1. They weren’t really auditions. Spiegelworld’s Absinthe, like many other Strip shows, features versatile performers who weary of doing the same stuff night after night. They need to perform elsewhere to break the routine and keep up their chops—hence these “auditions,” which were presided over by Absinthe’s Gazillionaire but featured a number of seasoned professionals—including Nate Cooper, Jimmy Slonina and Julie Atlas Muz—in the “audition” slots. To anyone who has seen Absinthe—or previous Downtown variety shows like Saint Vitus: An Evening of Theatrical Experiments or Amos Glick’s OK OK—these “auditions” were a fun night of inside baseball. To anyone who just walked in off the street, the event might have seemed like a garage punk show, only with jugglers, partial nudity and far worse sound.
2. The “joke” of the evening—aside from the ongoing, inscrutable gag that had hosts and performers frequently declaring, “Thank you, Austin!”—was that these fantastic performers pretended to be too weird or not talented enough for Absinthe. Comic Matt Donnelly came onstage in a green Starbucks apron and poured two shots of espresso up his nose, calling them “Mormon cocaine.” His Bucket Show improv partner Paul Mattingly prepared al dente pasta “using only the heat and moisture of my mouth.” Daredevil duo Ryan Stock and AmberLynn, who usually work with crossbows and flaming arrows, traded their usual kit for a chicken suit, a dominatrix outfit and a bizarre condom trick. (She snorted a condom through her nose and pulled it out of her mouth; then he did the trick in reverse.) And sword swallower Brett Loudermilk made balloon animal-style phalluses, gently folding one into the pants of a lucky audience member.
3. Cirque du Soleil alumni Nate Cooper and Jimmy Slonina each brought characters I’d love to see again. Slonina was a cheerleader whose cheers turned from chipper call-and-response to primal therapy in the space of two minutes. And Cooper, garbed in Roger Daltrey wig, played “the Cocaine Juggler,” who tried to get a fire going but mostly dropped his pins and screamed “f*ck!”
4. Back to the Freud for a moment: This had to be one of the most penis-forward variety shows ever staged in Vegas. Opening act Puppetry of the Penis set the tone for an evening that included the aforementioned condom and balloon gags; a brief, full-frontal “wardrobe malfunction” that was probably intentional; and a seven-foot-tall peen that erupted strings of white rope to the tune of Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin.’”
5. The wearer of that 7-foot-tall suit, New York-based burlesque performer Julie Atlas Muz, demonstrated once again that she’s completely without fear onstage. She began the show by performing one of her signature numbers—an often-copied routine with a zombie “hand” that tears her clothes off—and delivered what was arguably the most memorable performance of the night as a former Eastern Bloc porn actress. She sat in a chair, executed a spectacular dancer’s split, let her tongue roll out and slathered peanut butter on white bread slices she’d rested on her, um, lap. It was filthy art and high smut, and not one bit of it violated the laws of man or nature—yet we all came away from it changed.