Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Bowen Yang

When I meet Bowen Yang at Konditori in Park Slope, he is watching Britney Spears videos on YouTube behind the sleek geometry of his black glasses. This is not his usual state—his diva of choice, I will learn later, is actually Lady Gaga—but tonight the comedian is representing Ms. Spears at the monthly Diva Battle at Union Hall, a show defining itself as “if Roast Battle and Debate Club had a super gay baby.” Hosted by comics Matteo Lane and Christi Chiello, performers go head to head, presenting their hilarious and deliciously wicked cases for the divas they stand for that evening. Bowen’s competition tonight is comedian Matt Rodgers, also his best friend, who will be presenting the case for Christina Aguilera.

By day, Bowen is a graphic designer, but…also by day, he’s a performer, writer, and producer of shows all across New York, like the laugh-so-hard-I’m-in-pain “Live on Broadgay,” which features gay comedians performing an episode of Sex and the City. Bowen was also named one of the 50 Funniest People in Brooklyn by Brooklyn Magazine and a comedian on the rise by Time Out New York, the latter which praised him for “his signature arched-eyebrow cleverness and gleeful camp.” He has appeared on Broad City and The Outs, and has a successful podcast on iTunes with Matt called Las Culturistas (which they will be performing live at Littlefield in Brooklyn on March 21).

Bowen and I soon head to Union Hall, where he continues prepping his Britney presentation, “It’s Godney, Bitch.” After adding to his slideshow an image of Britney in a sparkly, rhinestone-covered nude bodysuit from her video “Toxic,” he grabs a glass of white wine at the bar, chit-chatting with the hosts.

Soon, the show begins, and Bowen and Matt execute ferociously cheeky tongue lashings against each other’s divas. Bowen is stern and forceful but in his signature campy way, as serious as anyone could be when arguing for the validity of a singing, dancing, now Las Vegas -based pop confection. Both he and Matt at one point cause their hosts roll around on the floor laughing in tears, thrusting a bundle of balloons to the ground and stabbing them into bursts in celebration of their sauciness.

Ultimately, though both receive rousing cheers from the audience, Matt wins, and Bowen graciously applauds. The room empties and they say hello to friends, then search for a place nearby to eat. The two have known each other since performing in comedy troupes as students at NYU and have been hustling their way through the comedy world since then, creating work for themselves and others whose work they love, and really getting noticed in the process. It seems like Bowen is always producing a show, always performing somewhere, never stopping, which is in some ways what being a young artist is all about.

We head to Calexico nearby in time for free margaritas on what is apparently National Margarita Day. Thank goodness, I think. These guys deserve a drink. 

Follow Bowen on Twitter and Instagram