On March 15, a comedy spectacle of wit, high emotions and sparkle splashed across Netflix, bringing to the streamer the long-awaited stand-up special from NYC-based comedian Catherine Cohen. The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous shines through Cohen’s relentless energy and cabaret stylings, and the day after its Netflix debut, LA Confidential spoke with her all about it.
How does it feel to know The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous has been out in the world for over 24 hours?
We had this big party last night and I woke up and was sobbing. And then I was like, “I don't know I'm crying,” and I feel like I was just overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. Just soaking it all in. It feels amazing.
Does it feel like relief?
Definitely. It's been so many years in the making. I've been doing versions of the show since like 2017, so to go to the Netflix app and see it is surreal.
Before we dive into the special, I was wondering if you were into comedy as a kid. Did you watch standup or sketch shows while growing up?
Not really. I'd watch SNL and stuff and I was obsessed with Kristen Wiig, but I didn't know a lot about stand up or anything. I wasn't ever exposed to women who did stand up, especially, so I feel like it wasn't until I moved to New York after college that I got to know the alt comedy scene, as they call it, and met a lot of amazing performers and started doing it myself. I did theater growing up.
Given your theater background, did comedy feel like a natural next step when you moved to New York?
I always wanted to live in New York. I was born here, and then I grew up in Texas and I always wanted to come back and I literally moved the day after graduation. I was waitressing and tutoring and auditioning and started taking improv classes. And that’s how I met people and started doing sketch comedy and then eventually stand-up and eventually cabaret-type stuff.
Your romper by Kelsey Randall is next-level amazing with its 25,000 rhinestones. But of all glamorous colors, why hot pink?
I knew I wanted a color and just trusted Kelsey. I think she showed me that fabric and we were just like, “This is the one.” I think we wanted something sparkly and we experimented with a silvery, kind of iridescent thing, but I think we just wanted something that really would pop on camera. Pink felt hyper-feminine and aggressively girly, and I was just like that was the vibe I wanted to go for. Let's do this thing. You know what I mean? Just make it so glam and over the top.
Why do the function of comedy and performance of musical theater mashup well together for you?
I think in musicals you sing when you're too emotional to speak and I think some of the things I talk about, I feel so, so intensely about that there's nothing to do but sing about it.
You first started writing and performing The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous a few years ago. What was your thought process like when you were told taping the Netflix special would have to be pushed back?
I think we were all experiencing the kind of thing where it's like “OK, we're gonna push it three months.” OK, I’m like “That’s fine.” Then it's like, “OK, well, we're actually gonna push it six more months.”
Then, we finally had the date to shoot in September. I've been saying all along, until I see it on Netflix, I can't believe it. And so I feel very lucky that we got to tape. We tested everyone in the audience and so no one had to wear masks, which was really nice. It felt like normal and it felt like riding a bike. I was like, “Oh, I haven't done this in so long,” but it felt very natural. Having to wait for it to tape and come out just made me appreciate it all the more. I just feel so lucky.
As you said, you started performing this act years ago. What was it like developing the filmed version so that it still felt relevant to your life?
I started writing the show when I was dating around and I was single and that was the case until like the end of 2019. And then I got into a relationship and it became serious over the past two years. And I wanted to be completely honest on stage, not lie and say I'm single. My stuff is so confessional and personal that it would seem insane to say that, but I was like, “I'm just gonna try and make it work and tell the stories that have happened to me,” and then also begin to talk about what it's like to be in a relationship. I'm working on a new hour now and I think that will be more about what it's like to be with someone because it's kind of insane that we sort of pair up. It's like what is that about?
Do you think being honest and confessional, the way that you are, is key for good comedy?
No, I don't think everyone has to do it, it's just my style. I think there's plenty of people who are who are so funny and they don't have to reveal their darkest, deepest secrets. I wish I could do that, but I just haven't figured it out yet.
You have an advice column and poetry book, among other articles. What’s it like translating your personal tone and comedy into writing, especially when physicality or vocals can’t inform your humor?
I think writing poems and essays comes almost more naturally to me than writing jokes because I can write stream of consciousness. Whereas if I'm trying to work on jokes, you have to know where you're going. And sometimes it works well on stage to do that, but sometimes you don't end up anywhere, whereas with writing, I think you discover it by just putting it on the page and seeing what you discover as you go.
In my mind, poems, essays and songs are very similar, and then writing jokes is a bit more of a science. It's a bit hard for me.
What is your songwriting process like with pianist Henry Koperski?
I’ll have like an idea for a theme, and then usually I'll sing a line or a melody in my head. I'll kind of have the melody and know what I want to say, and then I would go over to Henry's place— he plays in the special— and he would orchestrate underneath it and we just improvise around together. He is a total genius and makes the song sound legit, which is an amazing skill.
Do you have a favorite song or joke in the special?
I always think it's whatever's newest is what I like the most usually because it feels fresh. For the special, my favorite song is “Live or Die,” the closing song.
It felt very cathartic to write. I wrote it like when I was going through a mini breakup and feeling overwhelmed and confused and it all kind of poured out in one sitting. And so to get to perform it feels very cathartic. It feels therapeutic almost when I do it.
Now that The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous is out in the world, what are you looking forward to next?
I just got back from London and I was working on the new hour and it was so, so fun. So I'm really excited to start writing more stuff and doing more shows.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Catherine Cohen will be performing in Los Angeles in May for Netflix is a Joke Fest.
Photography by: Zack DeZon; Aaron Ricketts/Netflix