How Bridget Everett Skipped Auditioning on Her Way to Success

Photo Source: Illustration: Nathan Arizona/Photo: Claudio Raschella

Bridget Everett has made a name for herself guest starring in friends’ projects and a hilarious comedy act, but she didn’t take the typical route to building a résumé. Everett isn’t a natural at auditions, so she took matters into her own hands and designed an act that eventually caught the attention of CDs. Now, her 2017 film “Patti Cake$” is going into awards season with a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination, and she’ll be onstage hosting the New York City 2018 Artios Awards ceremony on Jan. 18.

Do you remember which CD gave you your first break?
Bernie Telsey, actually. I auditioned for the “Sex and the City” movie, and that was the first success, other than when I auditioned for a children’s theater tour. Those are the only auditions I’ve ever gotten. I’m just not great at it, and it’s the smallest one and one of the biggest ones I’ve ever tried for. Bernie was in the room and I was doing it for [writer] Michael Patrick King and John Melfi, the producer, and I got it.

What led to your success if auditioning wasn’t the best way for you to get jobs?
I built a show and onstage persona in New York City, and eventually casting directors started coming, and that’s how I’d get booked to do things, because they knew me from doing my own thing. I think sometimes if you can’t get booked in NYC, find yourself a stage in another city, do what you’re best at, and people will come.

How do you typically prepare for an audition?
A lot of booze. No, I really take them so seriously, and I have a friend who helps me prepare. She’s my good friend and acting coach. I’ll spend about five hours really getting it down and nailing it and getting it to awards season perfection. And then I just go in there and take a dump all over the room. It’s not good for me; it doesn’t work out well. And I can see the disappointment sort of slide across their faces because they brought me in for a reason, right? You start out thinking CDs are these mean people, but really they just want you to soar and to be great, and then I can see their faces go from Christmas Day to war has just been announced.

What was your first headshot like?
It’s my first and only headshot; I still have it. I look like a kindergarten teacher. I’ve got a tight, neat blond bob with a black cardigan and a white crewneck T-shirt. I still have them because I barely gave any away because I barely ever auditioned. I can’t bear to throw them away because I just think they’re so wholesome. I like to think there was a time in my life when I was wholesome.

What is your worst audition story?
There was a time I auditioned to play Hatchet-Face in “Cry-Baby.” I remember I got a callback and I was so excited, but it was for the dance call and I don’t dance. I stayed in the back, and afterward, I remember Bernie [Telsey] saying something like, “I just wanted to see that.” I think he probably meant that he wanted to see what my dance ability was since he had never seen me dance, but the way I heard it was, “I just wanted to see that.” I was a nondancer big girl trying to keep up with the triple threats. It was not cute.

What was your most memorable survival job?
It was memorable because I did it for 25 years. I waited tables. I worked in restaurants for about 25 years.

How do you keep yourself from burning out?
I’m just hitting my stride, I do it because I love it, and if I’m getting tired I go somewhere where there is a pool and an endless source of chardonnay and then I recharge and come back and get back at it.

Have you ever used Backstage?
Oh yeah, of course, when I first started. Those were all the open calls and all that. I think it can seem overwhelming, but I feel like you pick up what looks right for you and go for it.

Check out Backstage’s New York City audition listings!