A Pre Off-Broadway Tryout
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
Scott Nevins, award winning TV personality and comedian, returns with his one-man comedy show to The Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, San Francisco, tonight at 10:30 PM. The show moves from SF to New York for its official Off-Broadway run. This is Nevins’ San Francisco debut with two special performances of “RECE$$IONI$TA: Cheaper Than A Tank Of Gas!” Scott has been referred to as, “A young, sexy, gay(er) Kathy Griffin” with leading man good looks and razor sharp wit. Nevins’ new show features never-before-heard material, with your money’s worth in laughs and jaw dropping gossip. I met with Scott in the lobby of the Hotel Nikko shortly after his arrival from New York. It soon became apparent why Scott Nevins is this week’s hottest ticket in town.
Scott: I’m doing Friday and Saturday, April 3rd and 4th. I’m going on at 10:30 (after Keely Smith). I’m the Late/Uncensored Show.
Seán: You are essentially doing a one-man comedy show. Is it a scripted show?
Scott: It is in the sense that it is scripted for me. I don’t call myself a comedian. I have so much respect for comedians who have all this experience of playing rotten comedy clubs, have played ten minutes here and there. Because I have built a name for myself in New York as a “Host” – and from that had all this material hosting events, galas, benefits, shows in bars and clubs. I put it all together as a show and was asked to headline at Carolines On Broadway. Some people work their entire career for that. I did it at 24 without ever having set foot in a comedy club. It was a huge break for me. From there, I put together my original show, CELEBUTANT – Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?
It was only supposed to be this “pet project” that we did in New York a couple of nights. And then it got extended and extended, went on tour playing big cities. It did well. People said ‘you have to follow-up with something else’. So, I’m sitting watching the news and I hear, “Coming up next, we’ll show you how to be a Recessionista. How to live the Fabulous Life on a little budget!” I stopped the TV, rewound my DVR, and thought – “Recessionista” – ? OK … well, “cheap”! Cheaper than a tank of gas! And there it was. RECE$$IONI$TA.
A lot of people call me “The Male Kathy Griffin”. And I’m quick to say, “But, my forehead starts here not there!” I love Kathy, but her stuff is a little meaner than mine. I’m a storyteller. The show has new material for San Francisco because I was at the Oscars last month. It’s all about my family and celebrities I’ve worked with, being an interview and host, radio and TV work I’ve done, commentary on my favorite divas and stars of yesteryear and today. It all comes together as this one long monologue.
Seán: I understand you are looking toward an Off-Broadway venue.
Scott: We are very fortunate, given this economy, two legitimate spaces that are very interested and want to put money behind it. London’s West End wants to do a two-nighter in a huge house. There’s talk of filming it as a TV Special. Coming to San Francisco, I get to play the Rrazz Room where I can work out the material before it explodes onto “the scene”.
Seán: The Rrazz Room is a great place to start a “Try-Out”.
Scott: The guys who run the Rrazz Room know me from New York and L.A. and asked if I would want to do the show here. “Of course!” Anytime you have Keely Smith, Florence Henderson, Chita Rivera, Diahann Carroll – and me on the Bill – I’m excited! I developed the script in chunks and I can piece the chunks together in any order I want. It always starts with talking about the City I’m and ends with an impression – not “impersonation” – of Judy Garland covering modern hits. The audience will shout songs at me and I do them as Judy Garland.
Seán: The singing aspect? Where have you been singing before?
Scott: I don’t sing. I do vocal impressions. Every major Broadway star I’ve worked with asks, “Why don’t you do an all-singing show?” It’s because of Sister Mary Jane at St. Mary’s High School. When I was 13 – in the chorus – she stopped the room – with 300 members of the chorus – and said:
“Do you see Scott Nevins?! He loves to sing more than anybody in the world.”
And I do! I sing all day long. Constantly.
“But! He’s tone deaf! And he shouldn’t.”
Then she told me to “lip-sync the concert.”
Scott: It hurt me so bad that it was years before I even did my vocal impressions because, I thought, “Well, I must be doing them off key.” Now when I do this, when I do the Judy bit – I’ve had huge Broadway Stars fall out of the seat going, “Where did that voice come from? I’ve known you for years! I didn’t know you could sing like that?”
Seán: So what unlocked it for you?
Scott: Doing Judy. Doing it – under the masque. I have so much respect for this artist. I think she was the greatest artist that ever walked the earth.
Seán: I agree with you.
