Pianofight: Tenderloin’s nascent social happening. Hip, chic, low lighting, ukelele Jazz, and artisan cocktails. You know, the Tenderloin. Inside, risers of buzzed and buzzing spectators sprawled in front of a set of loveseats and the letters “S-E-X” spelled out in golden Mylar balloons. Jesus U. Bettawork, a supremely talented and festively spangled fellow with no shortage of rainbow bedazzles, welcomed us with a whirlwind of twerks and twirls, all the while maintaining his tiny sombrero. We responded in emphatic kind, charged by his kicks, claps, and megamix of jacque jams. This was only the warm-up, the prelude to a night of exquisite, one-of-a-kind entertainment.
Live Sex, helmed by Luna Malbroux, is a variety talk show dedicated to the many colors, creeds, identities, professions or expressions of sensuality. Luna, a comedian formally trained in sex therapy, invites a sexpert to share their experience, be that a male erotic dancer, a Burner, or, in our case, an anthropomorphic Husky in raver bracelets, Mork suspenders and shutter sunglasses. Our month’s theme: “Costume Play”.
Patch O’Furr was an adorably bashful, unassuming critter. Spoke with a syrupy, “heavens to murgatroyd” drawl. They defanged prejudices or assumptions about the Furry community, and was cautious to not speak for the entirety of his tribe. A sweetness emerged from surprising innocuousness, that regardless of perception or fluffy, punny, double entendres, Patch is purely an enthusiast. “I’m like a million other nerds out there, mine is just a little different,” he confessed. Additionally, they admitted to Disney’s Robin Hood being a gateway, and that their suit is functional art, worn in homage to its creator. It was insightful to see, with levity firmly intact, dignity and vulnerability with a traditionally private individual*. I credit Live Sex’s host for the open, fun hospitality that encouraged the dynamic and revelatory revelry.
Luna, donning cat ears and tail, was a phenomenal host. Playful but stern. Encouraged interaction but handled hecklers in one swoop. Endearing and poised, clever and charming, managed our temperamental, late-show energy and kept a refreshing, brisk meter. It was clear our host was interested, in the subject, and interesting, as a person, knowledgeable and mindful enough to steer us in enlightening, holistic directions, a surrogate for our curiosity.
Live Sex was a welcomed departure from the typical umpteenth-comedian stand-up showcase deathmarch. No offense to the umpteenth-comedian stand-up showcase deathmarch, but less can be more, as evident with Luna Malbroux and company. Panelist Ash Fisher and Clay Newman flexed brilliance in off-the-cuff brevity. Ash, warm wit, indulged a garter belt. Clay, blown-out bravado, balked at the aural gutturalness of terminology, like yiff, exposing himself to being a bit of a square. Each confirmed that a smattering of funny people, acting naturally, can go a long way. The lone stand-up, Mean Dave (performing with a Freddie Krueger glove (his interpretation of “cosplay”)), a comedian I’ve known since 2010, stood out as an acerbic, smart ass in loving contrition with the audience. There’s been a jump. Always known for being a clever writer with self-effacing slant, the hockey-jersey-and-backwards-hat-wearing, self-proclaimed Mexican Silent Bob, or “Roberto de Silencio”, poked at sobriety, entertainment and himself with a lucidity and spontaneity perfect for Live Sex. Mean Dave has always been funny, talented; it’s great to see his progress manifest.
Mid-show, the panel cleared as the spotlight chilled blue. Sophia Constance emerged in regal lavender plumage, rising and falling on imagined thermals with avian mimicry. The burlesque pushed itself into the air of high art. Sure, a nearly nude woman wearing pasties, but that emotional depth tho. That melancholy tho. Music and movement transcended gawdy, bawdy titillation, sophisticated and abstract in sweeping, curving forms and facsimile. Thankfully, Live Sex’s scope and steeze allotted space for pure majesty (and that the comedians weren’t tasked with finding—unnecessary—funny).
The coolest thing about Live Sex was, as potentially painful as it could be, it not only avoided all pitfalls, it thrived! Any public discourse about sex, “normal” or otherwise, can be awkwardly disastrous. Presumptions, crossed boundaries, bruised egos, exploitation. Even with best intentions, there’s always puritanical indoctrination that can turn the most reasonable adults into tittering school children at the onset of anything salacious. Sex can be too raw, too true, discomforting. Admittedly, sometimes I’m not built to deal with it, not in the open, not in a real way. Live Sex helped bridge the gap of where I want to be in my knowledge, empathy, openness, and where I am. It’s a tricky situation that was handled in the best way—that I know of: laughter. A few bumps in the badinage, some awkward jokes that didn’t land, as any comedy show is wont to do, were smoothed by a commitment to respect, pace, celebration and a balanced and varied engagement to all five—yes! all five—senses. And it’s a continuous engagement. Because every month is different, tackling a specific slice of eroticism, you won’t find many more consistently rewatchable (and quality) comedy shows in San Francisco. Especially none with as provocative a motto as “Come. Laugh with Us”.
Live Sex happens 10:30pm every third Friday at Pianofight (144 Taylor Street, SF, CA). Next show is November 20th, its theme: polyamory. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Tickets are available: here.
*PS: Patch O’Furr wrote about their experience at the show, how Luna approached them to be on the show, and why they decided to do it (to the controversy of their community). It made me appreciate their participation and further admire Luna’s consideration and care as a showrunner. Good read.
1. The show will let out before BART closes, so don’t let the late start deter you.
2. Pianofight is too classy for energy drinks so plan your hype according.
3. Purchase tickets in advance: Live Sex either sells out or damn near sells out.
4. Arrive early: get the seat you want and can get dinner before. The lobby functions as its own nightclub, so you won’t be bored.
5. Bring a friend: Live Sex may evoke a side of them you’ve never seen before (and a great anecdote to callback to).