Vaudeville-in': Comedian Josh Kahn Hosts "Bottoms Up Burlesque: Komic Kahn," May 17 through 25 at the Circa '21 Speakeasy Print
News/Features - Comedy
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 29 April 2013 06:00

Josh KahnAs emcee for the Bottoms Up Burlesque troupe and a former emcee for Burlesque Le’ Moustache, Josh Kahn’s formal responsibilities shouldn’t include disrobing in public. But if you ask Kahn about his favorite experiences from years of hosting and providing comedic filler between striptease acts, don’t be surprised if the first one he mentions involves the night he himself stripped on stage. Or rather, as Kahn refers to it, “the first night I stripped on stage.

“In our burlesque shows,” says the 27-year-old Davenport resident, “we encourage people to yell things at us. It’s an interactive experience, and we want the audience to feel like they’re part of it. And the first time I hosted a show by myself, around 2011, I had just come back from a wedding. I was still in a suit and I was way nervous, but we started the show and everything was fine ... and then at one point, this woman in the audience goes, ‘Take your pants off!

“And she kept doing it,” continues Kahn. “She kept yelling it. And then the crowd started getting into it. And so finally I took off my suit jacket, and they went nuts. And when I came out after the next act, the crowd would not let me say anything until I took something off. And I was like, ‘Oh, crap. How many scenes do I have left, and how much more am I wearing?’ I ended that night holding my bowler hat in front of myself, just side-saddling on the stage.

“And that’s happened several times since. Someone at our shows will invariably yell ‘Take your pants off!’ at some point or another. And sometimes I’ll do it, and sometimes I won’t.” Kahn laughs. “Because you can’t give it to them all the time.”

Maybe not, even when you consider that, as Kahn says, his nicknames among friends include “the busiest man in the Quad Cities” and “the man who can’t say ‘no’ to a show.” But the comedian certainly appears to be giving audiences as much entertainment as his time allows, and will continue to tickle local funny bones as the literal headliner for his burlesque troupe’s latest presentation, Bottoms Up Burlesque: Komic Kahn – running at the Circa ’21 Speakeasy May 17 through 25.

Josh Kahn and fellow Bottoms Up Burlesque performersA frequent, familiar area stage actor, Kahn made his community-theatre debut in the Playcrafters Barn Theatre’s Enchanted April in 2005 and has subsequently appeared in numerous productions at the venue, as well as shows at Black Hawk College, Genesius Guild, New Ground Theatre, and Harrison Hilltop Theatre. He performs alongside fellow comedians in both the ComedySportz and The Blacklist improv troupes. He performs original routines at local open-mic events and takes part in an ongoing, Speakeasy-hosted “Stand-Up Face-Off” opposite comedian Wayne Lyter. He’s an occasional radio guest on B100’s Red Hot & Tucker Show. (“Yes,” Kahn admits. “I am in every facet of entertainment that I can get my hands on.”)

Yet it’s in his emceeing duties for Bottoms Up Burlesque that Kahn gets to share with audiences his confessed adoration for vaudeville comedy – he performs under the alias “The Ghost of Vaudeville” – and for gags such as this one: “I accidentally walked into the wrong hotel room and walked in on these two mimes having crazy sex. They were doing unspeakable things to each other.” Or this one: “I think every guy should date an outdoorsy girl. Have you ever had sex while camping? It’s in tents.” You’ve been warned, folks.

“I love that fast-talking, fast-response, pun-ny kind of comedy,” says Kahn, “and that vaudeville style fits in perfectly with burlesque.” But he adds that “doing stand-up comedy was something I never even considered until I was able to get rid of my self-censor.

“I was having this thing where I would freeze on stage when I was talking,” Kahn says, “and a friend came up to me and was like, ‘Josh, if you’re on stage doing a scene, give me the worst-case scenario – the absolute worst thing that can happen to you.’ And I was like, ‘No one could laugh, I could cry, and I could pee my pants and vomit on myself because I’m so nervous.’ And he goes, ‘Okay. But could you live through that?’

“It really was a perspective shift. I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess there are worse things that could happen ... .’ And I’ve just applied that toward stand-up. The worst thing that could happen is I could embarrass myself in front of people. That’s not so bad.”

Bottoms Up Burlesque's Josh KahnDescribing the writing of his introductory material and banter between acts, Kahn says, “What makes it a challenge is waiting for the girls to create their routines. We come up with broad concepts for the shows ahead of time, but it’s important to know the stories behind the girls’ [individual] routines so it feels like a whole show – not emcee, girls, emcee, girls. We want to make sure there are solid segues from the comedy to the routines.”

For the forthcoming Bottoms Up Burlesque: Komic Kahn, those comedic segues – and the routines themselves – will, as the show’s title suggests, share a comic-book theme.

“We decided we were gonna do a nerd show,” says Kahn, “because a lot of us are our own variations of nerdy. So we’re gonna toy with having super-powers: getting super-powers, using them, having a conflict, and resolving a story. One of the girls is Sailor Moon, someone’s Tank Girl, someone’s Rogue from X-Men ... . I’m sure there are gonna be people who see some of this and are like, ‘I have no idea what this is.’ But even if you only have a basic knowledge of comic books and superheroes, you’ll get some of this. And the people who do know about that stuff are gonna go nuts.”

As for the show’s title, Kahn insists that he wasn’t the Bottoms Up performer who suggested it. But he also has no qualms about keeping it.

“We kept calling it Bottoms Up Burlesque: Comic-Con, until someone was finally like, ‘What if we called it Comic ... Ka-a-ahn?’ And I dropped what I was holding and just said, ‘That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.’ I love it when my name’s in stuff. I’m a whore for self-promotion.”


Bottoms Up Burlesque: Komic Kahn will be performed at the Circa ’21 Speakeasy (1818 Third Avenue, Rock Island) on Fridays and Saturdays, May 17 through 25. Tickets to the 8 p.m. shows are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, and reservations can be made by calling (309)786-7733 extension 2 or visiting

For more information on the Bottoms Up Burlesque troupe, visit

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