Tony Starlight

‘The Late Now’ hits the web

Leo Daedalus's Dada variety show, Andrei Codrescu lap dance included, is about to go global. Will its antic spirit electrify the small screen?


It’s December, and I’m sitting in a Portland wine bar, waiting for a show to start. I’ve never seen The Late Now, but the website says it’s “Portland’s latenight whipsmart show,” so I’m bracing myself for something like Conan O’Brien with learned asides.

The corner of the bar has been turned into an improvised stage. There’s a band up there, and when it comes time, they strike up James Brown’s Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something. A man in preacher’s robes is ushered into the room in a huddle of transgender magi. He’s still preaching about this special time of year as he takes the pulpit. Then his robes part to reveal the headless, naked baby doll he’s smuggled in, its hands tied to his by puppeteer’s strings. The baby dances with him in creepy off-time, and the stage is thronged with shepherds, virgins, and a woman dressed as a goat swigging from a bottle of Old Crow, all singing James Brown’s music with words of their own. And I think to myself, whatever this is, Conan it is not.

Host Leo Daedalus dances up to Andrei Codrescu at the first night of the revamped "The Late Now." Photo by Erica J Mitchell

Host Leo Daedalus dances up to Andrei Codrescu at the first night of the revamped “The Late Now.” Photo: Erica J Mitchell

The preacher is Leo Daedalus, and The Late Now, the show he’s been running at Portland venues for the past four years, is not an easy thing to pin down. It collides elements from talk and game shows, cabaret, improv, monologue and sketch comedy. You could call it a variety show, in the sense that a bewildering variety of things could happen at any moment.

The show added another hat a week ago, on February 5, when the season premiere was recorded live in its new home, Tony Starlight Showroom, ahead of an upcoming debut as a web series. This show, along with the other three in the season, will be available to view on The Late Now‘s website later in the spring. February 5 also marked the centenary of the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, a seminal event in the Dada art movement, and February 5’s The Late Now was a Dada special in honor of the cabaret, one of its guiding lights. National Public Radio regular and Dada expert Andrei Codrescu was there as star guest.


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