So when I was a kid, I listened to the local pop radio station a lot and imagined all sorts of messed up things to the songs I was hearing. Then, later, I got into theater after I was supposed to give a speech and instead just sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin. The teacher liked this. I did some plays and won some acting awards. My high school let me stage original productions I wrote for the student body. They were murder stories and features burlesques of local people like the town sheriff. I also set someone's hair on fire when I used a blow torch in theater class.
Obviously, after all that, I got a theater scholarship to college and studied classical theater and worked for a Shakespeare festival. I decided to quit being an actor and focus on my sure-to-succeed noise music career. I had been in punk bands while in theater school and played the drums so hard I would almost throw up. Once, following my punk band's show, a guy ran through the crowd with a razor blade and cut a bunch of people.
My noise band got a regular gig at a coffee shop. We were allowed to play every week at the very end of the night so he could close up. We also did a show once where we played for about four seconds at which point my friend Farris got his guitar stuck in the ceiling and we had to take an extended pause.
I moved to Austin and decided to quit noise music and start performing solo. I did shows at poetry open mics and in public parks and put posters all over town that were just xerox copies of my driver's license. This really great profile got written about me.
I moved to Berlin and did shows there and took my pants off in several of them because I didn't speak much German. I did one show in my apartment and climbed out the window and sang some Shaggy songs and my friend Farris set off a bunch of fireworks for some reason.
I moved to New York City and asked PS122 for a job. They said no but offered to let me perform there in this variety show. I climbed a pole and carried some things back and forth. I got a day job downtown and for the next four years or so, I rented space at theaters when I could afford it and put on shows for audiences ranging from 1-7 people. I started calling myself "the Paris Hilton of Performance Art." I wrote promotional copy that said I would "fuck shit up and drink poison until I die."
At some point in there I met a bunch of very exciting New York performers and started to work with them: Bridget Everett, Adrienne Truscott, Carmine Covelli, Murray Hill. I was a regular in a monthly variety show at Ars Nova where I sang "Music of the NIght" and screamed about not having any private parts. I did a play with Karen Finley where she was Martha Stewart and I was George W. Bush and we were having an affair during the Republican National Convention. I got to tour for the first time with her on that show and it was wild and we were naked and covered in paint.
I had a weekly show for about three months at a bar in the East Village and I made a brand new show every week. Once a guy tried to beat me up because he wandered in for a beer and I was dancing too near him. One of the weeks I did a "Lionel Richie Opera," an idea I had had long ago in Austin. People seemed to really like the Lionel Richie Opera. Ars Nova asked me to re-stage it there and I subsequently got to tour my own show for the first time to places like Atlanta, Austin, Portland, Oregon and others.
I also was asked to be in Adrienne Truscott's dance piece despite being what the New York Times referred to as an untrained dancer. I did take one dance class in college but that doesn't count because I was high all the time in that class.
Galapagos Art Space offered me a residency/run and I decided to do another show focused on a single pop star like my Lionel Richie show. This one was called "Coming in the Air Tonight," used Phil Collins songs, and I asked my new friend Carmine Covelli to be in it with me. I asked PS122 if I could make my next show built around a pop star with them and they said yes in what was to be my first commissioned piece.
Carmine and I also made a web series, a soap opera with puppets, for Nerve.com called "Neal Medlyn's Land of Make Believe."
After dancing for Adrienne, David Neumann asked me to be in a dance and we toured it all over. While we were in Minneapolis, I had the idea to make the pop star shows I was making a seven-show-long series and to do Prince next. So I did that at PS122.
I made a Britney Spears show for DTW, I made a Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana show at the Chocolate Factory, an Insane Clown Posse and Michael Jackson one for The Kitchen. The whole series toured to Germany and was presented in New York and it became a book from 53rd State Press.
While doing that, I decided to reenact a Beyonce concert DVD for a performance at The New Museum. It was popular and I performed it in more places on tour than any other show of mine, got lots of press, Beyonce's great guitarist saw it and Beyonce's stylist showed her video of it.
Speaking of celebrities seeing the shows I make about them, Kanye West actually came to this show I worked on with some other people that was a sort-of dance recital set to West's album "808s and Heartbreak." He was very nice when I met him. And Insane Clown Posse reportedly said "good job" after seeing video of my show about them.
I also co-founded a show called "Our Hit Parade" that ran for several years at Joe's Pub. It was a pop music top-ten countdown show. We had a wide range of guests, everyone from Amy Schumer, Alan Cumming and Jesse Tyler Ferguson to all sorts of downtown folks come and do a pop song. It was very successful. I got to make a zillion new things, like covering "Cooler than Me" as a performance by Marina Abramovic, covering "That's What Makes You Beautiful" as the Elephant Man, doing a country music cover of "Sabotage" with Adam Horovitz and Cey Adams and doing "I Gotta Feeling" naked with my penis painted with red glitter.
Besides appearing at Joe's Pub with Our Hit Parade and in downtown arts venues with my Pop Star shows, I also continued doing things in dance contexts. I won a Bessie for my sound design for Miguel Gutierrez. I curated a Movement Research festival.
While working with Miguel, Max Tannone, who I knew from playing softball, sent me a bunch of music and asked me if I'd like to write songs to his beats. I stayed up late one night and recorded eight songs for what became Champagne Jerry.
We worked those eight songs, plus more, into an album called "For Real, You Guys" and released it digitally and on custom thumbdrives and via a year long residency at Joe's Pub and a music video for every song on the album. I got to make a song with Adam Ad Rock Horovitz, who I have been a fan of since I was a kid; a song with Kathleen Hanna, my hero; a song with Bridget Everett, my friend and I formed an onstage entourage called The Champagne Club for my live shows of awesome performers who I did not previously know. Cey Adams designed a logo for me and we toured the country, occasionally performing in Walmart parking lots.
We put out a second album called "The Champagne Room" and got to make an original stage show of the same name where I, as Neal Medlyn, got to open for myself as Champagne Jerry.
Now I am working on a show about a different kind of cultural celebrity, Pina Bausch; a piece about GG Allin and Anne Geddes; and probably a show about Sinead O'Connor and Taylor Swift. And some web videos I think. Speaking of, I also was in "People are Detectives" and on Bridget's Comedy Central special and Champagne Jerry was the musical guest on the Chris Gethard Show. See you soon!