BY SID MARCH
Interviewing Fortune Feimster isn’t easy. Every 15 seconds or so, I start laughing so much, I can’t hear poor Fortune talk. I start wondering if it’s a weakness in my excellent interviewing skills, but ultimately decide to lay the blame on interviewee. Fortune is just really, really funny.
You may know her from E!’s “Chelsea Lately,” her stint on “Last Comic Standing,” or her spectacular presence hosting Dinah Shore. A stand-up comedian and comic writer with a delightful southern drawl, Fortune was kind enough to spare a few minutes of her busy Hollywood workday to chat with Lesbian.com.
Before we talk comedy, let’s talk lesbian since I’m calling from Lesbian.com, and I’m super creative with topics. You came out in your 20s.
I came out when I was 25, so I was definitely a late bloomer!
Tell me about the first time you realized you had a wicked crush on a girl.
Well, I can look back and realize I had wicked crushes on girls starting in junior high, but I just didn’t really know what it was; I was just kinda super intense when it came to my friends! No one in my family could understand and I was just, like, so frustrated, and not getting it… But I think I kind of realized I was gay before I had even kissed a woman.
People were like, “What?! You did it backwards!” I wish I had a great story about a girl who swept me off my feet but, really, I watched a Lifetime movie and the girl in there was gay and I was like “Crap, that’s me!”
I try to convince my dates I’m hilarious but they don’t always believe me. I start talking and they realize I’m lying and I’m not funny at all. So, uh, do girls want to hang out with you just because you’re funny?
I definitely have to use the funny to my advantage when it comes to women ‘cuz I don’t have a lot of other things in the arsenal. But I will say I have some pretty slick dance moves! Once I’ve got ’em a little bit with the funny, I push it over the edge with my robot skills. After that, they’re like, “Lets do this!” I’m like, “Sweet!”
No, no; I date here and there, but no girlfriend. It’s hard to find that… it’s easy to date here, but not as easy to find something more significant.
I feel that. So, rumor has it you’re the kind of girl who shows up with an entourage everywhere you go.
What?! Really?! It makes me sound awesome and very popular, but normally I’m flying solo. I’m in and out really quick doing stand up. I must have had one really good night where I had a bunch of friends with me. I’ll make people assume that’s the case. I mean, I do have a lot of really close friends who like to hang out so sometimes we will turn the show night into a fun night.
Okay, let’s get serious — 0n to career and comedy. What would be the greatest accomplishment for you as a comedienne? I imagine there are awards and recognitions you can receive, but what would totally take the cake?
I love my job and it’s cool to finally be a part of a show so popular and beloved by the audience. I’m super happy. The ultimate goal would be to have my own show someday, some type of sitcom or something, where I could create something and also act in it. That would be pretty awesome. And if people wanted to throw money and awards at me at some point, I wouldn’t stop ’em.
In your rise to the top of the lesbian comedy ladder, you have done some fun stuff — from “Last Comic Standing” to performing at Dinah Shore to landing a gig as a writer and roundtable regular on “Chelsea Lately.” Is there anything big you are still chasing?
I feel like this business is a progression. That old saying of “overnight sensation” doesn’t really exist very much; we’ve all kind of been working at it a long time. Where I’m at now is perfect, one more big step toward possibly having my own show one day, acting more regularly, being in front of the camera more. I’m just kind of following the progression and hoping that it keeps coming up and not down. That’s all I can really aspire to. Once this comes to an end, whenever that is, a couple years or whatever, kinda being ready to jump off from this really awesome opportunity to another one.
How did you find your way into comedy? It seems so natural to you. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were planning this career since you were three years old.
Well, I look funny so people automatically assume I’m gonna be funny. That helps.
I also come from a really funny family. We always manage to turn any difficult situation into a situation where we are all laughing. I learned early on to find the humor in everything.
