ensemble Vocal Extravaganza singing an all-new program at the gorgeous Espace Dell’Arte (40 Jean-Talon E.), June 13 at 8 p.m. and June 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $25. Surf to www.extravaganzavocal.org.