Bobbi Rich is a true product of the ’80s and ’90s: The Seattle DJ hosts a ’90s night at Havana on Capitol Hill. She grew up watching classic MTV programming like Yo! MTV Raps and Headbangers Ball. She obsessed over the hyperactive charm of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. And it was her love for that era’s irreverent aesthetic that inspired her, along with her all-female film and art collective, Easy Bake Coven, to create Hangin Tuff, a new web-based variety show with a wonderfully nautical premise: Take Seattle musicians out on a hot-tub boat on South Lake Union for the most chilled-out interviews ever.
“We just don’t want to take things so seriously or seem like we’re über-super-cool,” says Rich. “I’d just much rather get a laid-back version of these bands.”
Back when MTV still aired music videos, Kurt Cobain appeared on Headbangers Ball in a yellow banana suit. Those were the days when bands took themselves a little less seriously, and Alice Cooper appeared on The Muppet Show. That’s the point of Hangin Tuff, Rich says, who fell in love with bands back then because it seemed like they were fun.
“On Pee-Wee you would have Grace Jones on the Christmas special appearing out of a box that was delivered to the Playhouse,” she says. “Then she would jump out and perform. I loved that kind of stuff. [Those things] got me so jazzed on a band. It made me feel like I could be their friend.”
Hangin Tuff (named loosely after the New Kids song: “I was brainwashed as a kid growing up in Massachussetts [when] NKB was all the rage,” she says), captures the zany, fast, and loose style of music coverage in the ’80s and ’90s. With her co-hosts Anna Urband and Lisa Gallo, the show features characters like a drunken mermaid and a science-obsessed kraken, lots of cheeky vintage video clips, and Rich, who conducts interviews with the band while in the hot tub with them. She often interrupts the program for “Boating Safety 101” announcements with advice like “The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved,” delivered with liquor in hand.
Through her floating, booze-filled Q&As, Rich uncovers some interesting facts about her subjects. Did you know Jarv Dee tap-danced as a kid? (Once with Gregory Hines, even!) Or that La Luz named its album It’s Alive after a creepy person meowed like a cat at lead singer Shana Cleveland from the darkness at a Ravenna Park bus stop?
“I just want to make bands more relatable and get those little pieces of their humanity, instead of having them go ‘Oh, this is our next single, it’s coming out soon, blah blah blah blah,’ ” says Rich. “I miss getting to see a band’s personality.”
The show’s five-episode first season features La Luz, Jarv Dee, Fly Moon Royalty, Half-Breed, and Don’t Talk to the Cops. For the second season, Rich wants to continue to focus on Seattle, but would eventually like to expand the show nationally, plopping down the hot-tub boat wherever it finds open water and willing musicians.
Rich hopes that Hangin Tuff will draw exposure for Easy Bake Coven, who helped produce the show. She also hopes one day the program will be one of the many “channels” you can tune into on the larger Easy Bake Coven website.
“I’m going for gold here,” Rich says. “I’d love to get [the show] on Netflix. I have dreams of bringing it to MTV one day and saying, ‘Hey, guys, you can bring the music back. It doesn’t have to be pregnant teenagers anymore.’ ”
HANGIN TUFF: SEASON ONE PREMIERE Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $7. 21 and over. 8 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 6.