In the beginning, the Whatever’s Clever Variety Show had a simple purpose: To raise scratch for the Whatever Show, a locally produced indie serial revolving around a fictional variety show.
“The Whatever Show is a dramatic comedy serial being developed and produced locally here in Bellingham, expected to be out in early 2013,” director Conn Buckley further explains. “The Whatever’s Clever Variety Show is a show that highlights the best music, dancing, comedy and variety acts in town. The variety show was originally conceived of as a fundraiser for the Whatever Show, but has now grown into a life of its own.”
Hosted by Neill McLaughlin and Jackie Kersten, the Whatever’s Clever Variety Show focuses on bringing as many talented folks from varied creative endeavors in and around Bellingham to the stage. To wit: the Aug. 26 gig at the Shakedown will feature, among other things, a performance by Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers, comedy by Joel O’Connor and John Gonzalez, belly dancing and drumming by members of the Mahala Dancers, a hula hoop routine by Kersten, and music by Mustafa and the Gypsters.
“It’s a whirlwind tour of comedy, dance and music, with Neill and me keeping the show going with wit and tomfoolery,” Kersten says of the monthly event, which has grown exponentially since its first incarnation last January.
“A night at the Whatever’s Clever Variety Show will change your whole idea of what to expect when you go out to a venue,” McLaughlin adds. “We have a bunch of bands, burlesque, bad jokes and belly dancing. What else could you ask for on a Sunday night? Well, communion, but we run into a bit of a tiff with the Pope about giving away the body of Christ with every glass of beer.”
Although the theatrical extravaganzas are typically planned out a couple months in advance, the three organizers say it can be logistically challenging to make sure everybody gets adequate stage time—especially when they’re working with as many as 15 acts a night.
“Anytime you put on a show as jam-packed as ours is, running on schedule is going to be a challenge,” Kerster says. “As we’ve gained more experience, we’ve learned what we must do to stay on time, but it takes a little discipline to not want these acts to keep going.”
Although they’ve tried to stick to a timeline, Buckley says Whatever’s Clever shows can still last as long as five hours, making it a stopping-by point for those who come early but can’t stay late, or those who drop by later in the evening, but can still manage to see a couple hours of entertainment.
As for the talent, Buckley says they like to mix things up.
“Several of our big show-closers started out as 15-minute acts on previous shows and we asked them back for a bigger part,” he says. “We like having the chance to put newer acts onstage with veterans, as well as acts with highly varied styles. We have had everything from bluegrass, to hip-hop, to heavy metal, and a whole bunch in between. Same goes for the comedy and dancing—just about everything you can think of that’s available in Bellingham.”
When asked why he thinks people should come to the show, McLaughlin has this to say: “How else are we supposed to fund a fake variety show that’s been around for decades without using a real variety show of our own to promote the local talent that helps to create said show? Think about it!”
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