“The response from women was “now you know what it is like.” It’s obvious we are in the midst of a culture war with reactive men clearly ready to punch their way into being “right.” My own brother insinuated that I was asking for it by being IN MY OWN CAR at 1:30 a.m. at the corner of Boren and Denny. I wasn’t turning tricks – I was stopped at a red light!”
Tim Thomas tells really fucking good stories. He’s warm and funny and just an all-around awesome guy. He also created Anita Goodmann, a character Tim has been playing since 2006. That warmth, humor and all-around awesomeness extends to Anita, as well, and I got the chance to have some cocktails with Tim and his wonderful girlfriend and talk about Anita, the local music, comedy, and theater scene, and street harassment. We also talked about Anita’s new show, a tax day comedy extravaganza, and how it’s different from previous shows like The Anita Goodmann Experience. Here’s what inspires Tim and why he gets how jacked being a woman can be sometimes (and how that makes him a really good dude).
So tell me about Anita Goodman. How did she come into existence and where was she hiding before that?
Anita Goodmann sprung out of a crazy change of life that happened in 2006. I had a chance to completely re-envision my life and decided that if you only live a single life, I should embrace my nature and enjoy performing as a “Professional Female Impersonator.” In my show “The Secret Diaries of Anita Goodmann” I go to great lengths to talk about that time period – it starts with late-night Tuesday performances at Roxy’s Drag Queen and Burlesque Open Mic (then at the old Vogue on 11th Ave where The Crypt is now) and now I perform in comedy clubs, gay clubs, and burlesque shows both here and elsewhere. Before 2006 she simply didn’t exist (outside of an idea that I had no way of really bringing to life based on my circumstances).
How is your newest show different from your older stuff (The Anita Goodman Experience)?
“The Anita Goodmann Experience” is a wacky, anything-goes show built around weird characters placed in unusual circumstances – we have a talking bear, a living bong, and last time we did the show it ended up being a collision of anthropomorphic viruses – Polio and Ebola – with Ebola enjoying a complimentary vacation to Six Flags Over Texas to help out the Republicans during mid-terms. It is based in social satire, and Anita is the ring-leader trying to herd the characters toward a conclusion. We usually look at what is hyped in the media and deliver our take on it. Many “big deal” world concerns have come and gone in the years we’ve done that show – swine flu, foodie culture, blogging, Justin Beiber, a couple of presidential elections…
Maybe my favorite satirical moments have been with comedians like Danielle Radford and Anthony Robinson helping us lampoon Seattle’s uptight white cultural issues by virtue of being black on the stage in a room full of white people. Danielle sat in the audience during our “Love, Presidents, and a Smidge of Black History” show pretending to be offended by Anita’s cultural tone-deafness. She was cursing us under her breath (and freaking out the other audience members sitting within earshot) then she rushed the stage to deliver a monologue about Jordi LeForge that confused Star Trek and Star Wars in a glorious rant that brought down the house.
For the show on April 8th, I wanted to put together a show together that was worthy of the Anita Goodmann tradition of Tax-Day that also honors the diverse culture of Re-Bar. I got Derek Sheen involved through bribery – he and I have done shows at The Comedy Underground and the now-closed Capitol Club. Together we found a roster of like-minded comics doing things we think are funny, so we got Ryan Casey who works with Derek on Laff!Riot!, Bettina McKelvey of Wine Shots, and Jeffrey Robert who has been a real ambassador of queer culture with Gay Uncle Time and West Side Glory – shows that combine comedy, storytelling, and drag in unusual ways.
Tell me more about the “Death and Taxes” theme of the show. What made that something you wanted to do a show about?
Over the eight year history of the show “The Anita Goodmann Experience” became timed with certain holidays like Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving, however the most important is Tax-Day, which we’ve celebrated consistently since 2008. But after seven shows constructed around evil IRS agents and the wild monster 1040-FU (a living tax form), I was tired of thinking of new ways to approach that material in the context of a “broken talk show.” I decided it would be more productive and portable to do a stand-up comedy show that takes some of the real things that happen to me when I look like a woman in public, and speak directly to the audience instead of trying to coordinate six or eight performers into a quasi-coherent train wreck of comedy where half the laughs are from utter fails.
