Oh Kaye, you are too much!

6 May 2023

Reuben Kaye turns up the heat on the haters in a wicked performance that makes us all feel good, writes Julie Hosking.

Live and Intimidating, Reuben Kaye 
Regal Theatre, 5 May 2023 

When is too much not enough? The thought flits across my mind halfway through Reuben Kaye’s routine before I’m caught up in another wicked one-liner. 

Tall, imposing and goddam glamorous, the queen struts across the Regal Theatre stage as if he owns it. Which he does, commanding attention, rather than intimidating, as he holds forth on everything from the monarchy to Christianity. (There is, he says, no hate quite like Christian love, but more on that later.) 

As is his wont, Kaye is already in the theatre, welcoming patrons, bestowing kisses and hugs, as they enter or settle into their seats for the Perth Comedy Festival gig. It’s a winning opening move, though it’s clear from the outset the audience is in love with him anyway. 

Even as he proceeds to poke fun at them – “you’ve come dressed as a line of Coke – so Perth,” he tells one white-clad patron – or play with them, gyrating on laps and generally invading personal space of those silly, or lucky, enough to book the front rows. 

“This is cabaret by the people, for the people, of the people and in the people,” Kaye jokes, flicking those lascivious lashes skyward. Then he lets rip with that beautiful baritone, backed by a tight three-piece band who are also often the butt of his good-natured ribbing.  

The multi-talented performer could live on more than his considerable wit. I’d pay to hear him sing the proverbial phone book (does it even exist anymore?). He also has a genius for taking songs that at least on paper aren’t a natural fit for his deep, dark vocals – (I Can’t Live If Living is) Without You, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – and making them his own. 

Reuben Kaye Club Swizzle
Reuben Kaye as MC of Club Swizzle in 2018. Photo supplied

Kaye is clearly having a good time, tipping his head back, kicking up a heel, and collapsing into cackles. While there are obvious rehearsed topics, there’s a sense the script is tossed at will and the evening could go anywhere. 

And Kaye will go everywhere, as fans well know. Comparing himself to Diana (“long legs, beautiful face and hounded by the media”), he takes potshots at royalty, abhorring the obscene amount of money thrown at King Charles’ coronation and suggesting a better place for the royal jewels. 

But he reserves his best for the haters, the people who hound the queer community, who see danger in drag queen storytime but not in churches, or society in general. It’s a position, of course, that has seen Kaye similarly hounded. 

He gives us a taste of the messages he receives, deflecting appalling attacks like hovering flies, noting his abusers are always “in such a hurry, all caps, no punctuation!”  

And he’s genuinely amused that the bigots urging him to embrace God with every derogatory name they can think of (ergo, not that many) don’t have the wherewithal to delete their email signatures. “It really takes the sting out of that death threat!” 

The death threats escalated after Kaye joked about Jesus on a national TV program back in March. I can only imagine the hurt he might feel under all that carefully applied make-up but Kaye is no withering flower. He comes out swinging, and those clever cuts underscoring the haters’ hypocrisy only enhance Kaye’s impassioned refusal to submit (yes, I know he’d have a joke for that, too). With my trans daughter by my side, I quietly wipe away unbidden tears.  

I want to hug him for his humanity, for speaking up so loudly and proudly for such a vulnerable community. For literally laughing in the face of overwhelming adversity. You’re too much, Reuben Kaye. And we can’t get enough. 

Reuben Kaye performs The Kaye Hole, Regal Theatre, tonight at 9pm. 

Perth Comedy Festival runs until 21 May 2023. 

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Author —
Julie Hosking

A journalist with more words to her name than she can count, Julie Hosking has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Melbourne and Perth. She has been a news editor, travel editor, features editor, arts editor and, for one terrifying year, business editor, before sanity prevailed and she landed in her happy place - magazines. If pushed (literally), she favours the swing.

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