Into the void with New York’s most talked about comedian

Cather­ine Cohen is the acid-smart cabaret comedian blowing-up every “one to watch” list.

The atmos­phere gets dialled-up a notch when Cather­ine Cohen blasts in. I just got elec­tro­cut­ed,” she cries. The four-or-so peo­ple who are set­ting up for her show The Twist? … She’s Gor­geous at The Moth Club stop what they’re doing. She’s drag­ging a giant red suit­case, which she drops as the door slams behind her. Like, what the fuck? I got elec­tro­cut­ed!” Even with­out elec­tri­fy­ing news, I get the sense that Cohen has the req­ui­site star-pow­er to stop a room.

The 27-year-old come­di­an is hav­ing a moment. Or rather, she’s at the very begin­ning of what looks like it’s going to be a very big moment. In New York (where she lives in a tiny one bed in the West Vil­lage), she is best known for Caber­net Cabaret at Club Cum­ming; it’s a week­ly vari­ety show that she co-hosts along­side musi­cian and writ­ing part­ner Hen­ry Koperski. 

The Twist? … She’s Gor­geous, is her own show with Kop­er­s­ki and the rea­son she’s in the UK this sum­mer. Mix­ing acer­bic obser­va­tion­al humour with equal­ly acer­bic songs, it’s an hour packed with a par­tic­u­lar­ly mil­len­ni­al (read: self-aware-bor­der­ing-on-neu­rot­ic) brand of wit. 

And peo­ple are look­ing. In the past year she has been pro­filed in The New York Times, The Cut has called her com­e­dy dizzy­ing and glam­orous” and she’s been a one to watch” for every­one from GQ to The Guardian. She has also appeared in Broad City, HBO’s High Main­te­nance, and Search Par­ty, and the pod­cast she co-hosts, Seek Treat­ment, has gar­nered a cult fol­low­ing for its sex-pos­i­tive, super-con­fes­sion­al style. 

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Her onstage per­sona is a dialled-up-to-the-max, spin­ning top ver­sion of Cohen her­self. In per­son she is almost as fast-talk­ing and droll; she moves con­stant­ly and speaks in tan­gen­tial, often hilar­i­ous asides. She is also incred­i­bly clever (while sound­check­ing for the show she off-the-cuff impro­vis­es a hilar­i­ous three minute tune about being elec­tro­cut­ed in Lon­don). Like many come­di­ans, though, you also get the sense that her dizzy­ing highs are fol­lowed by big, crash­ing lows. It makes sense. At the heart of her com­e­dy is an acknowl­edge­ment of the vast empti­ness of mod­ern life, the void” as she calls it, and the ridicu­lous things we all do to fill it. Sounds depress­ing, but it’s very fun­ny. What’re you run­ning from?” she trills, over and over, in one song about run­ning a marathon. Have you tried just telling your friends that you’re sad, instead?” 

Boys nev­er want­ed to kiss me, so now I do com­e­dy,” she sings in anoth­er, boys nev­er want­ed to kiss me, so I need all of you to look at me…” 

My fear is just the sta­mi­na that it requires to per­form every night,” she tells me when I ask if she’s excit­ed to be tak­ing The Twist? … She’s Gor­geous to Edin­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val. Not being able to get through it. I mean, I told Hen­ry, if I was scared of but­ter­flies this would be like putting my head in a box of but­ter­flies.’ But I guess after this I’ll be invincible…and maybe it’s fit­ting that I got elec­tro­cut­ed moments before my first show in the UK. It’s shak­en me to my core, it’s invig­o­rat­ed me, I’ll do tonight, I’ll do Dublin, I’ll do boom, boom, boom and at the end of the month I’ll pass out in a ditch and some­one will ship me home.” 

Tonight’s show is sold out. But there’ll be tick­ets on the door, right?” she asks, mov­ing from a chair to the bar for water. No, it’s just sold out. Oh,” she laughs. I like to tell peo­ple that there are tick­ets…” In fact, it’s so packed that late­com­ers have to stand, although no one seems to mind. She blows the crowd – myself includ­ed – away. From the whip-smart, pop­py show-tunes to the dry asides, she keeps the crowd howl­ing, cheer­ing, clap­ping and laugh­ing, laugh­ing, laughing. 