Comedy for me started as a hobby. I started with The Groundlings, they’re an improv/sketch comedy theatre in Los Angeles. I joined, really, to make friends and my teachers were really encouraging me to stay with it. I don’t know if it was because they thought I was funny or if it was more money for their school but I’m gonna believe they thought I was funny.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing comedy?
Oh man! Well, I was always — despite this very rednecky, redneck accent of mine — I was always considered the academic of my family. If I hadn’t gone into comedy, I probably would have become a lawyer or gone to grad school and had some kind of desk job which would have been awful! But that’s kind of where I was headed: taking all the AP classes, doing the prep work for law school, and my life just kind of shifted. All the sudden and I was headed to LA and my mom was like “Wait! You have to get your Master’s!” And I was like, “Nope!”
If you could switch lives with someone for a day, who would it be?
My office mate Heather McDonald is pointing at herself. I don’t think I would want to be her, then I would have to raise three children after work. [laughs]
I think I would want Beyonce’s life for a day. She’s awesome and wears those leotards and dances around on stage, and Jay-Z and Kanye cheer her on … or I’d want to be Jay-Z! He seems to be really livin’ it up on those yachts.
So, how did you feel when you got the job with Chelsea?
It was amazing, it was the big break I had been hoping for. I’d been in this comedy thing for seven years, doing a lot of free shows not making very much money. I’d auditioned twice for “Saturnday Night Live” and I kept waiting for somebody to give me a “yes,” but I just kept getting a lot of “no’s.” I just needed one person to get it. If one person gets it then hopefully others will follow suit. Then Chelsea said yes. She did a huge thing for me and my career.
What do you really think about those orange shorts the Hooters girls wear? I worked for Jägermeister and we were constantly wearing that orange and I feel like it doesn’t look hot on anyone.
They’re definitely not flattering! I actually got this pair of orange shorts that are really tight and ugly orange and faded. I’m like the Hooters girl that they couldn’t find uniforms for. Especially for someone like me with the camel toe involved … it is not a good situation.
Do people love to mention how awesome you were in university? You graduated summa cum laude. Can you give our readers some advice on how to not suck at school?
I have a Communications degree. It’s very broad. I minored in theatre and I almost had a double major in Leadership but it didn’t start til my junior year. I thought it was an interesting field and I was really close to having it, but I don’t know what it would have done for me. Learning leadership skills, I don’t think worked because I’m not much of a leader. I’m just like, “Tell me what you want me to do.”
The only thing from college that served me well — well, I have wonderful memories — the theatre minor has come in handy the most, and the writing classes I took. I never thought in a million years that I would be writing as much as I am. You know, I was a journalist for seven years while I pursued comedy at night, and I didn’t take one journalism class. It was kind of trippy.
As far as being a good student, I was a closet nerd. I was the one that was a social butterfly, going out, hanging out with friends in the dorms, no one ever saw me study. They just assumed that all the teachers liked me and were hooking me up with good grades. I was going to my room at midnight to study until four in the morning. I was like Betty White — I only got four hours of sleep a night and it worked. She [Betty White] told me once that she only sleeps four hours, we’re kinda kindred spirits. Now, though, I need eight hours.
You just have to dedicate a lot of time to it. No one really wants to do that in college.
And in closing, this is a very important lesbian question — How do you feel about cats?
I must be a terrible lesbian, because I don’t own any animals. Please don’t revoke my lesbian card for that one, it’s just that I work all the time, we’re here at the studio and then I travel every weekend for stand up … if I had an animal it would be very neglected. I don’t feel like that’s fair … and the lesbians would come after me if I dared not take care of my animal! I wouldn’t do that to anyone.
I just worry when they start to own more than two, a lesbian especially. If she has a herd of cats, it’s not a good sign for the future.
The best way to get a feel for Fortune Feimster is to check out her stand-up! Find out more or check her upcoming performance schedule at www.fortunefeimster.com.
You can follow Fortune on Twitter at @fortunefunny