Tammy WhyNot facilitates public engagement and promotes subversive expertise as methods of activism. Tammy has accompanied Lois Weaver since 1978 as alter-ego, performance partner and research associate.
From Tammy’s Perspective
Bugs are bitin’, fish are jumpin – and I’m still doing my thing! My name’s Tammy WhyNot, and I’m a trailer park survivor who gave up workin’ in country music to become a lesbian performance artist, and a YouTube sensation!
I got my start in show business in the late 80s as a solo artist on the New York downtown performance scene appearing at WOW, PS122, The Club at La MaMa and the Limbo Lounge. After that, I continued making my rounds in the UK and around the world with my first international appearance as mistress of ceremonies for Club Girrls at the ICA in 1994. After that I toured the UK with cLUB bENT, presented in association with It’s Queer Up North and Gay Sweatshop. My London appearances include, Saturday nights at Duckie, Club Deviance at the Almeida Theatre, Tammy WhyNot’s X-rated Xmas Xtravaganza at Ovalhouse and Tammy’s Art and Beauty Salon and East End Collaborations at Queen Mary, University of London. I have also performed in Helsinki, Warsaw, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Montreal, Sydney and Los Angeles.
I’ve done a whole lot of stuff over my years, including makin’ cameos in performances for Spiderwoman Theatre and Split Britches, makin’ two of my own solo performances What Tammy Needs to Know and What Tammy Needs to Know About Getting Older and Having Sex, starting up a YouTube Channel for elders called Tammy Town, making a series of Public Service Announcement videos, and having a real good time talking to elders about their potential. I’ve even worked with town councils in London on how to have an Age Friendly City, and I am doin’ a little research with the friendly folks over at the Wellcome Trust on elder wellbeing so we can keep gettin’ up , dressin’ up and showin’ up.
Right now I’m really focused on how I can make community for my fellow elders. I want us to be able to come together, feel seen and heard, and walk away feelin’ warm! I think these small acts of community and care are pretty radical - especially in this kooky world we are living in today!
From Lois’s Perspective
I conceived of the character ‘Tammy WhyNot’ while working on the Spiderwoman Theater performance The Lysistrata Numbah!, in which she created the remixed song ‘Stand ON Your Man’. Through Tammy I faced my childhood distaste for country music and my fear of my trailer trash roots. There was something incredibly compelling to me in her lack of shame, naïvete, and use of femme. She was born again in 1984 in a caravan under the Brooklyn Bridge in a show called Upwardly Mobile Home as the lead singer of the band Tammy WhyNot and the Expectations, with Deb Margolin and Peggy Shaw as backing singers.
In the early 1990’s, I began to focus specifically on the representation of femininity. Having exploited the dynamics of butch/ femme in my earlier works with Peggy Shaw, I wanted to investigate the visibility of a ‘femme on her own’. I experimented with this in a range of projects, including my solo work, looking closely at the performance of femininity. After exhaustive attempts at female impersonation, an old persona that I had created with Spiderwoman, Tammy WhyNot, came to the rescue.
Her sense of wonder and her ability to fail gloriously and without shame were her super powers and she became my hyper femme super hero. Tammy’s wisdom of ‘why not? ‘ gave me a definition I had been searching for:
Tammy’s playful persona enables me to directly engage audiences and community groups on issues like education, class, human rights, sex, feminism and femininity. She often provides a context for the exploration of uncomfortable and contested categories like ‘trailer trash’ and ‘high femme’. Tammy is comically naïve but an enthusiastically self-proclaimed ‘learner’ and ‘non-expert’ who encourages people to engage in dialogue on difficult questions on the basis of curiosity and desire rather than conventional understandings of expertise.