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Catherine Cohen is in on the joke in 'The Twist...? She's Gorgeous'

Comedian Catherine Cohen's first Netflix special, called <em>The Twist...? She's Gorgeous</em>, hits the streaming service this month.
Aaron Ricketts
Comedian Catherine Cohen's first Netflix special, called The Twist...? She's Gorgeous, hits the streaming service this month.

Catherine Cohen is a girly girl — and that's how she wants it.

In her new Netflix special, called The Twist...? She's Gorgeous, Cohen first appears in front of a mirror wrapped in a fluffy, pink robe, sporting her signature cat eyeliner, white go-go boots and bedazzled earrings.

Laughing to herself, she muses, "I feel completely insane, but I look literally stunning."

What follows is an hour-long musical odyssey into the comedian's mind, where she melds the glamor of an old-school cabaret star with the scattered thoughts of an Instagram #girlboss who just can't seem to put her phone down. But she bears enough self-awareness to draw out the absurdity of her stereotypically millennial antics.

Cohen took The Twist...? She's Gorgeous to the screen after the one-woman show won the 30-year-old the Best Newcomer Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She's also the co-host of the podcast Seek Treatment and author of God I Feel Modern Tonight: Poems from a Gal About Town.

From New York City, Cohen spoke to NPR's Debbie Elliott about bringing the special to Netflix, learning to laugh at herself and leaning into her 30s for her new material.

Click on the audio link to listen to the full interview, including an excerpt from one of her poems.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On bringing the show to Netflix six years after she began writing it

It's been a journey, a labor of love. Henry Koperski — who I write all the songs with [and who plays piano in The Twist...? She's Gorgeous] — he and I wrote our first song together in late 2016, and some of those are in the special, and then something we wrote in 2019 is in the special. So, I would just add things throughout the years until I found kind of the perfect combo, and I sort of locked it in at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. That's basically the version that we filmed for Netflix. I added a few post-pandemic shout-outs to keep it timely, if you will.

On whether she always knew she wanted to perform

Absolutely, it's what I was born to do. I always loved to sing and grew up doing theater and all that stuff and thankfully fell into comedy when I moved to New York because I wanted to be able to write my own material and not have to wait around for someone to notice me.

I feel most at peace when I'm singing a little, silly song. I've always been drawn to music and poetry and anything kind of confessional and immediate. I like any kind of performance that feels like a little secret that you're watching, and that's what I'm always trying to do.

On the artists who inspire her

You know, I love Cher — casually, Cher. The looks, the glamor. She does it all. Fabulous. I remember being a little girl and watching Molly Shannon in Superstar and thinking that was like the funniest performance of all time. I adore her. She's a genius. And then musical theater heroes of mine — watching Bernadette Peters as the witch in Into the Woods. All those amazing, amazing women.

On the art of oversharing and making fun of herself on stage

I have to make fun of everything that I love. It's very therapeutic. If you can't laugh at yourself, then no one else is going to laugh at you, either. Or maybe they will. But don't you want to be in on the joke?

I can't really keep a single thought to myself — it would be glamorous if I could, but I assume that eventually something will end up in a song or a poem. It's a way of kind of working through things that happened to me.

On what kind of material she hopes to explore in her 30s

It's a lot about being in a relationship, about my experience with therapy and medication and deciding — am I going to freeze my eggs? Bigger questions, like what is the point of being alive and why? Even when I get things that I want, why do I still feel like there's an aching void inside of me? So, I think it's hopefully going to tackle bigger questions in the next hour that I've begun to work on.

On where she's performing now

I do a show every Wednesday at Alan Cumming's club in the East Village. It's called Club Cumming. It's the best. I've been doing it for about four years now, and wow, every Wednesday we have different guests. We have comedians, musicians and I sing songs and do jokes. It's very casual. It feels like a little party every week.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento is a production assistant with Weekend Edition.
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