Variety shows get the BDSM-inspired punishment they’ve always needed

Lisa Ann, Jay Nog, SXSW 2016, The Hideout Theatre

‘Paid or Pain’ is a gong-ruled variety hour hosted by a dominatrix.

Luke McClory’s smarmy, self-effacing standup set just wasn’t good enough.

The Austin, Texas-based comic tanked onstage during South by Southwest—a grating failure in its own right—and now he has to pick a card from dominatrix Friday Blaise’s hands. Each contains an act of BDSM-inspired punishment: clothes pins on extremities, metal paddle spankings, mouse traps, one especially nasty-looking stun gun.

“I don’t suppose any of these is a back rub,” he says.

Not a chance. McClory’s jokes failed to win over an intimate crowd of about 90 downtown at the Hideout Theatre late Sunday, and now he must unbutton his dress shirt and be lightly electrocuted with Blaise’s prod. The audience-selected safe word is “Okeechobee.”

(Disclosure: I went to high school with McClory, and while we’re longtime Facebook friends, have not interacted with the dude in more than 10 years.)

To his credit, he gets through a solid 20 seconds of zaps with minimal wincing.

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Such is the payoff during Paid or Pain, a traveling stage show hosted by retired porn empress Lisa Ann and comedian Jay Nog. It’s basically a gong-ruled variety hour: Four newbie comics perform, and the audience gets to throw the bad ones at the mercy of a dominatrix.

Between the antics, the sex angle is punctuated with a banana-eating contest, a Q&A with Ann that is as compelling as it is creepily fanboy-driven, and porn trivia wherein the audience jostles to take home one of Ann’s sex toys.

Nog told the Daily Dot that the plan is to eventually format this for TV, but for now it’s just a theater road show. Despite clear warnings to not film the actual standup sets—lest the jokes in progress from guest headliners Todd Glass and Andrew Santino be compromised—Nog encourages uploading pics and tagging @PaidorPain on Twitter. Chunks of the two-hour event are livestreamed on Periscope

If a hip-hop musical about the first U.S. secretary of the treasury can use the Internet to turn people who haven’t seen the live event into obsessive fans, building Web buzz around one of the most accomplished and blindingly famous porn veterans should be plenty doable.

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Ann, who, following her career in adult film, has enjoyed a second act as a sort of Jenny McCarthy-esque, drink-with-the-fellas tomboy, plays the smack-talking emcee. (Ann also hosts a fantasy football show on Sirius XM.) Tonight she’s wearing hip-hugging jeans and a black tank top.

As the occasion’s real draw, she’s prepared for lewd questions and shuts down loudmouths. A heckler is greeted with a nice quip about his penis size.

“I don’t really have sex with fruit that often,” Ann says coolly when asked to list produce she finds most sexy.  

She’s clunkier at joke-telling: A tone deaf line about retired NBA player Lamar Odom visiting Vegas brothels is met with groans. Her nascent, low-hanging fruit zingers notwithstanding, she’s a natural host.  

You can ask her almost anything, and she doesn’t shy away from her years in porn. She says she began at age 20, and publicly retired via Facebook in December 2014. A breast reduction surgery reportedly followed suit.

“Don’t ask if you can have sex with me or how much it costs to have sex with me,” she tells the Hideout’s collective of mostly standalone, badge-donning dudes who broke away from their companies’ networking socials. (I’m certain many of them told their boss they were calling it an early night.)

“You should buy one because you’ll love it,” Ann says about the virtues of her replica Fleshlights. 

She then turns candid about her sexual history, noting that she had “maybe five” partners prior to entering the porn workforce. Her first film experience was so sexually satisfying, she says, that “I thought I wanted to marry the guy.”

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It’s an online age of sex-positive empowerment for women celebrities. Earlier at SXSW, over at Lucille’s on Rainey Streey, Instagram hero Amber Rose was introduced first and foremost as a “neo-feminist.” And now a 43-year-old retiree is hosting a variety hour where bad comedy (here exclusively from white men) gets a spanking. 

“I just hope somebody comes,” Adam, another standup who gets the pain treatment, says upon realizing that his stuff isn’t landing. “You guys look like you came here to masturbate.”

Photo by Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is the news director, and formerly the Dot's entertainment editor and evening editor. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Grantland, Washington City Paper, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Monitor.