In her hit HBO series Somebody Somewhere, bawdy cabaret balladeer Bridget Everett mines her Midwest roots to create TV’s most relatable heroine.
“I’m hungover, but I’m fresh,” Bridget Everett assures me, adjusting her computer’s camera. We’re on Zoom, like most people nowadays, and she is joining me from her apartment on New York City’s Upper West Side, still riding the energetic high she’d experienced at a live theater performance the night before.
It’s difficult to describe Everett. If I were to take the professional route, I could say that she’s a singer, alt-cabaret provocateur, comedian, stage and screen actor, writer, and producer. But to capture the bawdy brilliance of this 50-year-old showbiz veteran as a person is much harder to do. So, I ask her how she would describe herself. “A small-town girl with the voice of an angel and big tits,” Everett offers. “I guess I’m multihyphenated because I had to be. I wasn’t trying to copy anyone because I didn’t see anyone like me, so I’ve done my own thing. Sometimes you have to write your own story.”
And that is exactly what she’s done.
Our chat is happening in anticipation of the second season of her HBO dramedy Somebody Somewhere, which will begin airing April 23. It’s a tender, semiautobiographical series that Everett is producing and starring in—literally embodying her commitment to creating her own story. “I didn’t know anyone would want to do a show about a middle-aged woman sleepwalking through life,” she says, “but it turns out people are interested.”
Somewhere is set in Everett’s sleepy hometown of Manhattan, KS, and she plays the lead role of Sam, a middle-aged woman who, after returning home to take care of her ailing sister, finds herself grappling with death, family dysfunction, and feeling directionless. The show isn’t flashy. Instead, it slowly and meticulously reveals the small and intimate moments of life that one might pass over. For fans who are able to enjoy the pace and let the writing do the work it’s meant to do, the experience can be surprisingly profound.
Throughout Season One, audiences watched Sam start to tentatively take a chance on her dream to be a singer while also finding the courage to let in others who believe in her talent as well. This is just one of many shared threads between the actor and the main character she plays. “In my life, I’m a lot like Sam. I’m pretty fearful,” she explains. “I may not seem like that if you’ve seen my live shows, though. I’m a wild one in the room.”
Indeed, if the enigmatic Somebody Somewhere was your introduction to Everett’s work, it may surprise you to learn that much of her success over the last 15 years has revolved around her notoriously ribald live shows, which blur the line between vocal concert and standup comedy. Her alt-cabaret performances are infamously packed with revealing sequined costumes, bra-less bravado, bragging bits about her soft pussy, moments of motorboating audience members, and her mother’s favorite song—a rousing number called “What I Gotta Do to Get That Dick in My Mouth?”
In fact, she’s performing later that night, and after we hop off our call, she plans to lie in the dark and mentally prepare. “For somebody who likes to stare at the ceiling and let the day slip by,” she says, laughing, “I’m actually kind of tits to the wall today.”
Scrolling through Everett’s career highlights will take you a while; they’re extensive and include dozens of television shows and appearances (like Inside Amy Schumer and Lady Dynamite), a lengthy list of film roles (in indie gems like Fun Mom Dinner and Patty Cake$), and multiple albums, singles, and music videos. And yet, when asked what type of performance she’s drawn to the most, she returns to the stage. “The only reason I’ve had any of these opportunities is because of my live shows,” she says. “That’s where my heart is. But there’s something about doing Somebody Somewhere that’s taught me so much and challenged me in new ways, which is great when you’re somebody who doesn’t like to take a lot of risks.”
“The only reason I’ve had any of these opportunities is because of my live shows. That’s where my heart is.”
This common human experience of wanting to play it safe clearly coexists with an incredible confidence that Everett brazenly displays on stage, so I ask how she makes this contradiction work for her, and she nods emphatically. “The difference is that when I’m on stage, I’m in control,” she explains. “Even though there are people there, and they’re hearing intimate parts of my life, they’re still out there,” (she pushes her hands forward, creating distance), “even if I go out and we share a motorboat, y’know?”
She then alludes to one of the core experiences shared between herself and Sam. “But it’s different when I’m talking to a person, or even when I’m around friends. I always feel like I’m entering the room for the first time, even with my closest friends,” she says. “It’s hard for me to be myself because I think I’m too much of this or that. I always feel like I’m going to say the wrong thing, which may not make sense if you know me, but that’s how I ultimately feel.”
This leads us to one of the deepest lessons that both Everett and Sam are learning throughout Season Two of Somebody Somewhere. “For Sam, and for me, there’s always a struggle in thinking that you’re enough or thinking that you’ve added value to a room. You can be the life of the party and make people laugh, but it doesn’t mean that you think that people care about you in a deeper way, and that’s a challenge. In live shows, I’m always trying to make people feel better and lift them out of themselves. But the truth is I want to do that for me, too. Season Two is about forgiveness, but for Sam, it will always be about feeling worthy of love and finding the best things about herself and believing in them.”
Everett is really proud of Season Two, as she should be. With the production team reaching more clarity on what the show is about after the success of the first season, Sam’s story arc is developing in beautiful ways. “Sam gets to be funnier this season as she’s waking up and having all of these exciting feelings,” says Everett. “With this season come the high highs as well as the low lows, and Sam is really discovering that. Because there is something great about living in the dark. You’re comfortable on your couch, and no one’s going to bother you. But it can get lonely. She realizes this, and she also realizes it’s a lot of work to be alive.”
This kind of relatability is what Somebody Somewhere is comprised of, and much like Sam, singing is how Everett feels most understood. “When I’m singing,” she says, gesturing as if she’s pulling her heart wide open, “I feel like I’ve just cracked open my chest and said, ‘Here. Take a swim.’”
Top photo by Allison Michael Orenstein, Hair by Rheanne White, Makeup by Theo Kogan
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!