Something clicked when Rose Luardo and Shannon Fahey found themselves placed on the same comedy team at Chinatown’s Good Good Comedy Theatre. Despite a 20-year age gap and a generational divide, the pair knew instinctively that they were bound to become creative partners.
“We were encouraged to collaborate with whoever was part of the collective, and a few weeks in, I asked Rose to collaborate on a sketch,” Fahey said in a joint interview at Point Breeze’s American Sardine Bar. “Then it became an-almost weekly thing. Then people started asking us to do that specific bit on other shows outside of Good Good.”
“That’s how we knew it was a thing,” Luardo continued. “A thing that worked.”
Just like that, Queer Bait was born.
Since 2016, Luardo, 47, and Fahey, 25, have created a rotating stable of sketches, characters and shows that play to their unique dynamic. A conversation with them, together, is a wild ride that careens from cultural references to wicked inside jokes to heartfelt professions of affection.
“This is an intergenerational match made in Hades,” Luardo said of their partnership.
“An intergenerational queer love affair that isn’t actually a love affair — at least not in the way that some might hope,” Fahey corrected.
Luardo described a “mom-daughter vibe” between them, and that energy is noticeably present; throughout our lunch, Luardo endearingly pushed food she didn’t want onto Fahey’s plate.
The pair characterize their aesthetic as “two parts performance art, one part clown, three parts dance, five parts friendship, two parts dress-up, one part queer, zero parts bait, maybe another part queer but unsure.” (Fahey, who uses she and they pronouns, is queer; Luardo described herself as questioning.)
Whatever that arithmetic adds up to will be on stage this September, when Queer Bait presents its latest show, “Sterile,” as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Performances run from Sept. 11-14 at Good Good.
The style of the show draws on Luardo and Fahey’s disparate artistic backgrounds. Fahey, a UArts grad, has experience in sketch, improv and standup. Luardo has been performing standup for more than a decade and has also worked extensively in the performance art space.
“I think I’ve been doing funny things for a while without realizing it was comedy,” Luardo observed. “I just wasn’t calling it comedy.”
“We both come from an art background of sorts,” Fahey said. “That makes for a fun balance.”
“Sterile” is the third show Luardo and Fahey have created together. Their previous two efforts, “Fizz Fountain” and “The 180 BPM Tour,” brought them success in the Philly queer comedy scene; the latter program has toured to New York and Chicago, among other locales.
Open communication and affection are key to their creative approach, according to Fahey.
“Our process has gotten a lot tighter, but it’s very heavily friendship based,” Fahey said. “We used to joke that when we would spend at least two hours talking about life, processing and sharing before the material came to life in the last hour. It’s still a part of our process, and it does show up in our work in the way that our characters are self-actualized.”
You will have to buy a ticket to learn exactly what Luardo and Fahey have up their sleeves this Fringe. Their work frequently uses autonomous sensory meridian response, also known as ASMR, as an aspect of performance art. They also refuse to shy away from topics that might make certain audiences uncomfortable.
“I love having to work to win an audience over,” Luardo said. “My favorite is when there’s a turn. You start out with a firm no, and by the end, the audience wants you to come over to their house for dinner.”
“A lot of our stuff takes a second to digest,” Fahey observed. “But once the audience digests it, they want to keep s—ting it out forever.”
“I think it comes down to the fact that we’re really sincere,” Luardo continued. “There’s no point when we’re not giving you 3,000 percent, trying to get people to come along with us.”
Luardo and Fahey also recognize the historical weight of their group’s name, which they use in a sense of reclamation.
“When I was in middle school, ‘queer bait’ was a pretty pejorative term that was shouted at me and my friends,” Luardo said. “It was a nasty little term, and I thought we should turn this s—t around.”
“We’re taking it back,” Fahey asserted. “And that’s how it came to be.”
“Sterile” runs from Sept. 11-14 at Good Good Comedy Theatre, 215 N. 11th Street, as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Tickets and information can be found at goodgoodcomedy.com.