How Green is her valley?
If you’re not familiar with the work of Deven Green, you’re really missing out on something and simply must view the video above before reading ahead.
There’s a cryptic wit to Green’s brand of comedy that would only appeal to certain niche and, shall I say, broadminded markets: audiences who have tired of the traditional “shiny-shiny” American way of life that has been drip-fed to the mainstream via Barbie dolls, bimbo music videos and tacky soap operas in much of the latter half of the 20th Century.
Put it this way, if your idea of irony is akin to what Alanis Morissette sang about in Ironic, you probably wouldn’t get Deven’s art. But if you appreciate deconstructing cheesy, conservative Western iconography (fond of trashing ’80s do-it-yourself clips and Flashdance-like videos, for example), you’ll absolutely get this girl.
But Deven is no flash-in-the-pan herself. Indeed, she was a regular on the Canadian stand-up comedy show Comics!, has won many YouTube awards (for a character she plays, Betty Bowers – America’s Best Christian! – written by Andrew Bradley), was the original movie-listing voice for Odeon theatres in Canada, and the voice behind a batch of Disney commercials (now that’s ironic). She is also a panel member of U.S. Star magazine’s Style Squad, writes a monthly column for queer publication Goliath, and is spokesperson for OCC makeup – even having created her own nail lacquer, aptly titled ‘Deven Green’.
I caught up with Deven to talk satire, cultural deconstruction, and trash life in general. Antonino Tati
Note: To try something different, this interview was conducted in an unconventional manner. Upon request, I sent Deven an audio recording of questions to which she was given carte blanche to fill in the blanks and respond in any which way she wished in a pre-record. Indeed, Deven even said she’d throw in some sound effects, and beaut FX they were! The audio of the interview will run some time in the next few weeks on RTRFM 92.1. For now, though, here’s the transcript. And, hey, I even gave Deven the liberty to take the mickey… because I don’t mind being dubbed a hooker by the right girl!
Well hello, hooker.
First of all, could you tell us what drew you to the world of comedy and in particular to the genre of parody?
Who the hell knows why I do anything? It’s like you saying that you studied at a Catholic college and then Edith Cowan University and you suddenly became an editor – it’s a long list of tragic boo-hoo-hoos.
The first of your parody videos that I came across was ‘Welcome To My Home’ – which featured cut-and-pasted footage of former soap star Brenda Dickson of ‘The Young And The Restless’. Why did you pick Brenda in particular?
Dearest, I don’t pick anything or anyone in particular at any time. Either I see it or I don’t, I hear it or I don’t. It’s one or the other. I’m very binary. You know, zeros and ones! Also, kudos to you for having such great taste in picking me as your number one comic, ever.
Why not parody, say, Heather Locklear of ‘Melrose Place’ or any one of the many soap opera starlets from U.S. television?
All I heard was ‘Heather Locklear’ and ‘Melrose Place’. I’m going to do an impersonation, right now. [Puts on amazingly similar Heather Locklear voice:] “I need those financials on my desk by Monday.” [Pauses]. You’re welcome.
Does it make you happy that if you Google those four simple words ‘Welcome To My Home’, your video is at the top of the search list instead of some boring DIY home and lifestyle tips?
If I may quote Betty Bowers, as written by Andrew Bradley: “I never discuss figures, except to say I’m a perfect size 4.”
Your parody of Brenda takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the actress’ vacuous presentations of a kind of ‘How to be a hit around the house in the 1980s’. Do you think she summed up that decade, where it seemed greed was good and image was everything?
Oh precious face, has anything even really changed? Greed is greed, period. I would like you to do a full smile because I grow want of the other side of your teeth – that’s my kind of greed!
Would you say there was a feminist or post-feminist stance to the work you do?
Darling, can’t you just appreciate… a piece of baloney and not be concerned with where it came from? [Here, Deven delivers squeaky noises coming from what sounds like a toy piglet].
When you’re adding voiceovers to the original clips, are the words planned or scripted, or do you go on absolute ad lib?
