Whatever’s Clever Variety Show: Mixing things up

by Brent Cole

photo by Sue Mattson

Harkening back to the days of old, Whatever’s Clever Variety Show likes to bring a little bit of everything for their performances. Mixing music, poetry, dance, comedy and seemingly anything else that is entertaining, the show has become a must see for Bellingham music and arts fans.

The show began in January 2011 as a fundraiser for the pilot of The Whatever Show, a locally produced variety show about the struggle “to remain relevant in a world of increasingly separated from the golden era of variety show television,” according to current co-host Jackie Kersten. The television show never came to fruition, but the Whatever’s Clever Variety show was born.

Initially hosted by local comedian Neil McLaughlin and produced by Conn Buckley, Kersten was brought in as a co-host after the success of the first show. Neil left in late 2013 and Kersten has since had a rotating cast of co-hosts. The shows, which initially occurred at The Shakedown were moved to Glow Nightclub for some time, but will be making its return to The Shakedown on March 27.

For the last two years, in between the music, poetry, belly dancing and whatever other performers they’ve lined up, Whatever’s Clever has incorporated sketch comedy between the acts. Buckley, Joel O’Connor, Brett Emerson and Michael Bednar all contribute to the writing, which often features “local Bellebrity Django Bohren as the man we love to kill,” Kersten stated, adding, “ seriously, he’s like our Kenny. We kill him pretty much every show.”

But, that’ll be changing this month as “Starting in March, the show is once again getting a reboot, simplifying, and going back to a duo, with Joel O’Connor as my co-host.” The skits will be gone, but the witty banter will continue to connect all of the acts. The show varies quite a bit, according to Kersten. “Some shows heavier in music, some more in dance. We try to keep the show fresh, while having some familiar faces.” Anyelle (Belly Dancer USA 2014), has been with Whatever’s Clever since the first show, Butch Tuffington has been opening the last few shows, and “our resident poet, Sir Robert Lashley, is always a treat.”

Each show has a loose “theme” based on a local person, organization or charity, which receives the money made at the door that night. “Sometimes they go to a person (Kelly Hoekema), sometimes a local endeavor (N7E Records), sometimes an organization (Bellingham Girls Rock Camp), and every now and then it goes to me to fund humanitarian trips abroad (pediatric vision clinic in Jamaica),” stated Kersten. “For example, at Kelly’s show, we had a ‘This is Your Life’ theme, complete with a tongue-in-cheek reminiscence with her cancer (played by Joel O’Connor).”

According to Kersten, there’s no selection process for the cause of the show. “Usually we just hear that someone is in need, and go from there. We love being able to support the artists and musicians in Bellingham, and as long as they’re not using the money for their crippling heroin addiction we’ll fund them.”

The March performance of Whatever’s Clever will benefit Victor Gotelaere, who has been undergoing treatment for non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Victor is a friend to many, What’s Up!’s ad sales representative, and has put on multiple benefits for others in the community. “Conn and I have known Victor for years,” Kersten said. “We’ve been following Victor’s progress through his chemo treatments, and wanted to help him. I suggested a morale boosting show for Victor to Conn and Joel, and they quickly agreed.”

With the show coming back March 27 to their original home at The Shakedown, the reboot  of Whatever’s Clever Variety Show will be a must see.

Published in the March 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine