This story is from Sunday magazine
What does funny look like? Like all performers, what a comedian chooses to wear onstage can immediately signal a perception (that may be subverted via comedy) or eventually become recognisable, whether it’s deliberately casual, an uptight suit or a bold colourful statement.
Think of John Mulaney’s conservative tailoring, Tiffany Hadish’s white Alexander McQueen dress reworn to the point of becoming a bit or Ziwe’s sexy valley girl aesthetic.
So what of our local thriving comedy scene and its relationship with fashion? As the NZ International Comedy Festival kicks off, Johanna Cosgrove shares her approach to on-stage style (read more from Guy Montgomery, Penny Ashton and James Nokise here).
“My onstage style is chaotic, camp and glamorous. I would never do stand-up in anything less than a fully co-ordinated skin tight black revealing ensemble with a high heel and enough makeup to mummify my face for the next 2000 years.
All my stand-up outfits are sourced from my real life wardrobe. The volume is absolutely turned up for performance wear though - it’s the stage honey, more is more!
The message I’m trying to convey with my performance clothes? That I am hot, as well as extremely funny and deeply intelligent. Triple threat vibes.
What I wear is a massive part of my process. When I’m making theatre I often find that getting the costume right completely informs the character and comedy is no different. The way clothes make you feel - sexy, powerful, restricted and so on - are an extremely important piece of the puzzle in terms of vibe and content and can be a gorgeous visual counterpoint to your material. And that’s complexity girlies.
Beauty is also massive! A gorgeous cake without icing? Get wrecked. Anything less than antique Laurence Olivier theatrical shading is a no from me. We are talking borderline drag. If you don’t know that makeup is a full art form unto itself you’re living under rocks. (Shout out to YouTube and an incredible Wellington drag queen who taught me how to do liquid eyeliner in 2008).
I think there is a general “rule” comedians dress very casually, which is great if that’s your energy but I’ve never been casual in my life so it’s personally not for me. I admire the stage outfits of Joan Rivers, Natasha Leggero, Cat Cohen and every single drag queen to step foot on the stage ever. Classic! Chic! Fun! Sexy!
Have I ever dressed to pay homage to another iconic comedian? If you could call Cheryl West an iconic comedian then - yes.”
Johanna’s top three on stage looks from the past:
- A bespoke Jimmy D organza mesh dress with latex thigh high boots and a vintage g-string teddy for the 2022 Cabaret Festival.
- A hand-made vinyl nun’s wimple, fishnet stockings and a cropped baby tee emblazoned with ‘God’s Favourite’ in rhinestones, for the Iconoclast show, 2022.
- My mum's ratty dressing gown, socks and jandals, an ancient crispy teal towel and children’s sunglasses. For Aunty 2017 - 2019.
I think all of these looks were magic and transformative and were perfect for their respective shows. No notes.
Johanna Cosgrove’s Hi, Delusion! runs from May 17-20 at Basement Theatre in Auckland and May 23-27 at Bats in Wellington.