Is there anything that Ike Avelli can’t do? (If you are reading this and can think of something, please email me immediately…) Since his “accidental” stand-up comedy debut in 2009, the New Jersey multi-hyphenate (comedian-writer-producer) has been keeping audiences entertained with his keen awareness of transgenerational pop culture and his unapologetic, over-the-top bawdiness. Since 2013, Ike wrote, produced, and starred in 11 original shows, most of which played to sold out venues. One of those shows which packed houses all over the country was Ike’s deliciously risqué adult variety show 50 Shades of Gay, which made its debut in 2015. Ike continued to entertain people in the privacy of their own living rooms with his popular ZOOM show LIVE! In Bed With Ike Avelli! during the worst of the pandemic. But the quirky quinquagenarian is celebrating the return to live performance in 2021 with a greater vengeance than Farrah Fawcett in Extremities— and we are all welcome to help him celebrate! On Saturday, August 7th, Ike will be joined by singer/actor Tym Moss and drag star Jacqueline Dupree at New York City’s Triad Theater as they celebrate the sixth anniversary of 50 Shades of Gay. It will be a night of comedy, music, drag, video sketches, audience participation, and… giveaways!
Ike Avelli took the time to speak to me about breaking out of the ZOOM box, what he’s got in store for audiences this Saturday, and much more!
JR: Thank you for speaking with me, Ike! Congratulations on being able to finally perform live again! How does it feel to be strutting around on stage, after a year of being locked in the ZOOM box?
IA: Jed! First of all, congratulations to you on In Bed With Jed, which I absolutely LOVE! I am excited that you said “strutting”, as one of my favorite songs by Sheena Easton is Strut, and I will certainly be doing that this Saturday night!
JR: Well… you are welcome!
IA: It feels fantastic to be on stage, especially in New York City at the Triad Theater. It’s been almost two years since I performed there, and the audiences are always so supportive. I just finished three nights in Providence, RI with Tym Moss and Viki Villainess and I will say this: I DO NOT miss the ZOOM box!
JR: (Laughs) Oh really? Why?
IA: Lots of technical issues right out of the gate… although, the occasional ZOOM bomber was always welcome… if he was packing! BUT, we were all learning to adjust to our new performance spaces at home, ya know?
JR: Agreed! So, 50 Shades of Gay is celebrating its sixth anniversary. Let’s break out the time machine and take a trip back to Saturday, June 27th, 2015, when the show made its debut! People were selling their souls for Hamilton tickets, the number one song on the charts was by someone named “Wiz Khalifa”, and… drum roll, please… nationwide marriage equality finally became a reality the day before! Yeah! What was your inspiration to create the very first 50 Shades of Gay?
IA: I still can’t believe it was six years ago when the show first premiered. In February of 2015, I was planning on putting together a PRIDE show in NYC and I wanted something that would pop. A trailer appeared on TV for 50 Shades of Grey and that was it! By the end of the week, I wrote a few parodies, had the outline, and had who I wanted to be in the show. Little did I know, the show title would have legs longer than Christie Brinkley… although, she could shave them a little! Seriously, she has more hair than Billy Joel has on his entire body!
IA: It also gave me exposure around the country, and getting to perform at amazing venues and meeting so many new and familiar faces. Another highlight was working with so many talented performers around the U.S.
JR: Wow! So… without giving too much away, what surprises can the audience expect at the Triad that night?
IA: When I perform the show in different cities, and then return again, I receive feedback, such as, “Will I be doing certain numbers again?”… and I try to keep that in the back of my mind when planning a show. This particular show, seeing as it’s the six year mark, I will be bringing back two fan favorites and the rest will be new, including the opening number. I was very fortunate to meet Suze Stutzman of Suze “GX” Designs at Wendy Stuart’s birthday bash in 2020… and I had a few ideas for costumes and she is making my dreams come true as well as a few other surprises. But the audience can expect much more participation this Saturday night! I am blessed to have Tym Moss, who has been traveling with me since it started in 2015, as well as Jacqueline Dupree, who I adore as well!
JR: On the promotional poster for the show, we see some of your icons in the world of comedy: Rodney Dangerfield, Tracey Ullman, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, and my favorite… Joan Rivers! As a comedian yourself, do you have any “unsung heroes” who made you laugh but who never go the recognition they deserve? One of mine was the late great Kaye Ballard.
IA: You MUST watch the incredible Ron Russell’s interview with Kaye Ballard: one of the best I’ve seen! I just watched the episode of Mothers-in-Law with Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden, where the husbands were obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor. Talk about classic!! “Unsung Hero” for me is Wendy Liebman! If you ever have the chance to see and hear her perform, please do yourself a favor and listen! She is smart, funny, and consistent. Speaking of Sheena Easton, Wendy opened up for her– I believe in 1992 in Atlantic City– and she was phenomenal!
JR: Wow! Thanks for the suggestion! Now, one can argue that our culture has become increasingly gayer since 2015: Public figures are coming out at a record rate, there has been an explosion of LGBTQ visibility in the media, and a company called Toynk has just released a new collectible set of Golden Girls ceramic mugs! (Christmas is coming. Hint hint!) Do you think that the show will eventually have to add more shades of gay? Like, one day, the new name of the show will be “150 Shades of Gay”?!
IA: Isn’t that crazy? It used to be fun watching people come out, now when you hear someone like Rosie O’Donnell is out, you want to blurt out “DUH!”. We are open to more shades in the show, but not sure if Crayola supplies that many colors?
JR: (Laughs) You’ll need a LOT more shades just for the audience alone! Your fan base is pretty colorful!
IA: Perhaps Baskin Robbins! (Here I go, right back to food!). Our community is ever changing, and at times it becomes difficult to keep up and be politically correct, especially for a comedian. P.S. Please provide a link to these fabulous Golden Girls ceramic mugs…asking for a friend
JR: Anything for you, Ike! So, anything else you want to tell the masses? Besides, obviously, “Buy your tickets for the show!”?
IA: Yes! We are celebrating the incredible Nick Lion’s birthday immediately after the show at the iconic Rebar! Check out the podcast I have with Tym Moss, called Loose Lips, which can be found on all the major platforms. Plus, I am part of a new show called Shut Up and Drive with Eileen Shapiro and Billy Hess, where we pick up– or kidnap!– celebrities and do a “special” interview with them, before dumping them on the street. But most importantly, make sure you are getting all the action you can get on Grindr now, before that bitch Delta has you deleting it again!! That, and keep laughing. It’s the only thing that keeps us going!
JR: “That bitch Delta”? That’s no way to talk about Ms. Burke! I LOVED Designing Women! (Laughs) Thank you for speaking with me, Ike!
Ike Avelli’s 50 Shades of Gay, 6th Anniversary is Saturday, August 7th, 7PM at New York City’s Triad Theatre, 158 W 72nd St. Visit here for tickets. You can also visit Ike on Facebook, Instagram, or at his official website.