Scott: Thank you. Even on her not-so-great nights, she was still better than most people around today. If I had a Time Machine, I would say, “Take me back to the Carnegie Hall concert!”
Seán: When the recording finally came out, I was first in line.
Seán: Some get the Judy Garland gene—
Scott: — Oh! I have it. I’m such an Old School fag —
Seán: — I got the Jeanette MacDonald gene —
Scott: — Which is what I was singing when I got here!!! [Scott bursts into song, like, right in the Lobby] “I never will forget Jeanette MacDonald —
Seán: — That’s why I bought the album!
Scott: That’s amazing! You know, they just said that Anne Hathaway will be playing Judy in another movie bio. My Facebook page got 300 posts that day. I wrote back, “I think it’s hilarious that you all know me so well.” Ever since college, you say “Judy Garland” in New York and people either go, “John Fricke” – who writes all the Judy books and who’s a dear friend of mine. He was just at my show in L.A. He, of course keeps her memory alive with all these CDs, books, and documentaries. But the younger kids are, like, “Oh, Scott Nevins. Ask him about her. He loves to…” So, like, I’ve been forcing her down everyone’s throats and have been converting people one by one … I have Judy Nights at my apartment in Manhattan. When I’m at my house in L.A., I play her TV shows and musical numbers.
Seán: The Turner Classic Movie Channel screens her films all the time. PBS plays her television shows.
Scott: I talk about this in my show. My father was a professional baseball player. He’s the one who got me into her. He sat me down and showed me That’s Entertainment – the box set of MGM musicals. He got to the Judy Garland part, with Liza – a young Liza – who introduced it, she had on that horseshow belt, and says [A gravel-voiced Liza Minnelli suddenly pops-down from the parallel universe] “My mother, she was the greatest….” I asked who was she talking about and he says, “Her mother was Dorothy.” I was so young and so obsessed with the Wizard of Oz – but, I didn’t know that “Dorothy” was an actress who did other stuff. Then here come all these clips, Get Happy, Meet Me In St. Louis – all this stuff!! He got me all the movies and I then became immediately obsessed.
Seán: So, not living in New York, I don’t know who you are in that context.
Scott: A lot of people don’t. This past year I’ve been touring the country and I’m on this new TV show, Smoking Gun Presents on True TV. It’s me, Danny Bonaduce, Leif Garrett, Todd Bridges, and Tonya Harding.
Seán: As in – Trailer Trash Tonya Harding?! Wow! Watch your kneecaps.
Scott: Yeah, I’m the only one with the career going that way – you know what I mean? – “Going Up?” She is that Country Girl. She’s, like, “Yeah! I went huntin’ a deer yesterday, shot it, and then ripped the antlers out.” And then I go, “Well, I was at Loehmann’s.”
Seán: And I was trying on jewelry! So, where do you go after the Rrazz Room?
Scott: I’m back to L.A shooting the show and then we’re in negotiations for a couple more tour stops. Then it’s back to New York at some point to do a limited engagement run Off-Broadway. I wish I had more time in San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to go to the Castro Theatre and see a great old musical.
Seán: Come back on the 18th – the anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake. They’re screening Jeanette MacDonald’s SAN FRANCISCO!
Scott: That would be thrilling.
Seán: What are you singing in the show?
Scott: It changes every night because of what the audience gives me. I love the Judy section at the end. I love watching people – who may not know a lot about Judy – react to it and the positive thing I try to spin on it. Sometimes I leave it out because the audience seems to be going with the Fantasia Barrino part. [Seán falls out of the chair.] Yes, as far as I know, I’m the only performer who is doing a Fantasia Barrino impersonation. And I re-enact her terrible made-for-TV-mini-series, Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story. People are always shocked when her voice comes out of the little white-boy body. I pace myself through the show. IT is a workout! I don’t need to go to the gym when I’m doing this show.
Seán: What might we see or hear at the Rrazz Room that might not follow you to New York?
Scott: The big thing will be the Oscar stories that I probably won’t be able to do in the Off-Broadway production for legal reasons. So, I can tell them here. Like – my encounter with Zach Efron in the bathroom … and my encounter with Beyoncé’s nipple.
Seán: Gosh – got anything else to motivate people to come?
Scott: Buy two tickets, we’ll do sexual favors after the show. If it sells-out, I’ll do the show shirtless!
Seán: It’s been done.
Scott Nevins needs to come out here more often.
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