As she ducks off stage at the end, every­one seems dis­ap­point­ed that it’s over. Per­haps get­ting elec­tro­cut­ed worked – she cer­tain­ly elec­tri­fied the crowd. 

So when did you get here?

I arrived late Sat­ur­day night; I got a hotel…

That elec­tro­cut­ed you!

Yeah, what the fuck? I nev­er get a hotel, I always try and save mon­ey but I was like no, I’ve had a real­ly busy few months in New York, I’m going to get to Lon­don and just like chill out in my hotel…”

What hotel was it?

It’s called The Cur­tain in Shoreditch.

Oh, that’s quite a nice hotel!

It’s very fan­cy, I know. 

It’s got a nice rooftop…

….yeah, so I was hang­ing out by the pool and stuff, which was nice.

You’re off to Edin­burgh – when do you start?

I go to Dublin tomor­row and I think the first show in Edin­burgh is the 31st July.

Is it your first Fringe?

I’ve been to Fringe but I haven’t done a show there. I’ve nev­er per­formed, nev­er done the psy­chot­ic thing…I don’t know why any­one does this [laughs].

What made you want to do it?

I’ve always dreamed of doing it because when I came in 2013 I thought it was the coolest place on earth. And I was like, one day I’ll take a show there”. And now I’ve been doing this show for a while and I was like cool, we should do it up. We should take it to Edinburgh.” 

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How would you describe your comedy?

Hot n’ sexy, and ready to play. 

When did you add songs? Because I know you did stand-up before which was more just straight talking…

Hen­ry and I wrote our first song the day after the 2016 elec­tion – so that was Novem­ber 2016

What is it about that spe­cif­ic day that spurred you into writ­ing a song?

Well it was very trau­mat­ic, obvi­ous­ly. The day after the elec­tion I had to do a voiceover for Plan B [Cohen worked as a voiceover artist to make ends meet in her ear­li­er 20s]. 

And I was like this is iron­ic” as this guy is going to take away repro­duc­tive rights and health­care. And every­one was, like, cry­ing in the booth, it was so dramatic…

The song’s called All the Things That Are Wrong With My Vagi­na and All the Med­i­cine I Need.

I’d been want­i­ng to write a song and was like yep, that’s the title”. The cho­rus goes some­thing like I got­ta get all these meds I need, so I can fuck good because it fuck­ing feels good and that’s all we have left…” And that was the first song we ever wrote…

And now Boris John­son is PM

I know.

Have you seen all the Trump and Boris memes?

Yeah, The Shin­ing one? Yeah. Fucked up.

But any­way peo­ple are lov­ing the cabaret vibe…

Oh good, they bet­ter [laughs].

Why do you think that it’s real­ly struck a chord?

I think it’s because I’m an amaz­ing singer [laughs]…no, I think we real­ly care that the music’s good, that it’s not a joke song. Even if they weren’t fun­ny we’d want peo­ple to lis­ten to them, so the com­bo, I hope, is attractive.

You talk a lot about the void” in your comedy…

Oh my god! I was just talk­ing about the void this morn­ing. It’s like, my void is now pul­sat­ing. I’ve been pic­tur­ing my void as this oval shaped thing right here [draws a cir­cle on her chest], and the edges are kind of singed…[mutters] electrocuted. 

OK, so what do you throw into your void, oth­er than com­e­dy, to try and feel fulfilled?

Male atten­tion, sex, food, alco­hol, Likes, clothes – all the classics.

In that order?

Yeah, if there’s any addic­tion you can have, I’m prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit addict­ed to it. Although, I’m scared of drugs, so I don’t do drugs.

No cocaine in the void?

No but Adder­all and Xanax. Do those count?

Maybe. I tried Xanax recre­ation­al­ly for the first time recently. 

