Comedian/actress Lea DeLaria had the Dakota Jazz Club audience at fisting.
A mere three minutes into her musical comedy act at the downtown Minneapolis club on Monday, the outspoken costar of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” talked about fisting, a sexual practice among lesbians and gays. “That’s a record for me,” she pointed out of how soon the subject was introduced in her set. The late-night crowd howled its approval.
Don’t know what DeLaria was like during Monday's early show, but the 100-minute nightcap was riotously entertaining.
DeLaria, 59, one of the first openly gay standups, is a loud, brassy comedian who loves to talk about sex and lesbians. She’s in your face and mock threatening but disarms you with a broad smile that borders on sweet. She’s also an accomplished jazz singer, with creative instincts and a first-rate backup trio.
Looking a bit like Drew Carey with Kim Jung-un’s hairdo, DeLaria discussed Pride, politics and, yes, sex. Sometimes a mixture of two of the three topics in very vivid terms.
Some of her jokes would be censored by the editors of this website (but kept the crowd roaring with laughter), and a few can be repeated. For instance, she picked on a responsive man near the stage: “You couldn’t be gayer -- and then I saw how much fruit is in your drink.”
But DeLaria was appearing in a music club and she’s a serious song stylist. Having been inspired by her jazz pianist father, she has released five jazz albums (and only two comedy records). Her latest, “House of David,” finds her interpreting songs by David Bowie. It was the musical focus of her Dakota show.
Even though she slowed down “Fame,” “Let’s Dance” and “Life on Mars” to sultry tempos, DeLaria, a Broadway veteran, was prone to belting and theatricality. Her scatting was fairly ordinary but she proved her jazz bona fides on an exquisite reading of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and on the 1922 chestnut “Why Don’t You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too)” rendered with an elastic blues-jazz voice.
DeLaria’s three-man band enhanced the jazz quotient considerably, especially pianist Emmet Cohen who framed most of the pieces and played a series of remarkable solos.
Curiously, DeLaria never mentioned “Orange Is the New Black” by name (she did say she didn’t need a TV show to get nightclub gigs) and never referred to her character (Big Boo). She did plug her role in the current movie “Cars 3” only because a front-row fan had a toy version of the vehicle DeLaria voices in the movie.
DeLaria didn’t need to ride on her Netflix fame or many movie credits. Because armed with a big mouth, a big personality and a small band with big-time chops, DeLaria was a huge hit at the Dakota.