[Puts on seductive voice:] I’m going to get intimate with you right now: sometimes a lady doesn’t like to puuuulll back the drapes too much to stretch it out to show all the inner workings.
That stream of consciousness you deliver is an amazing thing. It’s like you’re picking subliminal words that, even while they might not make immediate sense in the way you structure them in sentences, they do strike a chord in audience’s minds. Intelligent folk just kind of ‘get’ what you’re saying..
You’ve got it! I’ve been blessed to be able to fiddle-fuck with the American lexicon. It all makes perfect sense to me. And if you listen to it several times, there’s usually a message, a message of [sounds a little sarcastic italicising this word:] empowerment.
Would you say listeners who are not used to dissecting irony might have a hard time reading between the lines?
If you have to dissect it, then maybe my comedy doesn’t resonate with you. If you do get it, I’ve got a shit tonne more where this came from. A modern-day listener has many choices in their comedy and parody and satire. I’m glad you’ve chosen me… repeatedly… in the top and the bottom.
Another video of yours features ‘Murder She Wrote’ narrator Angela Landsbury lathering up her flabby arms before dipping into a jacuzzi. Do you have criteria for what sort of woman appears in a Deven Green montage?
I really love people who are completely oblivious to the real world. They live in their own world… a nether world. [Plays sound effect of fax machine signal].
More recently you’ve featured Melania Trump in ‘Welcome To My White House’. There’s a line in there “Dandelions remind me to snort coke off limp biscuit”. It’s one that many fans love to repeat – and you do have a lot of fans. What’s it like seeing your awesome poetry and prose go viral online?
The best part about being me is getting people laid. When people talk or repeat some of the words I have created in such an unusual formation, they get along with each other because they already have something in common: and that would be me. So, every time you kids have sex out there, I’m right in the middle… because I’m a bossy middle.
There’s also a moment when Melania starts to rattle off part of the recipe to McDonald’s Big Mac. Pure gold. Could you tell us what the rest of the recipe is because she kind of stops half-way through…
She stops halfway through because she doesn’t eat solid food. Oh, I’m loving it!
You’re also a musician; describe your sound and style for those that may not have caught your music online.
I don’t usually play music online. I play it in a live setting. Anything from Pride to brothels, the like and the such. I play songs from the 1600s to today, all on electric ukelele. [Sets off a pre-recording of, yes, an electric ukelele].
Singer Rufus Wainwright cited you as one of his favourite comedians. Will there come a time when the awesome irony of Deven Green is understood more than just by fellow artists and irony enthusiasts online?
Darling, I don’t just make videos to hear, “Look at all the good you do.” I do it because I must, and because it is good in the long run. Then the people will realise that the good was inside of them the entire time. I’m here to liberate you.
You’ve had your own nail lacquer colour patented by OCC Makeup at Sephora; a shade indeed called ‘Deven Green’ -
I don’t mind interrupting you there one bit! You can get this Deven Green nail lacquer, which glows under black light, at www.occmakeup.com. They’re vegan, they’re cruelty-free… I’m not.
Finally, if someone had to play Deven Green in a movie about your life, who would that actress be?
My instincts are to have my cat re-enact my life as a telenovela!
Great, thank you, Deven.
Yes, of course, I would love to come back, thank you so very much for inviting me. If anyone wants to get a hold of me directly, you can go to www.devengreen.com. Like 7/11, open 24 hours a day. Cluck, cluck.
Besides making brilliant parody videos, voicing commercials, singing, and playing electric ukelele, Deven Green writes a monthly advice column for queer magazine Goliath, Atlanta. Click here to enjoy her column.
Image (top of story) by Reed Davis Photography. Makeup @adivaribeauty. Hair @see_miles. Dress: ‘Debakalis’ by John Sakalis and Eddie DeBarr. Image (insert) photography by Austin Young. Makeup by Mikayla Gottlieb.
“I never met a carrot I didn’t like.” Deven Green in ‘Welcome To My Home’.