In her 2022 Netflix special, Good Fortune, Fortune Feimster recounts the story of a homophobe who sent her a vile message on social media. In the message, “Gary” asked, “How long have you and your wife been mentally ill taco-licking lesbians who should be put in Alcatraz?” In response, the stand-up comic and actor declared, “Gary just recognized my marriage. He said, ‘your wife,’ and that is called progress.”
True to her gentle style of modeling queer visibility by being her authentic self, Feimster doesn’t tear down the homophobe. She turns his hate on its head to highlight that his acknowledgment of her nuptials to a woman is something that wouldn’t have occurred at the start of her career. Hence, “progress.”
But the reality of any backlash to Feimster’s union to her wife, Jax Smith, is a wake-up for blue-state queer people who’ve followed the North Carolina native’s career since the mid-aughts. Her spot-on observational humor and self-reflective jokes about Chili’s franchises and whether she’s butch enough or not have been a salve for many. So if the jovial, easily likable Feimster is the target of haters, well, that hits close to home.
Thankfully, Feimster continues to fight back against haters with humor and visibility. Notably, she’s making her action hero debut, costarring in the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led series FUBAR on Netflix this spring. She’s also currently on tour with her Live Laugh Love stand-up show, in which she performs in places where conservatives are scapegoating queer people and banning our history, books, drag shows, and gender-affirming health care. Amid that oppression, LGBTQ+ audience members and allies crave the safe space Feimster provides for celebrating ourselves and finding comic relief.
“Going into some of these towns and cities where they don’t get as many comics or performers from the LGBTQ+ community, and they are just so starved for that, they really want to have people come in that they can relate to. When you go into [cities] like, a Chattanooga [Tennessee], or a Mobile, Alabama, or you know, Tulsa, Oklahoma, the response is so big,” Feimster says. “I’m blown away when I come out onstage — the noise in that room.”
“I think a big part of that is that many of those people are finally feeling seen. They’re finally having someone in their town who is like them,” Feimster adds. “That means a lot to me to be able to go into those places and be that person. I wanted that when I was growing up in a 10,000-person town.”
An alumnus of the Groundlings Theatre & School where comedy legends like Jennifer Coolidge, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, and Will Ferrell cut their teeth, Feimster has gone on to steal many a scene in films like Office Christmas Party (opposite Jennifer Aniston) and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
Even her videos of eating ice cream while dancing have accrued a dedicated fan base, as have the shenanigans of her middle-aged housewife character, Brenda, who’s perpetually in the hot tub chatting about her husband, Tim. On TV, Feimster has wowed fans in shows including The Mindy Project, Life in Pieces, and The L Word: Generation Q, often playing queer characters.
Fans tuning in to FUBAR will see a different side to Feimster. Her character on the show, Roo, is a mathematics genius in the CIA who’s comfortable hanging out the side of a military-grade helicopter, wielding an automatic weapon while firing off witticisms. Roo is also a queer role. And that she exists in the same space as a character played by the perennially jacked Schwarzenegger, the Terminator of all people, and the wide swath of viewers who’ll tune in to watch him, is no small feat. That is also progress.
“We’re not really hanging a lantern on [her identity] or making it a thing. It’s just, my character is gay. I’ll make references to things here and there…. I just get to be this character [who is] unapologetically herself. [Her queerness] was not some crazy scary thing that you had to explain,” Feimster says. “I love that it’s so normal, as it should be.”
Feimster is a firm believer in the power of LGBTQ+ visibility. Her 2020 Netflix special, Sweet & Salty, featured tales of her early life in her small North Carolina town, her queer origin story, and how it took her into her 20s to fully come into her identity.
“My Sweet & Salty special talks about how it took me so long to figure out who I was and to come to terms with my sexuality,” Feimster says. “You don’t [often] see that long of a journey these days. People are coming to terms with who they are younger, and I do believe a lot of that has to do with visibility [and] seeing yourself in other people when you watch movies, when you watch TV, when you watch stand-up.”
Feimster notes some pop culture touchstones that made her feel seen as a lesbian. One early influence was Ellen DeGeneres’s HBO stand-up special after she’d come out. “It was a big eye-opener. She didn’t tell us as much personal story back then, but I knew she was out. I knew she was a lesbian,” Feimster says.
It’s a bit of queer symmetry that Feimster appeared in the first season of Generation Q considering that The L Word’s first season awakened something in her, and it wasn’t the “salacious part,” she says.
“Just seeing gay women having coffee together. It’s [a] community,” Feimster says, nodding to scenes on The L Word where the characters hung out at the Planet. “I wasn’t out yet. And it’s a simple thing of two women holding hands. I was not exposed to that. Little things like that blew my mind.”
On the road with the Live Laugh Love tour this summer, Feimster is set to make ’em laugh in red-state cities, including Tulsa, Omaha, and Des Moines. She shares that after speaking candidly about her identity in Sweet & Salty, she received beautiful messages from LGBTQ+ people who felt more comfortable coming out or from parents who said they watched with their kids who had been fearful of coming out to them. Once the parents laughed at Feimster’s tales of coming into herself, the kids felt more relaxed and opened up. From Ellen and The L Word to Live Laugh Love and FUBAR, Feimster is humbled by the opportunity to perform for people who need it most.
“Now I’m in a full-circle moment where I’m this representation for certain people, and they’re finding things that they relate to in me just talking about my life and who I am. That does make a difference,” Feimster says. “What an incredible by-product of just trying to make people laugh and telling your story.”
Watch the trailer for Netflix's FUBAR below.
This article is part of the Out May/June issue, out on newsstands May 30. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.
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