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Martini Time 🍸

The Bawdy and Beautiful Rise of Bridget Everett

Between her outrageously filthy cabaret act and her hilarious yet moving HBO series 'Somebody Somewhere,' the actor is hitting all the right notes
Photographs by Ellen Fedors

B ridget Everett still has restaurant stress dreams. Never mind that she is a writer, star, executive producer, and the driving force behind Somebody Somewhere, the critically acclaimed, cult-favorite HBO show about a directionless woman who moves back to her hometown in middle age (Season Two premieres April 23). When Everett sleeps, it’s the screaming customers and missing orders from her days as a server that haunt her. 

“It’s really weird, because of all the things that you could have a stress dream about, producing a television show — it’s so fucking stressful,” she says. “But what I dream about is, ‘Where’s my fucking food?! Where’s my goddamned spicy tuna roll?!’ When you’re doing that for 25, 30 years, it’s in the bones.”

It’s a rainy, cold February evening and we’re having vodka martinis and calamari at the Library bar in Manhattan’s East Village, right upstairs from Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. While Everett has had roles on Inside Amy Schumer and Lady Dynamite, and in movies like Trainwreck, Joe’s is the place where she became famous to those in the know for her bawdy, side-splitting, slyly emotional, wild ride of a cabaret show. Backed by her band the Tender Moments (which includes Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys on bass), she stalks the stage barefoot, prodigious cleavage spilling out of her skimpy costume, Chardonnay bottle in hand, leading the crowd in original song lyrics like “What do I gotta do to get that dick in my mouth?” and promising, “Some people may not know me, but you will not. Fucking. Forget me.” Her legion of superfans includes the legendary Broadway star Patti LuPone, who, during a recent Saturday morning phone call, dug for the perfect word to describe Everett’s presence before landing on one: “Hypnotizing.”  

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” says LuPone of Everett’s act. “And then whatever happens is hypnotizing.” 

Everett’s work in Somebody Somewhere — a show critics have described as “subtle,” “modest,” and “quiet” — is equally hypnotizing, if at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Co-created by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen (writing partners who have worked on High Maintenance and Mozart in the Jungle) and semi-based on Everett’s life, it follows Sam (Everett), who returned to Manhattan, Kansas, to care for her dying sister and, lacking a better plan, stayed. The role taps the side of Everett that is vulnerable, self-deprecating, lonely, and full of self-doubt — a far cry from the woman who motorboats audience members or asks them to lick whipped cream off her leg during her cabaret shows. It’s a juxtaposition that has stunned more than a few ticket-holders who only know her from the series.

“Bridget live is much more of a full-court press than Somebody Somewhere,” says Murray Hill, himself a longtime alt-cabaret veteran who plays Fred Rococo, a professor by day/emcee by night who befriends Sam in the series. “I love experiencing the shock and awe of the TV audience at a live show, who then 10 minutes later are screaming and applauding like mad.” 

“People see my stage show and think, ‘Oh, we’re getting fun, wild, crazy, confident Bridget,'” says Everett. Earrings by Alexis Bittar.

When Somebody Somewhere premiered in January 2022, Everett says she was nervous about such an intimate show finding an audience. “I just thought, ‘This show is not cool,’” she says. “‘This show doesn’t have an edge. It’s very simple and kind of wholesome.’ And I worried that that wouldn’t be enough.” 

Still, though the pilot was shot in 2019 and the show never mentions the Covid-19 pandemic, Sam seemed to connect with viewers who had been through two intense years of loneliness and grief and were struggling to figure out how to restart life. “That feeling of giving up on yourself is something that resonates so much with me,” Everett says. “And I never knew that a bunch of other people felt that same way too.”

That ordinary-ness and humanity run through every fiber of the show, including the casting. Everett, 51, describes herself as someone who doesn’t really look like anyone else on TV: “six feet tall, plus-size, with big-ass titties.” She and her co-stars, mostly in their forties and fifties, all look like real-real people — not just Hollywood’s version of real people. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Everett says.

A number of cast members are friends Everett has known for quite some time. (Mary Catherine Garrison, who plays Sam’s sister Trish, was Everett’s roommate in New York for nearly 10 years.) That familiarity helps explain the show’s authentic vibes and the general lack of drama on the set, says Everett: “Previously, I’ve been cast because [people have] seen my stage show and they think, ‘Oh, we’re getting fun, wild, crazy, confident Bridget.’ And then I get there and they realize I’m just a sack of bones with no confidence. But this [show] felt great, and very warm, because it’s so many friends and nobody’s famous, we’re all at a similar level. So we just felt like lucky people to be on a show that’s going to be on HBO.”

