Pictured: Lea DeLaria and Judy Gold | Photo credit: Phil Provencio, New York Comedy Festival
“On our particular set, it’s a dyke bar, let’s be honest,” laughed Lea DeLaria about the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, on which she plays prison inmate Carrie “Big Boo” Black. “All it needs is a pool table and a DJ spinning ‘We Are Family.’ It’s great. I really see a change.”
She said this as part of a panel called Women Aren’t Funny: Debunking The Myth, which NYWIFT and Caroline’s on Broadway (where it was held) presented as part of the New York Comedy Festival the other night. The whole thing was a hilarious and insightful meditation on the role of women in comedy, as moderated by Bonnie McFarlane (who directed an ironically titled documentary called Women Aren’t Funny) and featuring DeLaria, lesbian comic Judy Gold (known for 25 Questions For a Jewish Mother and My Life as a Sitcom), comic Marina Franklin, and Louie producer Blair Breard.
DeLaria’s point was that women have made huge advances in the biz, with a heavy sprinkling of lesbians involved. And she’s right. I doubt a TV set has been as much like a dyke bar since Maude! (Kidding. Just a gay man trying to be funny.)
But amusing lesbians are suddenly everywhere, including at this very event. Right off the bat, Lea deapdanned, “Why are there two dykes on the panel?” Judy Gold replied, “Because it’s one femme lipstick and one non lipstick.” Once that was established, Judy went on to talk about the evolving opportunities for females. “When Lea and I began…,” she said. “When Sonny was with Cher,” cracked Lea. “There were less female comics overall,” continued Judy. “We put up with all that…uchhh. They’d say, ‘We already have a woman on the show.’ Every time there was a woman on the show, it was a special event!”
“The amount of women in power positions on television today is amazing,” said Lea. “Not just doggie style,” she added. “They’re on top,” said Judy Gold, laughing.
But funny ladies always have to be mindful of being picked apart by the naysayers, said Lea (who recently went viral when she was caught deftly shouting down a subway preacher). At the panel, she took us back to 1993, when she was an MC for the march on Washington for gay rights. “I was the first openly gay comic on television when I did Arsenio Hall’s show.” “Bob Smith,” interjected Judy. “He was a month after me on The Tonight Show,” said Lea, not missing a beat. “Anyway, I was everyone’s darling. But everyone in the queer movement was mad at the Clintons because they’d done ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Well, at the march, I said, ‘I like the Clintons. Finally we have a First Lady you can fuck.’ To this day, that follows me around. It was just expressing my sexuality! But even now, feminists say it was sexist, and to them I say, ‘You’d look prettier if you wore a little makeup.’ ”
The whole panel agreed that men in comedy (or even not in comedy) are horrible, but women can sometimes be their own worst enemy, acting out all sorts of jealousy issues. But did I mention that men are horrible? As Lea said, “Get a fucking labia! Get the lips up, dude!” At this point, Judy coolly remarked, “I want to do some landscaping down there,” and Lea cracked, “Judy, I now won’t eat for days thinking about your pussy.”
After the panel, I cornered Lea to say, “You all talked a lot about whether women are funny or not, but how about lesbians? How did the ‘humorless lesbian’ stereotype start?” She had an answer: “They made the movie Women Aren’t Funny. I should make one called Lesbians Aren’t Funny, with me, Rosie, Ellen, and Kate [Clinton]. I wanted to say, ‘You think you have it hard as a woman comic? Try being a lesbian comic. That’s considered an oxymoron’.”
While I had her, I asked about a straight role she played: the man-eating Hildy in 1998’s On The Town revival in Central Park and later on Broadway. I specifically wanted to know about the delicious ad libbing that made Lea’s version of the song “I Can Cook Too” extra special. She said it was during a dance break and she can’t dance, so she, the director, and the musical director cooked up her scat session, Lea having scatted during her audition. Lea told me she’ll catch the new revival (“Of course I’m gonna see it. Jackie Hoffman’s in it!”) and she plans to go with her best friend, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, her old costar to whom she happened to have sung “I Can Cook Too” in ’98. My two favorite scat queens.
I seized the chance to also chat up Judy Gold, posing the old “humorless lesbian” question. “It started during Women’s Week in Provincetown,” Judy joked. More seriously, she said that in every group of people, there are some who take themselves too seriously. “There are some women who are really angry,” said Judy. “If you can’t laugh at yourself, I don’t know what you live for. But I love humorless people because it’s so great to break their balls.” Or large labias, I guess.
Judy went on to inform me that a certain comedy channel hasn’t used her anymore because she’s no longer in their demographic, “but I had no idea that humor had a demographic. Funny is funny.” And Judy Gold is hilarious.
She and Lea should maybe hook up together? “Eww. Not my type,” replied the extremely partnered Judy. “And I’m very monogamous. I never cheated.” Whew. I’m glad to hear she only represents the positive lesbian stereotypes.
