Interview: Jonny Woo

  • The List
  • 20 October 2011
Interview: Jonny Woo

Acclaimed performance artist and cabaret queen set for show at Glasgay!

Anyone who’s seen Party Monster should know that the Club Kids of New York are a force to be reckoned with- and Jonny Woo is no exception. Host/compere, DJ, anthemic cabaret queen – Woo does it all, best known for legendary club night Gay Bingo and stage show Night of a Thousand Jay Astons. Now chieftain of the London alternative drag scene, Jonny honed his craft in the mighty NYC before unleashing his own unique brand of outrageous fashion-infused performance art on an unsuspecting Capital. Woo was hospitalised in 2007 after his internal organs collapsed following decades of a high octane party lifestyle. Now, back to full fitness, he brings Glasgay! a greatest hits collection of his most outlandish characters and twisted anthems and tells The List a bit about what to expect.

What is ‘alt drag’?

I think that’s a term coined by Time Out when they wrote about me once, and it’s stuck ever since. I live in London and, as part of a small group, I’ve helped to create an alternative version to stereotypical drag acts. It’s expanded from nightclubs into fashion and the art world, making it much more accessible than it used to be. The elements had always been around but in the last five to ten years, we’ve been allowed to get a lot stranger. There’s not need to remove the facial hair and strap on the fake tits – it’s raw but still highly entertaining, even if it is at a different end of the spectrum.

Are there still fabulous costumes?

Of course, of course! There will be a bit of multi-media too.

How did you get into this profession in the first place?

I’ve been performing for over ten years now. I started in 2000 when I went to New York. I had just finished dance school and when I got to New York, I started making a lot of friends who were involved in burlesque or the performance arts scene. The attitude then was very different in New York to what it was in the UK- people were experimenting very freely and really treating performance as art, rather than something seedy in the back of a nightclub. That was very inspiring.

Tell us a bit about your Glasgay! show.

I haven’t been to Glasgow before; I’ve only performed in Edinburgh, so I’m excited to take my show elsewhere. This one is a ‘best of’ show, so it’s a collage of my ultimate pieces- spoken word and stories I wrote about being in hospital a few years ago or going out and clubbing. I’m fine now- let’s just say it was one too many late nights …

The Best of Jonny Woo, The Arches, Glasgow, 565 1000, Sat 22 Oct, £9 (£7), 7.30pm.

The Best of Jonny Woo

The self-proclaimed queen of London's alternative drag scene presents a range of his favourite songs and most outrageous characters in this tranny trip through his bestest bits. Part of Glasgay!