Interview with the Geeky Burlesque Performer Nasty Canasta
WARNING: The following post contains images that are NSFW and will most likely result in multiple nergasms.
Nasty Canasta is a damn good burlesque performer. Her creativity is unparalleled and she manages to blow my mind every time. There aren’t many people who can pull of a lamp performance but Nasty does, and she does it well. We all have favorites, and Nasty Canasta is one of mine. Being a big fan of Wasabassco Burlesque (the troupe Nasty is apart of), I’ve seen her perform countless times. But what makes her one of my favorites, other than her creativity, is her ability to transform the energy of the room. Whether it’s fun and feisty or sultry and sexy, Nasty’s performances will draw you in.
There are two Nasty Canasta moments that are still vivid in my mind. The first was when she performed as her alter ego Kobayashi Maru (a biomechanical-Kawaii-android). She slowly cut off her clothes accompanied by HAL 9000’s monologue. HAL’s monologue is pretty potent on its own, but then you add a woman slowly undressing, and well, it was an intense performance to say the least. The second, also as Kobayashi Maru, was her infamous and ridiculously awesome Cyerbman number. Dressed as a Cyberman (which instantly makes any Whovian in the audience squee with excitement), she undresses and takes a grinder to the metal corset she’s wearing. Sparks fly. Minds are blown.
Other than being an amazing burlesque performer (she has a Wikipedia page to prove it), Nasty Canasta is host and producer of Naked Girls Reading. She also has Doctor Who and Hitchhikers ink which are Tattoo Tuesday (and I’m sure there’s more). If you’re ever in the NYC area or Ms. Canasta is in your area, go to her show. You can thank me later.
Naked Girls Reading Website: Nakedgirlsreading.com
Girl Gone Geek Interview with Nasty Canasta:
How did you get into burlesque? How long have you been doing it?
Nasty Canasta: I started out as a stage actor – I went to college for acting and set design and moved to NYC after graduation to do the whole actor thing. After almost 10 years of horribly embarrassing off-off-off-off-off-Broadway shows (which, fortunately, no one ever actually saw) I discovered burlesque, and that was pretty much it for me. I’ve been a performer of one sort or another for most of my life, but burlesque continues to be the most fun I’ve ever had onstage. This February I’ll be celebrating my 8th year as a burlesque performer.
How did you come up with your name?
Nasty Canasta: It’s actually the name of a Chuck Jones cartoon character from the 1950’s – he’s a giant, surly Western outlaw with permanent five o’clock shadow and a whiskey habit. All in all fairly appropriate, I think.
Do you ever worry that non-nerds won’t “get” some of your acts?
Nasty Canasta: That’s the golden rule of any ‘reference’ act (whether it’s nerdy, political, literary, pop culture or anything else): it absolutely *must* be entertaining and engaging to any and every audience member, regardless of their familiarity with the source material. Not only is it insulting to an audience (no one wants to feel ‘stupid’ or not cool enough to get it), but it’s lazy: if all you’re doing is reassembling bits of someone else’s character/costume/movie/comic book/etc. without adding anything of your own, it’s not burlesque; that’s cosplay. The goal is to make every act accessible to every audience on some level – and if there are extra ‘easter eggs’ for some folks, that’s even better.
When was the first time you decided to do your first nerd burlesque performance? How did that come about?
Nasty Canasta: I actually had to look back in the records for this one (because just maybe I keep a spreadsheet of every act I’ve ever performed at every show I’ve ever done, maybe …) and I’m still not entirely sure. But starting back in 2006 I co-produced a monthly themed & scripted burlesque show called Pinchbottom; some of our first themes were Sci-Fi and Comics, and most of my earliest nerd numbers were created for versions of those shows. I think the *very* first one was a Plan 9/Ed Wood number for the Sci-Fi show; I also did a Fourth Doctor & Leela duet with Creamy Stevens for that one. My Poison Ivy act happened not long after that, I think.
What geek burlesque performances have you done?
Nasty Canasta: Okay, here we go: Beetlejuice; Apocalypse Now; James Bond (several different solo, duet & group numbers – Pinchbottom produced 3 versions of our James Bond show over a few years), Poison Ivy, Indiana Jones, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Superman (that was actually a Lois/Jimmy/Superman trio act), Tron, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon, Star Trek, 2001 …. and the Doctor Who numbers: the Fourth Doctor duet, a solo Fourth Doctor act, the Tenth Doctor, and my Cyberman act. For the 2010 Wasabassco anniversary show we also did a 20-person, four-regeneration Whovian extravaganza (which I *still* have never seen photos of!) Many (actually most) of these are long retired, either because they were specific to the shows they were created for or just to make room in the storage closet for the new ones!
Do you have a favorite?
Nasty Canasta: My favorites are probably the ones that have survived (which makes sense) – Poison Ivy, Flash Gordon, 2001 and Star Wars. Right now my Cyberman act is my absolute favorite, though that’s probably because it’s the newest, and because I don’t get to perform it all that often due to the technical requirements of the act.
Are there any geek acts you want to perform in the future?
Nasty Canasta: I’m working on a Wash number for an upcoming Firefly show, and I have a TARDIS act in the theoretical/design stages. Then there’s the Kobayashi number — I have an alter ego named Kobayashi Maru, who’s a sort of biomechanical-Kawaii-android. For years Doc Wasabassco and I have been tossing around the idea of a number where her pieces are actually unpacked and assembled onstage, so hopefully that’s going to actually happen for this year’s Wasabassco anniversary show in November.
How do you manage to mix the right amount of nerd and sexy into those acts?
Nasty Canasta:I think that goes back to the ‘golden rule’ thing. I generally trust that if there’s enough original stuff – enough ‘me’ – in an act, then it’s going to work on both the nerd level and the burlesque level.
How did you start hosting Doctor Who Sunday’s at The Way Station?
Nasty Canasta: I’ve known Anders for a while and helped out a bit while he and Doc were building the Way Station (mostly painting and curtaining and all that, which was a totally transparent plot to make sure I was around while the TARDIS was being installed) and at one point someone suggested showing Doctor Who episodes at the the bar. I think Doc suggested I curate it, having a shall we say ‘deep familiarity’ with the classic episodes …
Who is your favorite Doctor and Companion?
Nasty Canasta: Like most people my age I grew up with Tom Baker, so he’ll pretty much always be ‘my’ Doctor – though I do love Tennant. I actually have a lot of favorite companions, but I think my favorites are Rose and Ace … and I happen to think they’d get along pretty well, too.
Tom Baker/4 had the scarf and Matt Smith/11 has the bow tie. What would your signature-clothing item be if you were the Doctor?
Nasty Canasta: Sonic pasties. Definitely.
If you were on a deserted island what video game, comic/book, movie and TV show would you bring?
Nasty Canasta: The Hitchhhiker’s text game (I haven’t played a video game since about 1989, but I have always adored that one); either Watchmen for the comic or the Hitchhiker’s trilogy for the book; Back To The Future; and (big surprise) Doctor Who.