On a sweltering afternoon this past summer, Jasper McCann glided into the Zig Zag in a cream-colored heavy linen suit ("ecru," he points out), cuff links, two-tone wing tips, and perfect hair—a Kentucky-born, Kansas City–raised dandy in a sea of sweaty tourists. His timbre is deep, resonant, seemingly incapable of a whisper. McCann would have made an excellent radio personality or crooner. Instead, he's a burlesque host, a voice-over actor, and half of a production team with local burlesque star Lily Verlaine.
Hosting can be dodgy: People aim more vitriol at hosts than showgirls, and attention spans are more tenuous when nudity is on the line. More MCs should keep it snappy. Unlike meandering impresarios who hijack each set change, McCann has an instinctive sense of calm and timing. As costumes fly backstage, he purrs to the audience.
When McCann was a kid, his grandfather—a cousin of rockabilly musician Carl Perkins—showed him an extensive film collection. "Instead of watching Fast Times," he says, "I grew up watching the 'Road' pictures with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope." McCann studied vocal music at the University of Kansas and, after extensive traveling, he landed in Seattle, uncertain where to apply his oddball skills until he met the Atomic Bombshells. They gave him an audition hosting a Bainbridge performance in 2006. At the end of the night, he was the troupe's new host.
"I was really impressed with his total confidence in jumping into the role of MC with absolutely no rehearsal or prep time," recalls artistic director Kitten La Rue. "He ran with it and charmed the crowd, and I remember breathing a sigh of relief because he was such a pro. At the end of the day, a host's job is to make the performers look and feel great. An MC can be hilarious and charming, but if they aren't doing everything in their power to make the shows run smoothly and efficiently, who cares?"
Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker continues through Dec 24 at the Triple Door.