He acts, writes, tap-dances and occasionally pees on his audience (okay, it was once and he apologized), but Toronto treasure Keith Cole wants you to know there’s more to him than meets the eye.
“People always make assumptions about me,” says the dynamic performer. “Most of it’s true and some of it’s not.”
Cole is the first to acknowledge the occasional misstep in his brilliant, out-there-on-the-edge brand of improv comedy, but only with the understanding that such events are part of experimental theatre and not a symptom of some deeper maladjustment.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions of me is that I’m a huge drug dealer and nothing but a train wreck,” says Cole, “but I don’t do drugs of any kind.”
While a few faint-hearted queens may fan themselves over his outrageous and occasionally controversial style, Cole’s performances draw big audiences and well-deserved accolades. Just this past spring he received a Dora nomination for a hilarious hosting stint in Buddies in Bad Times’ Arthouse Cabaret. Cole’s become somewhat of a go-to boy for the theatre when they need someone both provocative and reliable, and his deliciously notorious reputation adds a thrill to audiences expecting the unexpected.
No surprise, then, that Buddies has tapped Cole to host a monthly Friday night cabaret. The Keith Cole Experience will feature celebrity guests, musical performances and comedy skits. Think Carol Burnett circa 1972, but with better hair and nicer tits.
“I love the format of the variety show,” Cole says. “I love the element of surprise and mystery guests and stuff like that.”
The show’s first installment will feature a few of Cole’s close friends and colleagues, including Buddies cofounder Sky Gilbert and cabaret chanteuse Sharron Matthews. “I just can’t say enough about Sharron,” raves Cole. “She knows her crowd and you don’t have to convince her to be part of things.”
Matthews’ blend of sweet fruit-fly comedy and belty showtunes is the perfect complement for Cole’s sly unpredictability; while Gilbert will be reading excerpts from Toller Cranston’s autobiography Zero Tolerance.
Cole will also be screening some of the 17 short films he’s made over the years, including the heart-achingly sweet Sunflower, which features Cole as a dancing flower (pictured).
With a new frock by designer Anthony Hill, audience makeovers courtesy of Margot Keith and a post-show set from DJ K-Tel, The Keith Cole Experience certainly offers a big bang for the $5 admission.
And odds are he won’t pee on you.