O'Neill puts on a monthly party in New York named for his belly tattoo: FANCY.
Shane O'Neill moved away from Madison a few years ago, but the cofounder of local theater-punk act Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons is stoked to return for a little while. Specifically, he's "stoked for the squash curry at Lao Laan Xang, the huevos rancheros at Daisy Cafe, the pad Thai at Bandung and the World's Greatest Sandwich at Mickey's Tavern."
But delicious meals aren't the only things on his mind. O'Neill's visit includes the hip-shaking absurdity of his solo act, Shane Shane, at Mr. Robert's on Dec. 5. Then on Dec. 6 the Pons play at the High Noon Saloon.
Isthmus asked him about life in New York, his cameo in this season's Saturday Night Live intro and the over-the-top parties named after his belly tattoo: "FANCY" in elaborate gothic script.
Isthmus: Is New York all you expected it to be?
O'Neill: It's been shitty in all the ways I expected it to be shitty and good in all the ways I hoped it'd be good. It's a terrible and expensive place that stinks of urine in a surprising variety of locations. But it's also full of amazing people doing the craziest, stupidest, funnest things. I haven't gone bankrupt, and I haven't gotten mugged yet, so all told, I think I'm doing great.
How did you -- well, your back and hair bun -- end up in the SNL intro?
[SNL cast member] Cecily Strong and I met when we were 11 years old, in a community theater production in Oak Park, Ill. The show was called Little Miss Christie, a musical that dared to ask, "What if Agatha Christie wasn't a grown woman but a young child?" We were super close in high school and then reconnected when she moved to New York to be on SNL.
This year, for the intro, SNL asked the cast to bring in a few friends to be the extras.... Insider's scoop: We're drinking ginger ale instead of alcohol, and we spent most of the very short shoot either singing the Who's the Boss theme song or saying "prune" since we heard that that's what the Olsen twins do when they're photographed.
Tell us about the parties you host in New York.
I put on a monthly party called FANCY.... I throw it with two guys from Wisconsin: Matthew Flamingo, who hails from Milwaukee, and our resident DJ, Timothy Allen, who you may remember as DJ Tizzy or as a member of the Cleveland Browns. We've hosted several Madisonians, including Venus in Furs and Golden Donna, as well as some of my favorite musicians, comedians and performance artists from all over the world.
We've thrown the parties for over two years now, and it's been awesome watching a little tight-knit community spring up around it. We have Kristopher Johnson, who does beautiful portraits in his portable photo booth, and our beloved friend R Karito, who makes custom-flavored "Bearmallows" for each party, complete with a mini-torch and skewers so you can roast them on-site. It's a warm, supportive, queer and sweet crowd, which I'm proud of. A friend and FANCY regular used it as a platform to do a reading and zine release in which he came out as HIV-positive. It was humbling and touching to know that he felt our little basement party was an environment he felt that kind of safety and support in.
I'm also proud of all the insane shenanigans we've played host to in our two years. We've had lots of performance art with nudity and buckets of paint, badass rappers, contact dance improv, Butoh, video art and sketch comedy. The music editor for Noisey, Vice's music blog, called it "the weirdest fucking show I've ever been to" and described it as being "on the set of an R-rated Muppets movie." I can't think of better compliments.
What are some of aspects of Madison you miss -- and one you don't miss at all?
Madison has a supportive, fun-loving and open-minded DIY music scene. It's unpretentious and lacks social hierarchies, and it was a huge gift to have spent my 20s in a community where my gayness was a non-issue.
New York proved to be a foil to Madison in some respects: It's colder and more judgmental but also has a wider range of artistic expressions. It's more socially stratified and has many more celebrities and so-called celebrities. It's more homophobic but also has a more vibrant queer scene.
The fact is, I wouldn't trade my years in Wisconsin for anything.
Do you have any new projects you're excited to talk about?
For the past two years I've been working as a video editor, and I'm super proud to say that I've finished work on my first feature documentary, Following Boruch. I've also started editing my second feature documentary, called Sisters of the Wicked Wig.
I'm bringing my one-man show "Amiable Nitrate" to the OUTsider festival in Austin in February. And even though it's been five years in the making, I swear to god 2015 is the year I finally put out a Shane Shane album.