I got the pleasure of seeing Lenk Lewk Live, Tom Lenk's one man show, back in December in New York City. It was a hilarious mixture of Tom’s singing, storytelling, and showing off his Lenk Lewks. It even had a fun craft segment with audience participation—a segment I had trouble following along with because I’m bad at directions.
Tom Lenk has appeared in geeky cult favorites (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Cabin in the Woods) and also on freakin' Broadway (Rock of Ages). He's most recently started doing his Lenk Lewks on Instagram and Twitter—where he does low budget, hilarious (and all around stellar) versions of the expensive outfits celebrities wear to events and on the red carpet.
I was delighted when he wanted to sit down with us and discuss his Lenk Lewks, being gay at comic cons, and who he'd Fuck/Marry/Kill from The Avengers!
First things first, what inspired you to start doing Lenk Lewk For Less?
Well it was sort of a collision of everything I love and have been doing forever, I just had never thought to cram it together in this way! I am a huge Project Runway fan (especially the unconventional materials challenge obviously) and I love Ru Paul's Drag Race. And I have been an actor/comedian in films, TV and the Broadway stage for a long time and all of a sudden my crafting skills collided with fashion and comedy! Craft Comedy? Comedy?
I had reached an amazing place in my career after having recently done a one man play called Buyer and Cellar at regional theaters here in the US, and it really made me confident that if I could memorize 60 pages and do it eight times a week, that I could do other things I didn't think I could do. And then I did the finale episode of Transparent and to be in that working environment with such amazing artists made me think I have to do what I think is funny. So I was just in a great creative place and making content that I thought was different and funny and in the midst of this, the Met Gala happened and I thought I would see how many outfits I could make that week out of stuff around my house and I guess I haven’t stopped yet!
Have you gotten any crazy responses from any of the celebrities you’ve Lenk Lewk-ed?
Stacey London mentioned seeing my Lewk of her in a piece that she wrote and she basically was like, either I can let this hurt my feelings or laugh at it and she chose the latter. I did poke fun at the FASHUNS she wore, but I only Lewk with love, because I have been a fan of hers for years. And now we've been in touch and hopefully get to have a fun coffee date this sometime soon!
What’s been the hardest Lenk Lewk for you to put together?
This most recent 90s Supermodel LEWK was a bit of an effort as I had the dolls setup close to the camera and was using my dress form as my stand in while I set up the shot. I was by myself wearing a modesty pouch AKA a sock on my junk. I guess I was being slightly conspiracy therorist-y. Like, what if Facebook can really hijack my camera and they take video of me naked posing with Barbie dolls. Look, I never said I wasn't eccentric OK?! But like, you do you and I'll do me, cool?
Your newest show, Lenk Lewks Live, is a mix of you showing off your costume crafting skills and your Broadway pipes. How did you decide to mix the two?
Jim Caruso, from Broadway at Birdland, actually reached out when LL4L started to take off and I of course had been to Birdland during my run of Rock of Ages on Broadway, so I forced myself to say yes, even though I had no idea what the show would be. But if I have learned anything from this Instagram thing is to just do the thing. Put it out there. Stop worrying if it's perfect. In fact call attention to the flaws. The Lenk Lewk for Less is the antithesis to all of those "curated" instagram accounts that we (myself included) follow and wish our live could be like. I'm not an underwear model. I'm not 22 years old. The lighting isn't perfect. My crafting area is a total mess sometimes. But isn't real life a total mess sometimes? And when is real life that perfectly lit? Did I just go on a rant? Anyway, I love capturing that spirit in the live musical/comedy/stage version!
Speaking of which, what are some of your favorite musicals?
Into the Woods (though maybe it's more fun to be in than to watch?), Godspell (definitely so much fun to be in, and not fun to watch), * Jesus Christ Superstar* (all day, any day), and Chorus Line (so much fun to watch—wish I could dance well enough to be in). I loved Matilda (which starred my pal and Lenk Lewk Live special guest Lesli Margherita) and I openly wept throughout. So moving. I do have a rule that I won't listen to an original cast recording until after I've seen the show, though I guess at this point I have probably heard Hamilton in its entirety via the numerous performances at awards shows and in the media. I loved DISASTER!, which my friends Jack Plotnick and Seth Rudetsky created, and I'm hoping it gets another production soon because it's HILARIOUS! True story: I sewed the rats for the off-Broadway run!
What's it like being one of the few out gay actors to be a guest at geeky conventions around the world? Do you think your experience is that different from the straight actors?
Well, growing up in the theater, and having spend so much time doing live comedy shows, it's very weird to just go stand on stage and answer questions or just sign autographs. Because I'm like, don't you wanna see a show? Which I guess if you have seen a Q and A with me at a con... It turns into a bit of a show. I am very concerned about an audience's experience and I don't want them to be bored. I want them to get something memorable out of their weekend at the con. Actors love to talk about themselves and they tend to go on and on and I have no patience for people being boring on stage. So I will hijack a Q and A when a boring actor starts yammering on about their "process."
What's it like having your likeness used for comics (in the current Buffy comics)? Do you ever get curious what your likeness is up to?
I read the first few issues but, TBH, I haven't kept up. Since, I don't contribute creatively in anyway it kind of gives me FOMO I guess? It's kind of like watching a weird, younger, animated version of myself getting to have all the fun of playing the part without me? But it's very cool and definitely an honor, as who wouldn't love to be immortalized in a comic book!
How was it shooting that Save the Day, Joss created, election video?
Well, don't tell anyone but I was so sick and in a DayQuil haze, but I was in it to win it. It was hilarious because there was another Voting video with lots of other celebs filming at the same time and they shared hair, make-up, and wardrobe, and I after they got me ready I was waiting on what I thought was our set. But something didn't seem right. Everyone was aloof and weird and all the celebs had their faces buried in their phones. After waiting there for a while I realized I was in the wrong place and when I wandered out and found the actual set with Joss and his amazing crew...I was like, oh, these are my people. It was so fun. I figured I might end up on the cutting room floor so I just spent like 45 minutes trying to make Joss and the crew laugh and then I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up in the final cut! Wohoo! Also it feels weird to look back fondly at that moment in time because I'm still in shock over what the outcome was. Sorry. It was fun remembering a time before I was incredibly depressed about America and it's soon to be "President?" Deep sigh.
What’s next for Lenk Lewks and Tom Lenk?
Well, stay tuned as some fun Lenk Lewk News coming up this week! And there has been some interest in developing a TV show version of the Lenk Lewk so I'm working on that. And perhaps a small Lenk Lewk Live Tour?
And finally, Fuck Marry Kill (from the movies): Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America?
Marry: Captain America
Kill: Iron Man
Photos courtesy of Tom Lenk's Instagram account and KevPix NY