Dynasty Handbag Is the Future of Performance (And Has Herpes Like Everyone Else)
As her alter ego Dynasty Handbag, Jibz Cameron is premiering a new one-woman show at Joe’s Pub this week. Bring her an Almond Joy as tribute!
Jibz Cameron. Photo courtesy of the artist.
The vaudevillian performances of Dynasty Handbag, the alter ego of LA-based artist Jibz Cameron, are uncategorizable, absurd, and must-see. Of her work, Cameron says, “when people, such as an Uber driver, ask me what I do, I say something like—‘I am a performer, kind of a character, kind of a comedian, but a little weirder. I am very funny. I will blow your mind.’ Then I tell them to pull over ’cuz I am gonna barf at myself.” Her latest one-woman “falling apart stand-up show,” as she would put it, is Shell of A Woman, which premieres at Joe’s Pub on August 14th and 16th. Here, she discusses this new piece, the origins of Handbag, and her process.
Who is Dynasty Handbag?
Dynasty Handbag is the alter ego woman vessel through which I explore the comedy and tragedy of my psyche through performance, video, sound, and “dance.”
What’s it like having an alter ego?
Well, Dynasty’s become less an alter ego and more just me with a better sense of style. Sometimes people are disappointed when they meet the real me and I’m just a boring, tea-drinking lesbian.
Do you spend a lot of time practicing this character? Is there a rigor to playing the fool?
I don't purposely do anything with rigor. I usually have my stuff around 70 percent prepared. It also helps that I’m lazy and don’t like to rehearse.
I see influences in what you do from Joel Grey’s Master of Ceremonies character in Cabaret, John Waters’ films, Robert Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence. A woman fed up with keeping herself together.
My dad, a heterosexual, was a Joel Grey fan! He used to sing “Money Makes The World Go Round” while watching 60 Minutes. Turns out, my dad was a crossdresser, too—which we discovered [after his death]. It was a surprise: He was a ladies’ man, in the misogynist sense. But finding out that he had this other side to him made me proud, and helped me understand more of my legacy. You nailed it with Baby Jane and A Woman Under the Influence though. What attracts me to these artists and films is the idea of a failure of womanhood; for example, Dynasty Handbag wears clothes that represent different feminine archetypes (sporty woman, businesswoman, elegant evening woman, hooker woman) but they’re worn all wrong, messing with expectations, and causing this female to appear dangerous. It’s interesting to think of the “influence” a woman could be under—without the oppressor, what worlds do the oppressed get to inhabit? In this world, when a woman rejects a man’s influence, survival is hard. My mother was a woman under the influence. She was very mentally ill and couldn’t hold down a job. She would disappear into her room for days and be flattened by depression. She would become manic and put her children in danger, ironically by trying to protect them from imaginary evil men. And she could never really get her look together. She didn’t know how to put on makeup really, or how to even try. I got that from her, and look at me now!
This legacy makes so much sense considering DH’s inability or refusal to conform to a lot of expectations of female performers. Speaking of conformity, how do you see yourself within the comedy scene?
Before I do stand-up, I feel like, whoa, this is a whole world I don’t really fit into. Then I do my set and people are like, who are YOU? You’re amazing! And I say, “I am the future but I have herpes just like everyone else, OK?”
Can Joe’s Pub expect a whole new Dynasty Handbag?
This new show at Joe’s Pub, Shell Of A Woman, is stuff I’ve been working on for the past year—it’s a PowerPoint presentation about the “10 Greatest Works Of Art,” according to the internet. First I “explain” the work’s origins then it unravels into songs, dance numbers, or psychedelic inner monologue. At this point, I just want to make people scream and hyperventilate with laughter, not think! I have nothing new to say, but I can say nothing new in an entertaining way. It’s all I want really, to bring joy. Actually, I want you to bring me an Almond Joy.
Jibz Cameron will perform as Dynasty Handbag in her latest one-woman show Shell Of A Woman premiering at Joe’s Pub on August 14 and 16.