San Fransisco’s beloved queer All-Male Revue, Baloney, returns to the freshly updated Oasis, celebrating seven years of sold-out shows in residence starting September 16-25! Baloney is part theatre, part peepshow, and pure San Francisco debauchery.
Recently, viewers around the world got to look behind-the-scenes of Baloney shows starting from the very beginning to the COVID-19 pandemic, via the documentary of the same name which premiered (and sold out) at Frameline and Outfest Film Festival.
I got to speak to the show’s creators, Rory Davis and Michael Phillis, about the show’s triumphant return, their journey through a pandemic, the necessity of having queer safe spaces, and the meaning of community. Trust me when I say, Baloney’s journey has been a tale of queer resilience during these last 18 months. Read on to see just why, and don’t miss your chance to see the talented cast of Baloney live and in-person by getting your tickets here.
Congrats on the documentary, which was an incredible highlight from Outfest 2021! What was that experience like, connecting with viewers in LA and giving them a taste of what a Baloney show is like?
Thank you so much! We’re so glad you got to see it. It was such an honor to perform at the Grammy Museum and test out the show in front of an LA audience–it’s been a dream of ours to perform in LA and the Outfest experience was the perfect chance to do that. We absolutely LOVED the response from this LA crowd! It was electric in there and it proved that people are so ready to get back out and enjoy live experiences again. LA really got Baloney and we have to keep this relationship going—AKA we’re coming back, soon…who wants to produce us?
What are your backgrounds in theatre and putting on shows? I’m in awe of the talent and heart that went into producing Baloney.
Michael is the theater guy, Rory is the dance guy, and it really takes both “parents” to make Baloney what it is. Michael graduated from UCSB and went on to write, direct, and perform plays, solo shows, and drag performances. Rory graduated from Temple University and went on to choreograph huge drag shows with San Francisco’s cult drag queen Peaches Christ, where he got to work with a ton of the girls from RuPaul’s Drag Race like Alaska, Trixie Mattel, Katya, Jinkx Monsoon, Bob the Drag Queen, Bianca Del Rio, BenDeLaCreme…the list goes on! There was a unique history in our performance backgrounds that included drag, comedy, and burlesque in interesting ways. Baloney is sort of the thing we were building up to the whole time.
How did you have to adapt during the COVID pandemic? What was it like planning two virtual shows in comparison to the in-person production?
We were actually rehearsing a huge show in March 2020 when the world shut down and we had to cancel everything. We had been planning to film a few Baloney sketches in 2020 as a way to grow our digital audience—and suddenly that work became vital, literally the only way we could do a show. We made tons of digital content, very quickly, with no budget and with everyone in their own separate homes. It was a very different way of approaching Baloney, which is a show all about intimacy, in a time when no one could be intimate in the usual ways. But these were questions that were on everyone’s minds at the time: how do we connect? How do we have sex and intimacy in the lockdown days? How do the arts have to adapt to meet the times? We were able to explore and reflect on the moment in our work, and I gotta say it was therapeutic for us and our audience. We all really needed some fun and frisky entertainment!
Tell us more about the Big Gay Carwash!
When we couldn’t do the show in a theater, we brought it out into the streets—masked and socially distanced—at the Suds and Studs Big Gay Car Wash! Rory had the brilliant idea to do a slutty bikini car wash that would keep our customers safe in their vehicles while also bringing a show right to them, literally wrapping the burlesque around the cars. The looks on peoples’ faces were absolutely priceless! We had lines around the block because it truly provided a fun, safe form of entertainment when people had no other option. If you’ve never had butts, balls, and boobs washing your vehicle before I highly recommend it.
Who would you say was your biggest supporter throughout the pandemic?
D’Arcy Drollinger, our fabulous drag queen boss, was a huge supporter of Baloney during the pandemic. D’Arcy owns Oasis in San Francisco, our home theater, and for a while, we were all scared that the venue might close down permanently in the pandemic. Our shared queer spaces are so extraordinarily vital to the community and so many of them were hurting during the lockdown days. D’Arcy kept the doors of the Oasis open in creative ways with drag meal deliveries, a live stream TV studio, and outdoor events like the Baloney Suds & Studs Car Wash. She proved how important the space and its residents were to this city, and the city responded with positive support. You’re our shero, D’Arcy!
Baloney is finally back! What are you most excited about, now that people can finally see the production in-person?
Laughter! Screams! Gasps! Oohs and Aahs! Applause! Even BOOS! There is nothing like a live audience. No online or digital or home theater experience can possibly compare. I can’t wait for the electricity of a crowd reacting to the show. We packed this lineup with old favorites and new surprises that will make you pee with laughter and squeal with delight. You may also want to clutch your pearls, but luckily we provide free pearl necklaces to everyone in the front row—splash zone.
What should attendees expect?
First, expect to bring your vax card or a recent negative test! Second, bring your mask! And third, bring your bills because we still have g-strings and yes, you can still tip us! Expect to get the same fun and frisky Baloney show with a few new twists to keep us all safe and sexy. We’re bringing back the wild, fun, and cheeky entertainment that we all love and so desperately need. Leave your problems at the door and let us make you laugh again!
Why should everyone come see Baloney?
Baloney is queer catharsis! We need to commune now more than ever. We need to heal and celebrate life. We need to show up for each other and resist the darkness of this fraught time. Baloney isn’t just an escape or a distraction– it’s a living breathing queer community, a pulsating heart of radical sexual resistance. We are proof that living in our own skin is okay, and beautiful, and necessary. We’re a mirror showing you that YOU are beautiful. Yes, we are also comedic strippers who make fun of ourselves! But we also make you think, and we carve out a space for body positivity, queer voices, and gay sexuality on the burlesque stage. We’re challenging what masculine is and we’re embracing every aspect of queerness, from the sexy bits to the messy parts. Come see the show to support a scrappy local arts organization, but then come back to see it because there’s nothing else quite like it.
BenDeLaCreme said, “There really is a relationship between Baloney, drag, and indie filmmaking that’s all about being scrappy and making everything happen yourself and being all hands on deck to make the art be what it needs to be. That’s something really beautiful and relatable and exciting and I love that it’s uniquely San Francisco.” What do you think sets the SF queer/nightlife scene apart from the rest?
San Francisco has always felt like a garden to me—if you have the determination and you plant the seed *coughs* you can grow new things here. You can make something that wasn’t here before. And San Francisco audiences have a way of embracing the new and different. They want to support you and they’re eager to watch you grow. It’s not an easy place to work and you really have to want it, but there is a hunger for and encouragement of new voices here that feels really special. We take care of our own in SF and there’s room for all kinds. If you come here with a dream, your hard work can actually make it happen. That’s what Baloney feels like to me. I love that we’ve gotten to grow this show in the loving soil of San Francisco.
Since creating the show, how has your definition of “community” changed?
Baloney completely redefined what community means to us. I think before we made the show, we were individual artists and the idea of community felt really fluid and ephemeral. Once we created the show we felt an instant connection with our community that felt very solid, very vital. Baloney taught me that community is a responsibility. It’s not a given, and you get what you put into it. I think the pandemic gave us all a taste of what it’s like when we can’t access our communities– maybe it will make us all appreciate them that much more. I feel like it’s our duty as artists in this community to provide entertainment and fabulous experiences that include everyone. And it’s also our responsibility to address these hard times in the best ways that we can. This show makes our community stronger by bringing us together in solidarity and it’s our job to keep it raw, relevant, and rollicking for all the people who need it!