Over seven years as director and emcee for Grand Rapids, Michigan's Super Happy Funtime Burlesque troupe, 35-year-old comedian Corey Ruffin has done a lot of interviews. And unlike the police raids, of which there have also been quite a few, he says the press coverage has started to blend together.
"They always write the same thing," Ruffin says. Putting on a history-book voice, he narrates: "'Burlesque was the originator of slapstick and it's because the characters used to carry around a burl, which was a stick with cloth wrapped around the end that they would hit people with.' Like, every article mentions that, because it's on Wikipedia.
"Just stay away from the burl and you're OK," he counsels.
It's good advice, it would make a great T-shirt slogan, and it also goes a long way toward describing what to expect — or what not to expect — at the two-hour musical theatrical extravaganza that is a Super Happy Funtime Burlesque show, which will hit Manitou Springs' Venue 515 on Friday and Smitty's Greenlight Tavern in Pueblo on Saturday. "When a new audience sees us, yeah, their jaws are on the floor for about the first 15 minutes," Ruffin says. "And then — and then — you see the gears start shifting and they're like, 'Oh. They're making fun of themselves.'"
The mockery doesn't stop there. In fact, it doesn't stop, ever. "There is no depth to which we will not sink, as far as what we're making fun of," he says.
"Oh gosh, what can you print?" he replies.
For their second cross-country tour, Ruffin says the 18-member troupe is bringing a sci-fi twist to its signature schtick, which he describes as "Rocky Horror mixed with Monty Python mixed with The Price is Right," with a little Gilbert and Sullivan thrown in for good measure.
"Remember the American operetta scene? We're doing it full force now," he says proudly.
Last I checked, there was nothing unprintable about H.M.S. Pinafore — but apparently that was before Funtime got hold of it.
"We've got a cross between Jesus and Charles Manson, we've got sperm races, we've got an anorexic stomach doing a solo song about how lonely he is and how badly he wants food. ... We are pushing the envelope with this one for sure."
Of course, Funtime didn't do such a bad job when they packed out the house at the Triple Nickel Tavern last August. But Ruffin says that show, which ended with the entire cast dancing on the bar, nearly didn't happen at all.
"Getting [to Colorado Springs] was the worst day of the tour last time," he says. "I think we were at about Hour 10 of the drive and there was this sound coming from the back of the RV. And when you're exhausted, you just figure, 'Well, I'll just ignore it as long as I can until it becomes a problem.' And we tried ignoring it, and it's getting louder and louder and louder, and then finally we decided to acknowledge it. I looked out the window, and we were dragging a trailer that was missing a wheel!"
So hopefully this tour goes a little better?
"Yeah, fingers crossed. This time we bought a bus."
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.