The Joke’s on Fashion Week
Is it appropriate to tell a joke about body fluids while wearing Chanel?
This was the question posed on Thursday evening by the comic Alison Leiby, who performed at the Comedy Cellar during the Susan Alexandra show. The candy-colored, beaded accessories brand by Susan Korn has a history of choosing unusual sites — previously she has shown in a deli — but the Comedy Cellar, known for its subterranean dank, unadorned brick wall and unsparingly brutal audience, was not an obvious choice of place for hosting a fashion show. Indeed, no one has ever done so.
Always looking to do something a bit off-center, Ms. Alexandra used Instagram to DM various comedians who follow her brand, including Chloe Fineman and Sarah Sherman of “Saturday Night Live,” as well as the Lucille Lortel award winner Larry Owens. The ask? A five-minute set at the Cellar, wearing her accessories, paired with luxury looks borrowed from the RealReal.
Clockwise from top left: Holding tight at the Susan Alexandra fashion show; attendees surround Susan Korn, the designer, in yellow; accessories galore; and the comedian Marie Faustin.Credit…Landon Nordeman for The New York Times
“These are my celebs,” Ms. Korn said. “I think there’s nothing more attractive or dazzling than someone who is really sharp and witty. Everyone hates fashion week. It’s exhausting. We’re all dehydrated and tired and having to make small talk. I wanted to make it the opposite of all that. And so a comedy show just made so much sense.”
An hour before the show began, the Olive Tree Cafe, a restaurant above the Cellar, where comics have huddled around tables, griping and gobbling wings for decades, was transformed into a bustling backstage, with makeup and hair stations, as well as a fitting area. Ms. Korn adjusted a beaded shirt beneath a gigantic pink Gucci coat on Ms. Sherman.
“You can keep anything you want,” Ms. Korn said, referring to her beads.
“I’ll take the Gucci,” Ms. Sherman replied.
Jo Firestone, the chief writer on “Ziwe,” was having some difficulty negotiating the stairs in her bejeweled Gucci platforms.
“How much do you think these cost? I bet they’re like $800,” she said.
“They’re like 20K, so don’t walk too far,” Ms. Korn said.
Across the room, Mr. Owens was in makeup, receiving a bright blue eye. “Fashion is absolutely funny,” he said. “But also fashion is practical, which is what comedy is. Like sometimes we just gotta use a laugh to get through the day and sometimes just need an outfit.”
Comedians and fashion are not necessarily the strangest of bedfellows. Recently, Heidi Gardner and Ego Nwodim of SNL, as well as Ms. Fineman, walked in a Batsheva show. In 2018, the “Portlandia” stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen introduced an Opening Ceremony presentation, which included Aidy Bryant as a model.
But these instances saw comedy coming to fashion’s comfort zone. Ms. Korn looked to do the opposite. Historically, with some rare exceptions — Eddie Murphy’s flashy leather suit from his 1983 comedy hit “Delirious” comes to mind — comedians have placed the focus on their words not their style, something Ms. Korn thinks may be changing with this younger generation of comics.
“I think it’s definitely getting more glam,” she said. “All these comedians have all these really distinct styles.
“Everything’s all so seen now,” she added. “You go to a comedy club and it doesn’t end there. It’s on Instagram and it’s tweeted. People are so aware of their looks.”
At 4:30, the club began to fill up with serious editors looking for a good time. Mr. Owens, a Black comic wearing a sparkling orange caftan, opened with, “I know what you’re thinking: Who is this? André Leon Talley from the grave? That’s a fashion joke. I’m trying to pander here.”
It turns out fashion provided fodder for many jokes, particularly around bodies and shapes. “Fashion week to me is a lot like Hannukah,” Ms. Leiby said. “It’s just eight days of me wanting to set tall thin things on fire.”
When Steven Phillips Horst, tall and willowy, took the stage, shirtless but for an array of Ms. Korn’s beads, he pointed to the microphone stand. “This is my goal weight,” he said.
And of course, Queen Elizabeth got some play.
In her set, Ms. Sherman cited Her Majesty as the reason she was late, having arrived from acts (which cannot be printed here) so enthusiastically performed by Elizabeth that they resulted in her demise. Chloe Fineman performed bang-on impressions of Drew Barrymore, Jojo Siwa, Julianne Moore and Harry Styles — at similar moments of passion.
As a finale, at 6:30, Catherine Cohen sang a catchy musical number about self-awareness, touching on another fashion favorite, with a chorus that went, “Thank God for astrology. There is literally nothing wrong with me.”
Afterward, Ms. Korn and her team raced to clear out, as the Comedy Cellar readied itself for its regularly scheduled non-fashion show of the night, at 7:30. By the next day, she was inundated with requests for the new pieces, but there was another happier surprise.
“A lot of the comedians came up and thanked me because fashion seems scary and foreign.” But Ms. Korn said that her show made them feel like they could participate in this world. “That was very heartwarming to me. They felt inspired.”