Observing What's Funny About Sex: John Woods of The Wet Spots

“If I am confronting a sexual issue in my own life and relationships it can be harder to be glib and humorous about it when writing the comic material,” reveals John Woods, one half of the comedy burlesque sensation The Wet Spots. “But sometimes being honest about what hurts strikes a goldmine of laughs.”

It isn’t just a goldmine The Wet Spots have struck. It is the orgasm produced after giving someone a nice bauble made of gold that defines this duo of dirty ditties. John and his partner Cass King have released two albums and been fortunate enough to travel the world playing their hilarious songs, winning numerous awards along the way. Their most recent project is the acclaimed show SHINE: A Burlesque Musical. They’ve mounted it four times thus far, twice in Vancouver, once in Seattle and once in New York City. John describes it as a “a punk rock response to the Christina Aquilera/Cher movie that came out recently.”

“We’re passionate about this show,” John explains further. “It looks at the homogenization of culture and the way this de-legitimizes the sexuality of anyone who doesn’t fit into a narrow conception of beauty. It looks at how freak/burlesque performance arts are an important antidote to this phenomenon. It talks about sexual empowerment. It celebrates the struggles of queer culture though the 20th century, and the alternative icons like Dr. Frankenfurter, Divine etc. who gave us small town freaks some hope. It also queers the standard musical theater love triangle cliché—proposing a polyamorous triad as the natural inclusive solution.”

When asked if sex ever inhibits his work with The Wet Spots or SHINE, John gives a surprising answer. “It inhibits my career all the time. The Wet Spots play in prestigious performing arts venues and festivals all over the world. Except the USA. And the USA is the world’s biggest English-speaking market.”

Because so much of the Performing Arts Center circuit is dependent upon government funding, it is also open to attacks of promoting smut with tax-payer money. “Our manager books loads of her acts into the PAC circuit but they always tell her ‘I could book the Wet Spots. And I could sell out the show. And my board of directors would still fire me.’”

They have also tried the commercial market, but The Wet Spots don’t really fit there either. They are all about sex, but not the Hollywood version of it. “Recently our theatrical agent in New York has come up against some venues afraid to mount SHINE because they think people would be turned off by the big beautiful woman doing a strip tease.” They have instead carved out a strong niche with a busy performing schedule, including some rather famous venues. “We do the burlesque circuit. We do sex-positive and kink events. And we do the Sydney Opera House. And I am incredibly grateful.”

Through all of this, John maintains a curious and frank opinion on sex. “It’s this thousand-tentacled thing that society tries to keep hidden under a rug—maybe occasionally showing glimpses of the parts it thinks could sell toothpaste. I want to pull the rug away and get a good look at it: The good, the bad, the beautiful, the creepy-crawly. Face it squarely and honestly. Talk about it squarely and honestly. That’s how I aspire to work with sex in my art and comedy. I try to observe rather than conclude. Observation is funny. Conclusion is judgmental.”