MEL & EL Interview: Advanced Maternal Age at Ars Nova
MEL and ELBackstage Bistro Award winners MEL & EL are Melanie Kinard and Ellie Dvorkin -real life best friends who have known each other since they were twelve years old. Described as a modern-day Laverne & Shirley, MEL & EL have grown up to become a riotously funny musical duo and an NYC cult phenomenon.
MEL & EL are making a triumphant return to the Ars Nova stage for one night only in their new show Advanced Maternal Age! Debuting heartfelt new songs like “Let’s Not Be Poor Anymore” and “My Man is Just the Right Amount of Gay”, the ladies bring their comedic musical stylings home to Hell’s Kitchen. Catch them quick, before EL goes into labor. Advanced Maternal Agewill play Ars Nova (511 West 54th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenue) in NYC onMonday, September 16 at 8pm. Click here for tickets!
MEL and EL performing1. Who or what inspired you to become performers?
EL: My mother put the idea in my head when I was little. She is British, and I used to follow her and the rest of my family around imitating their accents at parties. She would say, “You’re such a little actress!” and I guess the idea stuck.
MEL: I think I mostly became a performer because I was terrible at all the other things.
EL: That sounds so negative!
MEL: It’s not. It’s extremely positive.
2. Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to?
MEL: Bette Midler…
EL: Sarah Silverman…
MEL: We really only work with each other, so this list is both long and ridiculous.
MEL: I already had my opportunity to perform while pregnant, and now I get to sit back and see how El handles it. Or really, I get to see how the audience reacts to it.
EL: I am excited to try our brand new material. We have three songs that have NEVER been heard by anyone other than our composer/accompanist. It’s always exciting when we get laughs for the first time.
MEL: But what if they don’t laugh?
EL: Then I will just wiggle my belly around. That’ll get ’em.
MEL: That’s cheap, but I like it.
MEL and EL4. You have performed at Ars Nova several times. What is it about this venue that you enjoy most? What do they offer that another venue does not?
MEL: Ars Nova is both cozy and fancy which are our favorite two qualities in a venue.
EL: But, really, you get the intimacy of an edgy, “downtown” location along with this incredible theatre and dressing rooms and staff.
MEL: Also, the bar.
5. For fans who have seen your previous shows, what will excite them about this new show and what might surprise them?
EL: For years, our material was inspired by being single in New York City. Now that we’re married with kids, the content is shifting. I think they will be excited by the new material and surprised that it’s just as funny and relatable as the previous stuff.
MEL: Yeah. What she said.
EL, MEL, and Patrick Bodd6. How did you come to work with your accompanist Patrick Spencer Bodd? What is the best part about working with him?
MEL: Patrick and I went to Ithaca College together and were attached at the hip from pretty early on. My student loans were worth it to meet him.
EL: Patrick is the most talented human I know. He can literally do anything extremely well. But my favorite thing about him is how he can tell us we’re both total idiots in a really sweet way.
MEL: Nah. I have always been the self-conscious one and El has always been the brazen one. Having kids doesn’t change that.
EL: What she means is, I will still be wearing sequin hot pants and talking about the details of my sex life.
MEL: And I will still NOT be doing that.
MEL and EL at age 128. You have been friends since you were 12 years old. What have you learned from each other over the years? What is the best part about working together and being such close friends? What challenges do you face from having such a close relationship?
EL: It’s going to sound corny, but our biggest challenge is seeing each other enough and finding “friend-time” together aside from rehearsing and performing.
MEL: Barf! But it’s true.
EL: I also think we’ve learned to be more patient with each other.
MEL: We’ve had to. And we’ve figured out how to really quickly disperse any tension. It usually means we just need five minutes to talk like actual people and then we get back to “work.”
EL: And, typically, I speak before I think and Mel thinks before she speaks. It seems over the years we’ve rubbed off on one another a little bit.
MEL and EL9. What do you enjoy most about filming your web series The Mel and El Show? How do you decide what each episode will be about?
MEL: The web series was a collaborative effort between us and some creatives at a digital media company called ClearMetrics. They took some of their favorite material from our act and helped us develop it into three initial episodes in hopes that it would be picked up commercially and developed further.
EL: For example, “Tampax presents The Mel & El Show.” But Tampax hasn’t come a-knockin’ just yet.
MEL: We had a blast filming it and would love to do more, so if anyone from Tampax is reading this, give us a call.
EL: Say Tampax.
MEL and EL10. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
MEL: The gay ballroom dancer who taught me how to apply stage makeup when I was 13 told me “never blend.” In retrospect, I think he was talking about eye shadow, but I was an emotional adolescent and I really took it to heart.
EL: I never knew that story!
MEL: We need to hang out more often!
EL: My mom has always said, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” And I have used that as inspiration many times – especially with Mel & El stuff.
MEL: Maybe you should ask Madonna if she wants us to be her opening act.
EL: I am on that.
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?
EL: The power to make Mel wear sequin hot pants on stage.
MEL: It’s a good thing super powers aren’t real.
More on MEL and EL:
MEL & EL grew up in South Florida, where they attended the University Center for the Performing Arts together, and where, due to a shortage of boys in the summer camp program, one of them often played a man.
Described as a modern-day Laverne & Shirley, MEL & EL have grown up to become a riotously funny musical duo and an NYC cult phenomenon. Their critically acclaimed show, MEL & EL: THIS SHOW RHYMES, was developed with Cannery Works and enjoyed a year-long run at The Duplex in NYC’s West Village. Their next show, MEL & EL: SHOW & TELL, developed in part at New York Stage & Film, premiered at Ars Nova to rave reviews. MEL & EL: GAY MARRIED headlined Comix and culminated in the pair being chosen as one of the Village Voice’s BEST OF NYC.
EL and MEL performingMEL & EL were awarded the Backstage Bistro Award for their song “Fagnet”, the Collaboration Award given by the NY Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts and Media and were recently chosen as GO Magazine’s Very Best in NYC Comedy.
MEL & EL have hosted and appeared at various events such as The Miss Fag Hag Pageant which raised funds for the Hetrick-Martin Institute/Harvey Milk School, and benefits for The Trevor Project, The NYCLU’s LGBT efforts, The Food Bank of New York City, and Habitat for Humanity.
NYC appearances include NYMF, The Hysterical Festival, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad, The Big Gay Variety Show, Dykes on Mics, Homo Comicus, Hedda Lettuce’s Tossed Salad and here! TV’s Busted. You can also catch them at popular venues around town like The Box, Birdland, Gotham Comedy Club, The D Lounge, Le Poisson Rouge, Therapy, The PIT and Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater.
Outside of NYC, MEL & EL have performed their show onboard various Atlantis gay cruises, at Harlan’s Cabaret in New Hope, PA, the BACCHUS Area 11 conference in SUNY Oswego, at the Women’s Auxiliary in Waterford, CT, and at the Primetime Comedy Club in Sayreville, NJ.
Their debut musical comedy album, MEL & EL: SHE’S MY BITCH, is available on iTunes and CD Baby and their web series THE MEL & EL SHOW is now available at themelandelshow.com.