Type “pole dancing” into the most popular search engine, and the first suggested completion word is “classes.” Another search engine suggests “shoes.”
The word “comedy” is nowhere to be seen.
The reverse is true too.
Pole dancing is sexy, it’s athletic, it’s creative. But funny?
Well – sure! Just ask Dan Goodman and JoAnna Ross, the creators of the long-running New York City series Schtick a Pole in It: A Night of Comedy and Pole Dancing.
And ask them I did.
Schtick a Pole in It started as a fundraiser for a friend with cancer. It took on a life of its own, persisted, and has entertained audiences for nine years now.
Except, of course, that everything got put on hold when the pandemic struck. I asked Dan and JoAnna how it feels to be back to staging live shows after a long, forced hiatus.
“Amazing,” Dan replied. “We could say more, but Amazing is the only thing that really says it. It feels amazing.”
From this I gathered that it felt amazing.
Added JoAnna, “I knew I missed being on stage [at] about month eight of the pandemic, but I think I didn’t realize how much. So it feels great to be back.”
I persisted in asking questions and they were kind enough to reply.
Each show has a theme: this season includes West Side Story, Power Ballad Christmas, and for your nine-year anniversary show in January, Styx (the band, not the mythical river). How do you go about choosing themes? And does the theme carry over to aspects of the show beyond the music itself?
Dan: It normally starts with us opening a bottle of wine, firing up the Sonos, and playing songs for each other. We both have pretty different musical tastes so we have to sell the other person on the show.
Rammstein night can’t happen unless JoAnna is convinced that it can work, and I’m not going for a Mariah Carey night if I don’t hear five songs that can work for me.
Then there’s a lot of arguing. Then the next morning we look at our drunken notes and see if it’s a show.
JoAnna: This is 100% true, and a Mariah Carey Christmas is coming.
There’s been quite a revival of burlesque in the past few decades in New York City and beyond. Do you see your shows as part of that?
JoAnna: We’re a part of NYC’s nightlife, where lots of people are doing creative things. I think the fact that more people are going to burlesque shows definitely helps people take a risk on something different. The more people are willing to go to something non-traditional, the better it is for us. We’re supportive of burlesque, the same way we support improv, but stand-up is not improv, and pole dancing is not burlesque.
Putting humor aside for a moment, can you talk to us about pole dancing as a serious or “legit” form of dance that, like all dance, involves art and athleticism?
JoAnna: We just did a show where the theme was the music of West Side Story and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The dancers were unbelievable and that music is not easy to comprehend or dance to. So it doesn’t get more legit than pole dancing to Sondheim.
Also, our Megan Thee Stallion show was out of control.
Can I be snobby for a second? As someone who had the privilege of being on Broadway, pole dancing is an art form. Anyone who says it isn’t doesn’t watch pole dancing. We aren’t putting on a show where you leave thinking “I can do that.” Everyone on our stage has dedicated years to this.
Dancing is hard. Pole dancing is even harder because you’re adding in an apparatus, the pole. When dance is good you never see the effort that goes into it, and these pole dancers make it look effortless.
That doesn’t happen by accident. They’ve put years into being great. The only people who say it’s not legit are just scared of change. Pole is already here and it will be everywhere. Kids in Russia are already training hard. Get ready to be impressed.
Have you observed any changes in the tone or the content of comedy, or in audience reaction, since live shows have returned after the pandemic shut everything down for so long?
Dan: Audiences have been great. Easy laughers and big drinkers. It’s post-Trump and everyone is just happy to be out of the house. I think the shutdown still lingers in everyone’s mind and so everyone is out there partying like it might be the last time.
JoAnna: We are so lucky to live in NYC where comedy exploded back on the scene after the pandemic. Our audiences have seriously been the best we have had in nine years. It’s like they are done being home and being out is the greatest night of their lives.
Tell us about some of the comedians and dancers who have been, or will be, a part of Schtick a Pole in It shows.
JoAnna: All the comics are pros. Dan and I have been on the scene for years and there are so many funny people that have not had their TV break (yet). Or we get lucky, and the ones that did are in town to do our show.
As for the pole, we’ve had a couple national champions grace our stage, as well as the best teachers in the tri-state area. Some have regular gigs around town at House of Yes, Slipper Room, Duane Park, etc.
We do try and put someone new on the show, which is always exciting. Comics have open mics but pole dancers don’t have many shows to be on. We also have been having more out-of-town pole dancers since after nine years we have some recognition.
What are you focused on for the coming year? Any plans to take the show on the road?
JoAnna: In 2022 we’re really focused on doing more shows in NYC. We’re expanding to every other weekend, and hopefully every weekend down the road. We’ve been doing the show nine years and we’re really interested in making this a national thing and we think that starts by being successful in NYC.
What are the two of you up to outside of Schtick a Pole in It?
Dan: Mostly standup. That’s hard enough. Just doing shows outside of our own show and writing new material fills up the day.
However, I’m just finishing up a screenplay about the history of sexual harassment and JoAnna is writing a one-woman show for a former Microsoft exec who was suddenly faced with taking over her brother’s ’90s hip-hop bar. So yeah, a bunch of stuff.
JoAnna: We also love to eat good food and wine. Dan’s a great cook. He just outdid himself for Thanksgiving. As for drinking wine, if we invite you to come over, Dan did a lot of buying during the pandemic and now it’s time to drink it. (Editor’s note: the writer has not received any alcoholic remuneration for writing this story. Yet.)
Next up for Schtick a Pole in It: Power Ballad Christmas, December 17 and 18, followed by the ninth anniversary “Styx” show January 21 and 22. Visit the Schtick in a Pole website for tickets and a schedule of upcoming shows.