Kiki and Herb (Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman) are an American drag cabaret duo. Bond portrays Kiki DuRane, an aging, alcoholic, female lounge singer. Mellman portrays her gay, male piano accompanist, known only as ‘Herb’. Although Bond and Mellman are only in their late forties and early fifties, their characters are, according to their elaborate fictional biographies, more than eighty years old.
Bond and Mellman began performing together in 1989, and created the characters of Kiki and Herb in the early 1990s in San Francisco. Their act alternates between musical numbers and long, seemingly inebriated monologues by Kiki. The musical numbers, often medleys, draw on an enormous range of popular music, from Broadway musicals to Nirvana and from Britney Spears to REO Speedwagon. They have also covered songs by Suicidal Tendencies, The Mountain Goats and Butt Trumpet.
Although both performers live in New York City, the pair have performed in American cities from San Francisco to Washington D.C., as well as in Europe.
In 1995-1996 Kiki and Herb appeared regularly at Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Greenwich Village, where they honed their show and built their fanbase. In 1998, the duo appeared at the first Gay Shame event, held at DUMBA in Brooklyn, and appear briefly in the short documentary film made by Scott Berry of the event entitled Gay Shame ’98.
In 2000, they released their first album, a Christmas record called ‘Do You Hear What We Hear?’. It included a cover version of Running Up That Hill.
In 2004, the duo appeared in a cameo role in the feature film Imaginary Heroes, released that year by Sony Pictures and starring, among others, Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, and Sigourney Weaver. Kiki and Herb appear at a Christmas party attended by the main characters. The same year, Kiki and Herb gave a “farewell” performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The one-night-only show was titled ‘Kiki and Herb Will Die for You’ and featured a number of celebrities, including Sandra Bernhard, Isaac Mizrahi, Jake Shears, Michael Cavadias, and Rufus Wainwright. The show was recorded, and released as a two-disc album, titled ‘Kiki and Herb Will Die for You: Live at Carnegie Hall’. During this show, they also performed ‘Running Up That Hill’. After the performance, the duo took a break and worked on other projects; Bond moved to London to study scenography, while Mellman worked in New York.
Their retirement didn’t last long. In 2005, the duo reunited for a tour of select U.S. cities titled The Resurrection Tour. A European tour followed, which included a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as two short documentary films about the duo that screened at a few film festivals: Kiki and Herb Reloaded and Kiki and Herb on the Rocks.
In the early summer of 2006, Bond and Mellman announced that Kiki and Herb would make their Broadway debut in August. After a handful of preview performances at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, the show, titled ‘Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway’, debuted for a four-week run at the Helen Hayes Theatre on August 11.
The duo began a run of Sunday-night shows at Joe’s Pub in New York City in January 2007, and toured the United States in the Spring and Summer of 2007. The tour was entitled ‘The Year of Magical Drinking’.
In January 2008, they released their first DVD: A recording of a 2007 performance at New York City’s The Knitting Factory, entitled ‘Kiki and Herb: Live at the Knitting Factory’.
Their last show together as Kiki and Herb was at Perez Hilton’s 30th Birthday party.
On September 18, 2015, Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman announced the return of Kiki and Herb with a new show, ‘Seeking Asylum! at Joe’s Pub’ from April 21 to May 6, 2016.
For years, Bond and Mellman maintained a meticulous backstory for their characters, one made official on the Kiki and Herb MySpace page and their official website. This involved the characters meeting as children in a mental institution before becoming a jazz act in the fifties, beginning a long and chequered career mixing periods of success and misfortune. The shows were supposedly part of their comeback trail, and they would perform songs supposedly from throughout their career (which were actually anachronistic covers). Between songs Kiki would tell anecdotes from her life, including her friendships with Billie Holiday and Grace Kelly, and the details of her various relationships, whilst drinking heavily and often having on-stage rages and breakdowns.
However, in “Alive on Broadway,” they introduced the notion that the fictional backstory may be meta-fictional—Kiki spoke of the duo actually being thousands of years old, implying that some of her previous stories were, at least in part, lies told by the character. After the Broadway show, Bond and Mellman consistently included this twist in their shows’ monologues—Kiki will talk about knowing Jesus ‘in the Biblical sense’, hanging around with Marie Antoinette, and even romancing a young Adolf Hitler.
- Kiki and Herb. Wikipedia, retrieved 20 September 2018.