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Have a Koch and a Smile

October 11, 2017 12:00 pm0 commentsViews: 4
Photo: Irene Young

Photo: Irene Young

by Steve Desroches

When Lisa Koch sits down to write a parody song she revels in being a modern day court jester, speaking truth to power by pointing out the absurdity of a situation or of individuals in a gentle manner, but not so gentle that the point is lost. As she says, the goal is to tickle an audience without them realizing they are being tickled. The sweet spot is that the laughter comes from when the message and the joke are so intertwined it’s impossible to tell the difference.

As a comedian and a singer/songwriter, inspiration is everywhere. Back in 2012 when Republicans in Congress hopped into a time machine to the 1950s in an effort to try and restrict access to birth control in addition to their ongoing efforts to outlaw abortion, Koch (pronounced ‘Coke’, like those brothers who own the Republican Party) saw an opportunity. And when the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform committee held a hearing on contraception access, with not one woman invited to participate, her outrage became comedy gold as she wrote the song “Hands Off My Clam,” sung to the tune of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.”

Who would have thought things would get to where they are today and that 2012 would be the good ole days, but nevertheless, her song was relevant then, but proved to be prophetic as we now have a president who needs to be told quite literally to keep his hands off women.  After the election in November Koch says most everyone in her hometown of Seattle was shuffling around like “zombies in mourning.” About a month later she was concerned no one would be in the mood for her annual Christmas comedy show. However, she broke box office records as people weren’t just looking for a laugh, they needed to laugh. Comedy, Koch says, recharges the batteries, renews the spirit, and provides hope, even in dark times.

“It’s our job,” says Koch. “If you laugh at it you take the power out of it. People are looking for relief, for a distraction. We’re providing a service by doing what we do. It’s so important to laugh.”

To bring some laughter to the resistance Koch is coming to Provincetown this Women’s Week with Wild Hormones, a “one-woman variety show” at the Post Office Cabaret, featuring standup comedy, music, and character sketches. To some, Koch will be a familiar face in Provincetown as in the 1980s she was a member of the Fabulous Dyketones, a Sha Na-Na-esque lesbian singing group, and then in the 1990s she brought her sketch-comedy act Dos Fallopia to town. And for the past five years she’s been a popular feature of the jam-packed Women’s Week schedule of shows and performers, making a return to the town she hold near and dear to her heart.

When home in Seattle thoughts of Provincetown are never far away, and not just because of the city’s large LGBT population and liberal ways, but its performance scene. Home to Provincetown favorites and friends of Koch like Dina Martina, the Atomic Bombshells, and Ben De La Crème, Seattle’s community of performers is very supportive and encouraging, providing a similar atmosphere as in Provincetown, creating a true kinship of artists. It’s also a “little weird” and “a little off beat” like Provincetown, says Koch.

Lisa-Koch-02Provincetown audiences are also ready for anything, and they let performers take risks. A popular feature of a Koch show that really resonates in largely Catholic New England is her character Sister Mary Agnes Labia, a cranky, inappropriate nun that gives people flashbacks to Catholic school. The sadistically funny sister makes a comeback to Provincetown not just in Wild Hormones, but as co-host of the always fun DRAG-IN, an amateur drag contest with comedian Jennie McNulty, also at the Post Office Cabaret.

Performing as Sister Mary Agnes Labia is at times an exercise in religious muscle memory. “I can tell who was raised Catholic in the audience by their body language,” says Koch. “They get smaller and their eyes dart down.”

Koch’s career has been wildly varied, as her music and comedy have taken her to places and stages she could never have imagined beyond being a nun with a knuckle-cracking ruler. But it was over 10 years ago that she had one of the most unpredictable experiences. She received a call from a producer working with Jay-Z, one of the most successful rappers and bestselling musicians of all time, wanting to sample Koch’s “Summer Song,” a track off her very first album Colorblind Blues, released in 1991.  She agreed and the result is the first 16 seconds of Jay-Z’s 2005 song “Dear Summer” is sampled from Koch’s work.

“It was the weirdest thing ever,” says Koch. “I was flabbergasted. I asked, ‘How in the world did you find me?’ I was really like, ‘What the…’ Their answer was that they look for obscure music, which made me laugh out loud, because that would be me.”

Lisa Koch presents Wild Hormones at the Post Office Cabaret, 303 Commercial St., Provincetown, Thursday, October 12 through Saturday, October 14 at 5:30 p.m. Koch also hosts DRAG-IN as her character Sister Mary Agnes with Jennie McNulty at the Post Office Cabaret on Saturday, October 14. Tickets for either show ($25) are available at the box office and online at postofficecabaret.com. For more information call 508.487.0006.