I have a pre­scrip­tion, so it’s not total­ly crazy that I take it. Although, I don’t have an Adder­all pre­scrip­tion, every now and then I’ll take it if I want to stay up par­ty­ing. I don’t like cocaine. And Xanax, I need it. You can tell I’m fuck­ing wired as hell right now. Prob­a­bly because I got elec­tro­cut­ed. The thing is, I’m wor­ried I’m going to be like this now and then I’ll crash before the show. Oh my god, I hope I can keep this up…

I total­ly think you can and as soon as you get up there it’ll be like…

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. We nor­mal­ly do 1hr30 but I have to keep it tight tonight and do 55mins.

How come?

That’s what I was told to do. And any more is like…I don’t know. The sta­mi­na required to do 1hr30 every night would be psychotic. 

Where do you think the void comes from?

I think I just feel so much. I think I want more, con­stant­ly want more, more, more. I’m a per­son who wants to expe­ri­ence every­thing. I think every­one has a void but I think some people’s are big­ger than others. 

You’re expe­ri­enc­ing a lev­el of fame right now. Have you read any­thing weird about yourself?

No, not real­ly. It’s been crazy, everyone’s been super kind and sup­port­ive. I think one arti­cle described me as hyper-niche” and I was like ok drag me! Hyper-niche’! OK, like, five peo­ple like me…”

Why do you think they might describe you as hyper-niche?

I don’t know, I don’t know how to be any oth­er way. Hen­ry was telling me that his boyfriend was watch­ing us on Seth Myers, and he was like – I mean, he takes it for grant­ed because he sees me all the time – but he was like, she’s real­ly coo-coo. And it’s going to be kind of weird for peo­ple all over the coun­try to see.” I was like yeah, great.”

Do you think the con­fes­sion­al ele­ment of your stand-up real­ly res­onates with people?

I hope so, that what res­onates with me when I watch stuff.

Is there a clear line between you and the on-stage persona?

It all kind of blends togeth­er. I mean, I would say the on-stage per­sona is more unflap­pable. And a lit­tle heightened.

I mean, I care so much if peo­ple like me. I care every day of my life. I am ter­ri­fied of dis­ap­point­ing some­one – and that ter­ri­fies me at all times. And I don’t think the on-stage per­sona cares about that as much. 

On your pod­cast you talk about not being able to cum over fake boobs on porn…

I mean, I can’t. They’re just not for me. There were a lot at the rooftop pool today. I hope these women found what they’re search­ing for. I hope it filled their void. My void’s a lit­tle high­er than my tits. 

I feel I’m going to throw some Botox into my void soon…

Oh my god, some­one just told me I should do it because I have this [points at forehead]. 

Now’s not the time, there’s noth­ing there. Maybe in the future?

Maybe when I hit 30.

I had a drink with my friend recent­ly I was like you look so fresh!” And she was like oh, vit­a­min c serum at night etc.” But then she got drunk and revealed that she’d had Botox.

And did it look good?

It did look kind of good…

My friend did it and it was the same thing. I was like you have the best skin,” and she was like just a lit­tle botox.” But she’s only 28. How old was your friend?

30.

That’s a bet­ter age I think

Any­way, you’re super open on the pod and on stage, do you ever think oh shit, I shouldn’t have said that”?

Yeah, all the time. Con­stant­ly. I some­times edit it out. Although, some­times I don’t think about it and then am like OK, that person’s going to know that I fucked some­one else.” But, so what? Ulti­mate­ly the pow­er comes from being open. 

You’ve been doing some real­ly excit­ing things, is there one thing that real­ly sticks in your mind?

Well, when I was falling asleep after doing Seth Myers, I was feel­ing kind of calm, and I saw a gif of him say­ing Cather­ine Cohen is here” and I was like what the fuck!” And that’s when it hit me, it was like this is the coolest thing in life ever!”

OK, thanks so much…

Is that it? I hope I wasn’t too manic. 

No, you weren’t man­ic at all. 


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