As Jeff Hiller, who plays Sam’s best friend Joel, puts it, “She could have some show called Titties!, where she runs around shaking her boobs. And instead she creates this soft-underbelly TV show where she’s raw and vulnerable and lets other people have roles that are interesting. A lot of people would not do that. I’m grateful to her for that, for not creating Titties! Though I would have watched the hell out of that.”

Though there is little broad, physical comedy, Somebody can be laugh-out-loud funny, as when once-uptight Trish finds herself unexpectedly running a lucrative side business crafting sweary throw pillows that liberally use the word cunt. The second episode of the new season ups the ante with an uproarious two-plus minutes of graphic toilet humor that sees Sam and Joel on the phone with one another while both dealing with possible food poisoning. “We’ve reached a new level of intimacy!” Joel cries out amid a cacophony of fart and explosive diarrhea sound effects. 

“We might lose a few people,” Everett says, “but there’s a lot of other beautiful stuff that happens in the season.

Season Two finds Sam building a better relationship with Trish and reconnecting with a former voice teacher. (Though the series is not a musical, there are several eye-wateringly gorgeous moments when Sam lets loose and viewers are treated to Everett’s holy pipes.) Music holds the key to Sam’s awakening, but she struggles with how exposed it makes her feel. 

It’s another plot point lifted from Everett’s own story. She gets choked up talking about the “101 million ways that music has saved my life” and how her own voice teachers “understood a part of me that I felt like nobody else saw.” As she does a few times during our conversation, she  cuts the heartfelt moment with a joke: “So anyway, I bawled last week after three martinis.” 

The season was affected by real-life tragedy, too. Just as they were beginning production last year, Everett and her castmates were devastated to learn of the death of Mike Hagerty, who played Sam’s gentle-giant father. A veteran character actor known for roles in shows including Friends, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Seinfield, Hagerty was something of a paternal presence on set for his less-experienced colleagues, even though he was not that much older.

Everett says cast and crew were profoundly affected by the death of Mike Hagerty (center), who played Sam’s dad on the show. Elizabeth Sisson/HBO

“I felt safe with him,” says Everett. “And everybody felt that way.”

Hagerty’s character was to be heavily featured in the new season, so the writing team had to rework episodes to make Sam and Trish’s relationship more central. Still, they found small ways to pay tribute to him over the show’s seven episodes. Rather than kill off the character, they came up with a storyline to explain his absence, and turned a wedding to be hosted at his farm into an ongoing plot point. The season’s first episode features a powerful scene where Sam finds herself getting emotional as she packs up her dad’s things. “I know he couldn’t have cleaned out this barn, it would have broken his heart. But I didn’t know it would break mine,” she tells Joel.

“We wanted to honor him and keep him, bring him along for the ride,” says Everett. “And I really liked the way that we did it. It wasn’t my idea how we did it, but I love the way we did it.” 

While we’re talking, a chef swings by our table wearing a Somebody Somewhere ballcap. “Gotta represent!” he says pointing to the logo. Our server is from Manhattan, Kansas, just like Everett. The team at Joe’s is one part of her showbiz family, as is the audience here, which gave her a standing ovation when she announced one night in 2015 that she was booking enough work to finally leave her restaurant job.

Now, she’s firmly focused on keeping her HBO series real and raw. She tucked a menopause joke into one of the new episodes, she says, adding, “If we get Season Three, we’re going to have a full-blown town hall about hot flashes and dry twats.” 

I ask Everett about HBO being the home of shows starring Jean Smart and Jennifer Coolidge and Molly Shannon, and whether their success — and hers — signals that TV is finally ready to regularly center a women over 50 in shows that take place outside a retirement home or a hospital. 

Everett describes herself as someone who doesn’t really look like anyone else on TV: “six feet tall, plus-size, with big-ass titties.” Shoes by Stuart Weitzman

“It gives me hope,” she says. “It gives me hope that I might not be on the bread line after this show goes kaput. Maybe there’ll be something else and I won’t have to just play, I don’t know, Paul Rudd’s ants in a movie.”

Production Credits

Produced by Joe Rodriguez. Hair by liana le. Makeup by Theo kogan using dior forever foundation for art dept. Gown and styling by larry krone for house of larréon. Photographed at the public theater in new york city.

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