Shirley Gnome (with Ryan Bangma and Florence Fatale)
Where: Victoria Event Centre
When: Sunday, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10 advance, $15 door (shirleygnomevec.eventbrite.ca) No minors
Shirley Gnome loves to get down and dirty. And we mean dirty.
Over the past five years, the Vancouver comedian has garnered a cult following by singing raunchy songs in a country-folk style. Sample titles (the ones than can be mentioned in a family newspaper) include: Assflower, Hipster Vagina and Am I a Hooker?
Gnome’s latest disc, C*untry Music, provides a good sample of her inimitable style. James and the Giant Peach is about a man with unusually small genitals. Old Man is about a young woman lusting after an elderly gent. And Five Boner Night ... well, we’ll leave that one up to your imagination.
Gnome was a full-time nanny before becoming a singing comedian. One day she sang a self-penned risqué song in a living room for the amusement of her friends. One of them subsequently invited her to perform at a burlesque show in 2009.
Gnome — who wasn’t a professional entertainer — was hesitant. But she accepted the offer anyway. “I was terribly embarrassed. I said I can’t go up and do this. It went over so well, I worked on a whole album ... It just kept going, with people’s encouragement.”
Her performances have taken her to the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Comedy only became a full-time career after Gnome won the People’s Champ of Comedy Competition in 2012, which came with a $20,000 prize.
“Suddenly I became more valuable,” she said. “And I’m doing the same thing.”
There’s a long and semi-venerable tradition of entertainers who sing dirty songs. Historically, blues, jazz and R&B singers performed raunchy double-entendre ditties, such as Bull Moose Jackson’s Big Ten Inch Record (later covered by Aerosmith) and Dinah Washington’s Big Long Slidin’ Thing (supposedly about a trombonist). David Allan Coe’s 1982 release Underground Record was so crudely profane it was advertised only in motorcycle magazines.
Gnome said her father played risqué jazz songs in the home as she was growing up. Her dad (a fervent supporter who attends her shows with a T-shirt that says “Shirley Gnome’s Dad”) also played recordings by Lenny Bruce and Cheech and Chong.
She was influenced by such comedic songsmiths as Tenacious D, as well as Margaret Cho and Sarah Silverman, who both perform bawdy songs. Gnome also cites Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, the Arrogant Worms, South Park and Corky and the Juice Pigs.
Part of Gnome’s appeal is the juxtaposition of her material, her wholesome appearance (she wears cowboy hats and a blonde wig) and the sweetness of her voice. Her shows are advertised as “for adults only.” She has had a few walkouts. Yet even those who profess to be outraged by her act likely get a perverse enjoyment from it, Gnome says.
“A lot of people really like getting offended. It makes them feel better about themselves and who they are.”