For this show, once I told the comics they agreed immediately. Comics love to riff on Sex, Drugs, Tax, and Trolls! Trolling seems to be the new hobby for comics in cities all over the nation, and let’s just say Seattle is leading the “trolling trend.” As far as taxes – I love writing jokes about all the different things that should be tax-deductible for drag and burlesque artists – from glitter to unicorn horn polish.
Who are your favorite people to work with and why?
I am a big fan of Derek, Jeffrey, Ryan, and Bettina, obviously. I love working with Emmett Montgomery and Danielle Gregoire who both produce amazing, hopeful comedy shows that ask comics to think beyond shock and offense, and stretch to create comedy that is inclusive. Rick Taylor and Chris Ferguson are doing great things at Jai Thai on Broadway week after week and ride shotgun over the bulk of Seattle’s open-mic comic hopefuls along with anchoring the scene.
What are some local theater/comedy/burlesque acts that you think are rad right now?
I have had tons of great, talented folks do a sit-in for “The Anita Goodmann Experience!” I am a huge fan of Jet City Improv and Unexpected Productions – I think Mandy Price and Andrew McMasters are real stand-outs in the Improv scene and have brought unforgettable moments to my show. My pals in Playtime Time – Brendan Mack, Jon Huddlestun, and the drag of Sparkle Leigh. I always have fun when I share a stage with drag queen Donatella Howe, and in burlesque it’s all about PaulaNow Productions like “House of Thee UnHoly,” The Atomic Bombshells, and Iva Handfull!
If you could do a show with any performers, alive or dead, who would they be?
Wow. That’s a lot of pressure. I will wait until one of those performers asks me to be on the bill, or they ask me to perform in their “beyond the grave cabaret!” Then I will know I’ve either arrived or died.
What inspires you and what inspires Anita?
I love satire, plain and simple. I was raised on MAD magazine, and its creator, Harvey Kurtzman is one of the most brilliant cultural critics of the 20th century – I have several original cartoons by the master himself. Looney Tunes was a constant touchstone, and although the jokes are unerringly violent, and often racist and sexist by today’s standards, they have perfect comedic timing and an eye for lampooning culture. Debbie Harry is a key character in what makes Anita tick as well. Blondie forever – sexy, rocking, and subversive! It turns out that when you have the guts to take on societal norms in a dress, heels, big hair, and makeup you get to take swings at targets that are taboo for middle of the road white guys.
What, to you, is the funniest fucking thing in the world?
Dina Martina. I laugh until I cry every time I see her perform a show. Wicked brilliance. Who else can waltz out wearing a 60’s style Batman costume with saggy boobs and a gut and sing “After The Goldrush” by Neil Young, confuse it with Neil Diamond and then launch into a comedic character monologue without taking off the mask?
You seem to have a unique perspective as a man who dresses like a woman and henceforth has been treated like a woman. How has this affected your life as Tim and your life as Anita?
I had a guy chase me in an SUV down Denny Way for not rolling down my window one night. If I hadn’t looked like a woman, he’d never have even said anything, much less get wildly confrontational and violent. The guy switched lanes specifically to CHASE ME FOR TELLING HIM NO. The response from women was “now you know what it is like.” It’s obvious we are in the midst of a culture war with reactive men clearly ready to punch their way into being “right.” My own brother insinuated that I was asking for it by being IN MY OWN CAR at 1:30 a.m. at the corner of Boren and Denny. I wasn’t turning tricks – I was stopped at a red light!
