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Kiki and Herb Will Be Back Where They Belong for Christmas

MELLMAN All the glitz and craziness and insanity and surrealism lends it a gravitas that it would not have if you just said it in a very straight way.

BOND I brought elements of people I really knew into Kiki — very intimidating, very smart women who had just gotten a [expletive] hand dealt, who somehow became these amazing creatures. So that was always there. Herb was based on this guy who worked in a piano bar that we performed at sometimes, this single guy who would drink tequila and had a picture of his cat on the piano.

MELLMAN He would drink tequila and just start crying.

How has the act changed over the years?

MELLMAN We started this as a kind of street theater inside a bar [in San Francisco]. We were both super young, going to queer clubs, protesting every night. Coming to New York — a different atmosphere, a different queer scene — it became less like, Oh, we have to be screaming at the end of the world.

BOND We started performing Kiki and Herb here in January of ’95, and ’95 was the year that the cocktail [the antiretroviral therapy for H.I.V.] came and started making lives last longer. So, it became different.

MELLMAN We stopped doing mushrooms. So that changed it.

BOND It’s New York, we’d better raise our game, we’d better stop doing mushrooms.

What was it like to move through adulthood performing these characters?

BOND That’s part of why I had to stop. I just felt like I didn’t know fully who I was. I always feel like I’m a disappointment. Because I know that people love that character so much. And I’m not that character. I remember, I thought, maybe if I just did a reality show, and I just lived as that character, people would like me more and I wouldn’t be so lonely.

MELLMAN Back in the day, we were doing late-night shows, and then going out even later because we wanted to hang out with all these amazing people. There was no balance.

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