Kiki and Herb Are Alive and Well — and Full of Rage

Studio 360

In the early 1990s, Justin Vivian Bondand Kenny Mellmanstarted performing together as the characters Kiki and Herb. Kiki is a drunk, brazen, over-the-hill lounge singer. And Herb is her long-suffering piano player.

On the surface the duo, full of irreverence and rage, might seem a little over-the-top. But their act was deceptively sophisticated and bewitching. Though they made their start in small clubs, Kiki and Herb eventually ended up on Broadway. They even played Carnegie Hall.

At the height of their success, they announced they were ending the act and splitting up. But, after a break of almost a decade, Kiki and Herb are reuniting for a set of shows this spring.

Molly Ringwald: Coming back to these characters that you dreamed up in your 20s now that you're almost 50, is it different?

Kenny Mellman: The rage you have in your 20s, during the AIDS crisis, is different than the rage I have at 47.

Justin Vivian Bond: I created that character so I could say all the things that I wanted to say as a 20-year-old with a certain amount of gravitas that I didn't have at that age. I didn't want to sound strident or over-earnest and I had this character to let me do it, because she was this wizened, experienced older person. She's still more wizened and more experienced, but in a certain way I can own it a little bit more.

Kiki and Herb have always been so politically charged. What's going on now politically and socially that we can expect Kiki and Herb to tap into?

JVB: I like to joke that in 2008 when we stopped performing it was right when Obama got in. Who wants to see Kiki and Herb when they have hope?

KM: It was a hopeless situation that led to Kiki and Herb having an audience.

JVB: Right now I'm fairly sure people are wondering what the hell is going on, so it's kind of a hopeless moment. I think it's fantastic timing for us to bring those characters back.

What do you think makes you two the great collaborators that you are?

KM: Our collaboration together was about jumping off cliffs and [Bond] is one of the only people I've worked with who will jump off a cliff live in performance. That's very important.

JVB: We're not afraid to make a lot of mistakes, and I feel like our mistakes make us stronger. You have to go for it. That's part of the built-in charm of Kiki and Herb. It's never the same because we just go wherever the moment takes us.

Kiki and Herb
Kiki and Herb's first flyer