>>>NEXT: HUGH JACKMAN BACK ON BROADWAY
Hugh Jackman in 'The River' | Photo by Richard Termine
LET “THE RIVER” FLOW
When Hugh Jackman appears on Broadway, it’s a capital-e Event. Whether he’s been prancing as Peter Allen, dancing as himself, or thesping with Daniel Craig, he’s sent tremors through the theater world and packed houses with people willing to mortgage off their own homes to get a ticket. He now appears in British author Jez Butterworth’s play The River, and again, you’d have to sell your first born (or be an Out.com columnist) to see it. Jackman plays The Man, a mysterious person who’s retreated to his family’s wooden cabin to pursue the art of trout fishing, especially on moonless nights, and whose love interests—The Woman and The Other Woman—seem to pop up and disappear at will. (His will, that is.) This may not be as ambitious as Butterworth’s last play, the stunning Jerusalem, but it’s intimate and pretty hypnotic, filled with the author’s propensity for mixing conversational banter with flights of fancy, genre specifics with sweeping musings. The play has been interpreted by various critics as a mystery, a rumination, a puzzle, and a fantasy, making it clear that Jackman hasn’t picked a banal or predictable vehicle here. He’s very good—try to take your eyes off him—as the Man who’s as interested in capturing his women (by drawing their portraits) as he is in hooking fish.
Meanwhile, theater lovers will have something else to savor in a matter of weeks: A new site called Editor-in-Chief Paul Winkler tells me: “We collectively came up with the idea out of our frustration with other Broadway sites. Either their design was too busy or their content wasn’t interesting or was entirely too commercial. Everything Broadway will be a fresh site, with a beautiful and easy-to-navigate design. Our content will include top news stories, but with a focus on editorials. We want to change the way Broadway is covered. It’s about time!”
Everything nightlife was the topic at the Odyssey magazine awards for LGBT club luminaries at Club Escos NY last night, and they turned it upside down. I shared Best Writer honors with Odyssey’s Frankie C, and after we indulged in some mutual admiration onstage, a drunken drag queen in the audience yelled, “Get a room!” We couldn’t; Frankie had to keep cohosting the awards, and he was forced to work double time because his cohost, doorman/comic Markus Kelle, hadn’t shown up yet. When Markus finally arrived—an hour and 45 minutes late—he had an interesting excuse: “I went to the midnight showing of that new fucking bullshit movie Interstellar. I was there for 13 fucking hours.” Fine, so that explains where he was until 1 p.m., LOL.
A mere hour and 50 minutes, A Most Violent Year is writer/director J.C. Chandor’s moody and finely tuned glimpse at a businessman at a crossroads in 1981 danger-laden New York City. After last Thursday’s screening that kicked off MoMA’s The Contenders series, Chandor came onstage to explain, “It’s set up like a classic gangster film, so someone’s gotta die. You may not know it, but you’re coming here with bloodlust in a way, because of the title.” True but we also came to see ‘80s fashion statements like gorgeous camel hair coats and glamour-length nails.
The long nails for Jessica Chastain’s character were her idea, said Chandor, and he thought it was brilliant, though he was a little rattled that the character wouldn’t be able to pick anything up. But then Chastain explained it to him: “People wore those nails to show that they didn’t have to pick anything up.” She’s not a two-time Oscar nominee for nothing.
Nails came up again at Downtown Sings Peggy Lee, last week’s all-star concert at Joe’s Pub to celebrate James Gavin’s new book, Is That All There Is? The Strange Life of Peggy Lee. In fact, when Justin Vivian Bond reteamed with Kenny Mellman (they used to be Kiki & Herb) for various versions of Peggy’s “Black Coffee,” Justin interspersed them with fascinating banter about the ridges Peggy had in her acrylic nails, to hold Valium with! The spirit of the sultry, well-manicured singer with the mole was in the air as performers like those two, plus Jane Monheit, Nellie McKay, Spencer Day, Julian Fleisher, Andy Bey, and Baby Jane Dexter covered her best-known tunes, while adding their own personal glint. British cabaret singer Barb Jungr did a splendidly involved and funny “Some Cats Know” and blond vixen Tammy Faye Starlite romped through the crowd on “Big Spender,” coming right up in my face before rubbing herself on a metal banister, then announcing, “I hurt my vagina...but Michael Musto made it worth it.” (“That’s the first time my name’s been in the same sentence with vagina,” I quipped to my friends.) And the night ended with a clip of Peggy Lee herself gorgeously vamping her existential way through the song of the book’s title. A fun night, and when there were occasional surreal, self indulgent moments, they fit in perfectly in Peggy’s world. Peggy’s wacky genius gave me fever—and she could cook, too.
And finally, Jennifer Aniston doesn’t have press-on nails—or even makeup—in Cake, in which she plays a woman trying to dredge herself out of emotional depths as well addictions to painkillers and booze. After a special screening yesterday, Aniston said the movie was filmed out of sequence, so she wrote down different signifiers for each scene, to remind herself what state the character was in at that point. “And the script supervisor was on hand,” she added. “She could yell ‘Stoned!’ 'More drunk!’ ” I seem to know a lot of people who have that same script supervisor, LOL.