What did we learn at the New York Times talk on May 20 with Hedwig and the Angry Inch star Neil Patrick Harris, book writer John Cameron Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask? When you go around kissing audience members, sooner or later, you’re gonna get a little tongue.
Last week, for instance, when Harris went to kiss a man in the front row during the song “Sugar Daddy,” the guy reciprocated a little too enthusiastically. “It was like a turtle head,” he said.
But Mitchell, who played Hedwig off-Broadway and in the 2001 film, one-upped him: “During the old days at the Jane Street Theatre, someone stuck his finger right up my ass,” he recalled. “You have to just go with it. There was another night that someone spilled a latte all over my face when I had my makeup on, and it stuck, so I was a Latina Hedwig that night.”
How does Harris deal with these moments of spontaneity? “If things get f*cked up, I just run with it,” he explained. “If something goes wrong, I can just stop the show and talk about it. Sometimes, I just do random sh*t and just see what happens, or say whatever I’m thinking.”
As he stroked his now-auburn hair, the How I Met Your Mother alum continued to say that this role is actually the most out of place he’s ever felt. “As a sitcom actor, I’ve always had to be polished. Now, sometimes I just riff randomly,” he said, which got a loud laugh from his Tony-nominated co-star Lena Hall, who was in the audience. Mitchell chimed in, “We’re supportive of his small failures on stage."
We also think we caught a small-penis joke when Mitchell said that the show was “big in Korea” as he winked and pointed downwards.
But all jokes aside, the show still makes a statement. “In rock and roll, homosexuality was accepted, but it was less cool to say it,” said Mitchell. “We grew up in the AIDS era, and I remember wearing my 'Silence is Death’ pin to a MacGyver audition.” Trask added, “To be out was like committing career suicide. My manger told me we should just get me a fake girlfriend like they do with Leonardo DiCaprio.”
Hedwig hasn’t always been a hit with everyone, especially folks in the TV world. David Letterman actually refused to shake Mitchell’s hand because, against a producers' s advice, he took his wig off before the cameras stopped. Rosie O’Donnell also fought for Mitchell to appear on her talk show as Hedwig, telling oppositional producers, “There already drag queens on daytime TV, haven’t you seen them throwing chairs on Jerry Springer?”
After the talk, one particularly dedicated fan got up during the Q&A portion of the evening to announce that he had proposed to his wife while singing “The Origin of Love,” which they proceeded to sing as a duet at their wedding, and play on a loop while their daughter was being born. “During what verse did she pop out in?” asked Mitchell.
After a hearty chuckle, the audience member finally asked his question: are the rumors of a sequel true? “Yes, but it’s going to be dark,” said Mitchell. “You won’t play the songs in the delivery room. More like during your passing.”