Wigs & Wit is a joke... and a drag — and it's at Punky's in St. Petersburg and Sarasota

A Q&A with the creator of Wigs & Wit, a competition featuring stand-up comedians and drag queens.

click to enlarge Comedians and drag queens come together each month thanks to 'Wigs & Wit' creator Jeff Klein (bottom row, center). - Jeff Klein
Jeff Klein
Comedians and drag queens come together each month thanks to 'Wigs & Wit' creator Jeff Klein (bottom row, center).

Three stand-up comedians and three drag queens walk into a bar.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it's actually a monthly show called Wigs & Wit, where comedians and drag queens compete by performing alternating sets, with one from each group making it to the finals.  

Then things really get weird.  

In the last round, the drag queen does a stand-up routine, and the comedian lip syncs to a song of their choice. Then the audience votes an overall winner. It's a fun mashup of performances that occurs each month at Punky's bar & Grill in St. Petersburg. 

We spoke to comedian Jeff Klein, the creator of Wigs & Wit, about stand-up comedy, dealing with divas, and just how far people will go to win the competition.  

Every month you have to deal with divas who strut around and think the spotlight should always be on them. And those are just the comedians. Seriously, how do you manage big egos on a little show?  

It’s fun, actually. I think from the comic side, they appreciate that’s it’s a new type show. The queens get to be as diva as they want when they perform, and then I keep the mic out of their hands otherwise.  

The comedians get to pick their song for the final battle. What's the best song you've seen chosen, and the worst? 

I had a comic want to do Enya once. That is the answer to both of those questions.

Comedians don't have to actually appear in drag for their song, but some go all out to claim victory. What's the craziest experience you've seen so far? 

Steve Miller doing semi-drag for Madonna’s "Like a Prayer" (with props). To take the cake was Danny Bevins lip-syncing to Chaka Khan and getting an applause break for pretending to hit a high note.    

You're now experiencing the production side of a comedy show. What have you learned doing it, and what are some things you didn't expect?

Getting people to commit and not drop out causes stress every month. The last-minute drop-outs are what get me the most.

You're a comedian yourself, so let's talk about your stand-up. Some of your jokes are about being gay, and you've been with your husband for 10 years, so it's not exactly a secret. But you talk about a variety of topics, and in the comedy community you're just known as a guy whose material includes their relationships and personal life, like most performers. Is it important for you to be seen as a "comedian" rather than a "gay comedian" or do you think about the labels at all?  

That’s a complicated answer. Whatever gets me booked. In general I’m an “everyday activist” and talk openly about my husband and don’t shy away from mentioning that I’m gay, to make more people aware and knowledgeable that gay people are everywhere and sometimes they're your friends.   

I will always wonder if being openly gay and talking about it on stage hinders my “bookability” or not. But the best I can do is to just keep being me and let that all fall where it will. 

Wigs & Wit has been at Punky's in St. Petersburg since its inception. But you've now brought the show to McCurdy's Comedy Club on a regular schedule that started July 17. How is it different at a comedy club than it is at Punky's?  

The same in every way of how it runs, but different in that I will be co-hosting it with the very popular and talented drag queen Beneva Fruitville. We will also have our friend from Black Diamond Burlesque, Laura Gale, cocktailing and helping us organize it all.  

You've never actually participated in the competition part of Wigs & Wit. If you did, what song would you choose for your performance and why? 

I battle with this decision every month and am happy I haven’t had to decide, yet....


Wigs & Wit

McCurdy's Comedy Theater and Humor Institute, 1923 Ringling Rd., Sarasota | Aug. 14: 8 p.m. | $20 | mccurdyscomedy.com

Punky's, 3063 Central Ave., St. Petersburg | Aug. 12: 7 p.m. | Find Wigs & Wit on Facebook

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