Lori Petty: On My Culture Radar
The ‘Tank Girl’ and ‘Orange Is the New Black’ star on her adoration of Hannah Gadsby, Jean-Michel Basquiat and John Coltrane, and why ‘Cheers’ still does it for her
Lori Petty: “To this day, Cheers has so many smart references.” Photograph: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Current favourite book?
My favourites are Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje and anything that James Baldwin and EE Cummings ever made. But I’m currently reading the paperback of Hunger by Roxane Gay. It’s a memoir of a kid/woman doing her damndest, and dealing with being brilliant while being abused. Then comes severe weight issues: “The bigger you are, the less you are seen.” I love autobiographies, I love to hear how people get through life.
Good Lord. If you haven’t seen the sci-fi comedy Sorry to Bother You, you haven’t accepted what the Jesus is going on. This is a piece of art that most won’t get until dead, but that’s what art is. Being of your time and ahead of your time is a cross and a half to bear. I will pay to see this movie five more times. It makes white people laugh in all the wrong places. And most will never understand it.
I’m a big fan of Paul Mooney and Katt Williams, but right now I’m loving Hannah Gadsby, whose special Nanette is on Netflix. She’s just a vessel of truth and courage and doesn’t give a shit so hard that she ends up healing everyone who’s listening. It’s “it’s funny ’cause it’s true” turned on its head. Run, don’t walk. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sit there with your mouth hanging open at her truthfulness. “You wrote the rules, read them!”
Cy Twombly makes me cry; he paints with so much beauty and song. I adore Jean-Michel Basquiat too – he was self-taught and seemingly from another world. Well, it was another world for the rich, New York City art clique. His work is raw, colour-filled emotion splayed honestly for all to see. He used found objects in addition to giant stretched canvases. There’s real communication in his gestures. He’s elegant in his obsession. There’s wrenching stories in every piece.
Trial by Ashley Griffin. I directed this play last winter off-Broadway and fell in love with crying and kissing and dying and forgiving. The writer contacted me to direct this piece and I jumped at the opportunity. I had directed film and TV before, so this fits my trifecta. It’s a play of loss and forgiveness, and a lesson on judgement and right and wrong. We sold out every night and we’re currently looking for a bigger space. It’ll happen. It’s a special piece.
I had to go to the bookstore the other day to buy John Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album. It’s a double album and one note in, you know who it is. Who else can you say that about? I can play this album anytime of the day or night. Coltrane is a direct line to the Divine. He is how our hearts are meant to sound.
To this day, Cheers has so many smart references, it’s polished comedy. I love to watch it for the time-travelling and huge hair. Plus there’s Ted Danson.
Lakeith Stanfield, who’s in Sorry To Bother You, Atlanta and Selma, has been on my mind since the first time I saw him. He doesn’t “act”. He fills the space wholly, with such silence and presence. He’s always fully there, and also hiding inside his “self”. Genius.