Poppin’ bottles with Champagne Jerry

This New York rapper and performance artist doesn’t care about style, but he’s still cooler than you.

Champagne Jerry takes his mad spitting skills to Bryant-Lake Bowl on April 10, 2015.

Photo courtesy of Neal Medlyn

Champagne Jerry takes his mad spitting skills to Bryant-Lake Bowl on April 10, 2015.

by Mary Reller

The self-proclaimed âÄúgreatest rapper in the worldâÄù rocks dad jeans and likes to play softball. It all started when Neal Medlyn, a.k.a. Champagne Jerry, went to a party with his friend Bridget Everett. Medlyn found a bottle of champagne and drank the whole thing as he walked around the party in a poncho, Everett said. That night, he turned into Champagne Jerry. âÄúItâÄôs about trying to be as fancy as you can even though youâÄôre probably not all that fancy and thinking that youâÄôre awesome even though youâÄôre probably a fuck-up,âÄù Medlyn said with an endearing Southern drawl. Medlyn and Everett met over a decade ago in New York. âÄúWhat he does is really unique and special. ItâÄôs always nice to see something that is fresh but also really engaging and warm and wonderful and funny âÄî and thatâÄôs Neal,âÄù Everett said. âÄúHe inspires me.âÄù Encouraged by his parents at a young age to play around with his creativity, Medlyn has thought outside the box and acted on his bizarre ideas his whole life. Performers like David Bowie, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy inspired MedlynâÄôs attraction to outrageous stage antics. âÄúMy dad came to see a show of mine, and he was like, âÄòI donâÄôt know why everybody was trying to prepare me [for your shows]; itâÄôs the exact same thing you were doing as a kid,âÄôâÄù Medlyn said. Before asked to perform anywhere, Medlyn threw shows with friends in parks and hotel rooms. Though few people attended, the shows remain memorable, he said. Once, Medlyn gave himself a funeral in the park. Another time, a drunken man wandered around next to Medlyn and his friend during a performance. The audience assumed it was one of MedlynâÄôs strange antics. âÄúIt looked like he was part of the scene,âÄù Medlyn said. âÄúAfterward, the two people there were like, âÄòWho was that guy? That was so odd how you had him wandering around but he never said anything.âÄôâÄù In high school, for reasons unknown to Medlyn, his drama teacher gave him the freedom to write his own shows. He made off-color jokes about people in town, like the principal and local sheriff. While Medlyn said he has not received any expressed death threats, he has been escorted to his car after playing at a coffee shop in his home state of Texas. Growing up in Texas gave Medlyn thick skin. Every audience is easier to please since the early days, Medlyn said. At one performance, the crowd was surprised by the Champagne Jerry experience and went ballistic âÄî they were expecting a DJ. They booed and tried to get on stage to stop the music. One woman went outside to stop people from coming in. âÄúShe was like, âÄòDonâÄôt go in there!âÄô It was very bizarre,âÄù Medlyn said. Despite the fiasco, Champagne Jerry and his crew continued to play the show anyway. Max Tannone produced and mastered Champagne JerryâÄôs first album. He met Medlyn through their softball team. âÄúHeâÄôs really interesting to watch; heâÄôs fearless,âÄù Tannone said. Tannone remembers seeing Medlyn sing Mike PosnerâÄôs âÄúCooler Than MeâÄù while people poured ice cubes into his clothing. This lasted the entire song, and Medlyn was committed to finishing it. âÄúBy the end of the song, it looked like he had a fat suit on that was filled with ice cubes,âÄù Tannone said. âÄú[But still] he was, you know, cooler than me.âÄù What: Champagne Jerry When: 10 p.m. Friday Where: Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis Cost: $10-$15