Musical Comedy: Camp in the 2000s

bdThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

In Week 7, the course focuses on “camp” as an academic concept. Ellis (2008) introduces this concept in regards to Little Richard, then discusses it in the last chapter of Rebels Wit Attitude. 

From Little Richard in the 1950s to Beth Ditto in the 2000s, sexually marginalized figures have represented their social positions through expressions of provocative and often contentious humor…
Camp style…operates via conventions that celebrate sexual “deviance.” The result is a kind of sexual justice, where straights become the new outsiders. (ibid, 283-84)

Camp artists in the 2000s mentioned by Ellis in this section include:

Beth Ditto (Wikipedia(YouTube) [See also, Ditto’s band Gossip (Wikipedia) (YouTube)]

…Ditto represents a bawdy blues tradition that boasts such big and forceful characters as Big Mama Thornton, Etta James, and Candye Kane. Her outspokenness (such as on the pro-gay anthem “Standing in the Way of Control” [2005]) and shock poses are motivated by an activist agenda on behalf of female imaging and lesbian rights. (ibid, 286)

Peaches (Wikipedia(YouTube)

Peaches…has updated burlesque and cabaret for the modern age, using hilariously naughty provocations as her means to subvert mainstream mores of gender and sexuality. (ibid, 284)

Rufus Wainwright  (Wikipedia) (YouTube)

Rufus’ articulate wit has drawn comparisons to such gay icons as Oscar Wilde and Morrissey. His musical style derives from opera and baroque as well as pop, while his soaring vocal delivery is as mock-heroic as the poetic lines he delivers. (ibid, 287)

Scissor Sisters (Wikipedia) (YouTube)

Scissor Sisters humor works by post-ironic association, alluding to homoerotic pop of the past (Elton John, Queen, George Michael) while staying wholly reverent to it in spirit. Theirs is the knowing theft of camp, with an unapologetic gravitation to a kitsch disco pop style that flies in the face of indie rock hip and macho-heterosexual guitar flashing. (ibid, 286)

Author: Leah Pogwizd

Bassist and Instructor

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