I am such a nice guy I had no idea how shitty guys can be to women when they have them isolated and out of earshot. No one ever told me I was fat or ugly until I was dressed as Anita and spurned some dude’s clearly sexual advances. It’s moved me from clueless guy to instant defender of women – no one you care about would ever lie about what a guy just said to her while he had her cornered at a bar. It’s important to support the women in your life and trust them more than a random dude.
You’ve been doing music/theater/comedy in Washington for fucking ever. Tell me about some of your most quintessentially “Northwest” experiences.
I am in the generation where Seattle came of age musically, so I have a few good stories from my college days including booking Nirvana for $200 in 1988, having my band upstaged on a Sunday night show at the Off-Ramp (now El Corazon) by a surprise Pearl Jam concert where they covered Van Halen songs, and being the initiator of KGRG’s long run as “Today’s Rock.”
I also interviewed Cameron Crowe for a nationally distributed newspaper just before Singles was released. Dave Bazan of Pedro The Lion used to pull espresso in a truck that came to my work. I shared practice space with Harvey Danger just as “Flagpole Sitta” exploded on the national scene. I’m like a Seattle Zelig, just turning up in the background photos of other people’s accomplishments.
You have a day job, you have adult responsibilities. How does being a performer affect the daily life of Tim?
Sometimes the pressures of putting on a good show can outweigh the pressure to get all the paid work done. It’s a tight-rope walk to keep the two worlds balanced, especially in Seattle where there are two realities – mainstream-minded types like tech workers and office people and underground theater-rock-burlesque-comedy people. Good jobs and art mix better in San Francisco than Seattle for some reason – maybe it’s decades of weirdness or the openness of people’s quirks there – more acceptance of acid-damage and two week sabbaticals to the ashram.
After I did my Kickstarter campaign to fund my “one man-woman-woman-man” show, if you Google me you’ll know about Anita. My girlfriend’s Dad found out about Anita that way – fortunately he thinks Anita is funny. If someone decides not to hire me because of my not-at-work interests it is probably for the best. I usually get work gigs as much because of my reputation as Anita as anything I have done professionally as Tim.
When I first started doing shows as Anita Goodmann there was a lot happening that conflicted with what my bosses thought was appropriate as far as outside interests went. Once someone decides you are “too famous” to care about your work (and you maybe show up with an eyeliner smudge to a meeting) it’s a short walk to being “laid off.” I had to lose two very well paying jobs before I finally decided I could make a go of it without the “security” that those types of places offered. I work as an independent contractor now, partly to be a good dad to a pre-teen, partly because life in the beehives and anthills of corporate environments stresses me out. I don’t enjoy feeling social pressure to keep up with American Idol or Dancing With The Stars.
We talked a lot about the scene in San Francisco and how great it is. What keeps you here? What about the Seattle theater/comedy scene makes you wanna stay?
Well, San Francisco isn’t really better – it’s just different. It’s easier to make friends there when you are new. I have lived in Seattle and its vicinity my whole life, and I call our insular community “The Seattle 500” – which is the same 500 people passing around the same $500 year after year. Both cities sort of have a schism between “underground” and “legitimate” theater.
There is a lot of “Art For Art’s Sake” in both places, but the cost of living in SF is beyond ridiculous. You basically have to throw money in front of you to do anything in that city. Seattle is not quite there, yet. For now we can all enjoy Internet Bubble 3.0 and finally get Thai food delivered after 10 p.m.
What other stuff do you have going on in the near future?
I am a regular performer at MATCH GAME RE-BAR happening on April 19th and May 17th. I will be doing some live singing and the usual off-the-cuff stuff on the panel. I am a semi-regular part of WXPFL Pencil Fighting every third Thursday at Re-bar as well, and I will be doing a piece about Carole King for Jeffrey Robert’s Gay Uncle Time on Wednesday, May 20th. I could be part of another big thing that could keep me busy all of June – you can find out if that happened by visiting anitagoodmann.com.
Anita Goodmann Presents: Sex and Drugs and Tax and Trolls – A Tax-Day Comedy Special, Wednesday April 8th, 8pm Re-Bar