Comedy, burlesque performers pay tribute to audience regular who died of suicide last year.
Courtney Teague's laugh. Since one of her favorite things was going to comedy shows, Teague's distinctive – and, let's be honest, loud – laugh became her calling card.
That is, along with her unequivocal support of local performers.
Since Teague took her own life last August, her best friend, Columbus comedian and burlesque performer Bianca Moore, has struggled with her grief. That aforementioned laugh has helped Moore cope.
“There's not a moment I don't think about [Teague]. It actually makes me feel better, during a show, to imagine her laughing in the back of the room,” Moore said in a recent interview on a Short North patio. “I have a lot of recorded sets, so sometimes I will get one out just to hear her laugh. It's a thing I take comfort in.”
Moore and Teague met in 2013 and became close about three years ago, at first bonding over a shared affinity for the local bar scene and the live performers who keep it entertained. When Moore began considering taking the stage herself, Teague encouraged her to take the chance.
“She always said if I did a show, she would be there, that she would always come out,” Moore said. “She was my number one supporter.”
As Moore took on more shows, Teague became ingrained in the community of performers to which her good friend belonged. Teague, while not a performer, became integral in building up that community through her encouragement and presence.
“I first met Courtney and Bianca after a show. Neither one had an idea there were African-American women doing burlesque, so they wanted to come and meet me,” burlesque performer Pandora Foxx said. “Courtney once told me, ‘I feel things when you dance.' She was always so sweet and supportive. As soon as she came in [to the club], you would know she was there because she was the loudest cheerleader.”
Comedian/host Doug Cuckler, aka Wonder Doug, recalled that Teague “began popping up at shows even if Bianca wasn't there. She just found certain performers she liked and made them part of her life. With her distinctive laugh, Courtney became the life of the party, and she just brought other people along with her.”
Among those she brought along was her younger sister, Lexas, who moved to Columbus from the family's hometown in Marion to attend Ohio State University.
“As we grew up we realized we had a lot in common, so when I came to Columbus, she kind of took me in, taking me to shows and clubs,” Lexas said. “She always treated people with respect and let them know they were worth her time.”
In tribute to and memory of her friend, Moore will host a #TeamTeague comedy and burlesque show at Bossy Grrls Pin Up Joint Saturday, May 12, featuring many of Teague's favorite performers from both local scenes. Half of the proceeds will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Moore said all of the performers will be paid for their work, another thing for which Teague always advocated.
“This is mostly a big party,” Moore said. “Lexas made it clear Courtney would want us to cry but to also be happy. To be able to do this show, with her favorite [burlesque] numbers and her favorite comedians, and have it be for a good cause — it's pretty much my perfect show except for that one thing. Now, I just have to make it through [the performance].”
Lexas said making such an event a party is what “Courtney would want, and exactly how she would have wanted it.”
“But I don't want to ignore the issue of suicide. So we want to share and we want to educate and we want to make people aware of resources that are available,” Lexas said.
Foxx said it would be impossible to perform without some sadness and seriousness. One of her numbers will be set to Lana Del Rey's “Young and Beautiful,” a piece that brought Teague to tears the first time she saw it.
“I want to make my performance even bigger,” Foxx said, “so my friend can see from the sky that I'm still doing this for her.”