If you’ve ever seen the Seattle-based singer-songwriter Celene Ramadan (aka Prom Queen) perform, you know the aesthetic pizzazz she showcases through the magic of color and cloth, in addition to her jangly retro rock ‘n roll. As Prom Queen, Ramadan dons a dark bouffant, dazzling dream-pop dresses and plays a pink guitar. She’s the mastermind behind Midnight Veil, an LP-length music video opus featuring genie lamps, doo-wop singers and milk shakes. Now Ramadan has a new creative persona: a big, white, joke-telling rabbit who she’s named Snax The Bunny (slated to perform at the Pink Door on June 10).
In some ways, the concept behind Snax is reminiscent of 20th-century American writer Tom Wolfe, famous for wearing a dignified white suit at all times as a way of disarming the people whom he wrote about. Wolfe said the getup made him seem like "a man from Mars, the man who didn’t know anything and was eager to know."
But for Ramadan, who has been performing comedy in one form or another for 15 years, the bunny outfit is not so much a means of obfuscation or illusion—rather, it’s showing off a very specific slice of who she is.
"When you’re in character or wearing a costume," she says, "people think you’re hiding. There’s this attitude of ‘Why don’t you take the head off?’ As if I’m scared to be myself. But, for me, I’m interested in having fun. Being in that character is so much fun. It’s an artistic choice."
Performing as Snax, Ramadan dresses in a pajama-like bunny outfit complete with big round head and floppy ears. She has fixed the getup with a voice modulator, making her sound almost like one of the Chipmunks.
"A little bit about me," chimes Snax at a recent Macefield Music Festival. "I’m 35 years old, I’m a recovering chocoholic. I’m white." And the crowd breaks into laughter. She goes on, searching for a new name for Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD). "We should maybe just find another name for it," Snax suggests. "Like, Pumpkin-Spice Blues."
For Ramadan, comedy came to her as a way of fitting in, like a class clown using it as a defense mechanism. "I’ve always been drawn to comedy ever since I was a kid," she says. "Making people laugh was a way for people to like me." But this form of expression felt limited, she says, so Ramadan began playing music and exploring her vulnerabilities.
Lately, though, she's plunged back into joke writing, which is how Snax was born. "Snax is naïve," she says of the gender-neutral character. "Self-improvement is a big part of their repertoire. Snax is seeking—very much like me—ways to be better…but kind of just gets it wrong."
And while she is in full-body bunny outfit, Ramadan—who also works for Live Wires, a singing telegram company trading in impersonations and costumes—says anonymity is not what she’s after. "What’s interesting about it," she says, "is that even people who know that it’s me up there still forget that it’s me. I even do that, too. I can know it’s me, but still lose me entirely."
On some level, Snax is a way for Ramadan to experience comedy and joke telling outside of the standard microphone, stool, bottle of water, jeans and a tee-shirt paradigm. "I didn’t just want to go up there and, like, talk about dating," she says.
And as far as joke crafting is concerned, Ramadan says she goes about the writing process in exactly the same way she writes lyrics for Prom Queen: jotting down little quips and phrases in her cell phone’s notepad that she goes back to and crafts into full pieces when the time is right. The result? An odd but adorable act appreciated by animal lovers and comedians alike.
"I really love the way people react to Snax," Ramadan says. "They see the character and they just want to hug you. One time I was packing the costume and took it to the UPS store. The woman behind the counter looked so tickled by it. She packed up the head so lovingly. People look at the character and immediately have an affection for it. That’s really cool—I want to explore that more."