BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
Fortune Feimster skyrocketed to fame after her hilarious debut on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” in 2010. The endearing North Carolina comic with great hair and an even better personality moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to pursue comedy after graduating summa cum laude from Peace College in North Carolina. First, she made a yearlong pit stop in Sevilla, Spain, where she taught English, studied Spanish, and backpacked all over Western Europe. Even in a place where people spoke a different language, Fortune was able to tap into the universal gift of laughter.
Feimster is now an oft-featured roundtable guest on “Chelsea Lately,” performs regularly on the Los Angeles comedy circuit, and is one of the featured comedians on Sweet’s sold-out Cozumel Resort vacation in September 2012.
Being featured on “Last Comic Standing” made you very visible, very quickly; how did that affect you?
Well, I don’t want to brag or anything, but my YouTube channel went from 190 subscribers to 230. I kid. The biggest change was that I started getting recognized every now and then. I’d be walking down the street and someone would randomly yell out, “Hey, comic!” I also got hundreds of encouraging e-mails from people all over the United States. It was great to have that support.
There’s a lot of criticism about reality TV shows not being real enough. How real was “Last Comic Standing”?
I don’t know how real it was in seasons prior to mine because they focused more on the reality TV part than they did the comedy, but when I was on it they really revamped the show. It was about being a good comic and telling solid jokes, which is nice, because you sign up hoping that people will get to see an accurate portrayal of your comedy. The only thing they did editing-wise was shorten the sets, but that’s just because they had to show so many comedians.
We have to know – was judge Natasha Leggero as hot in person as she was on television?
I should have known there would be a question about the lady judge. Yes, Natasha is just as hot in person. So ladies be sure to check out one of her shows because she’s funny too.
Why did you decide to audition for the show?
I actually wasn’t going to try out at first. I was worried about it being a reality TV show and I didn’t want to live in a house full of comics, but the people on the show were saying it was going to be about the comedy so I thought, “What the heck?” Plus, not many people outside of Los Angeles had seen my comedy, so it seemed like a great way to finally get an opportunity for more people to see what I do.
Is Fortune your real name? How did your parents come up with it?
Fortune is actually my middle name. It’s my great-grandmother’s maiden name. My grandmother wanted my parents to name me Fortune, but my mom said I would have to be Miss America to live up to a name like that, so they named me Emily after my mom’s cousin. I’m real upset that my mom didn’t think I could be Miss America, by the way.
I was always really close to my grandmother, so I started going by Fortune after she died about ten years ago as a way to sort of pay homage to her.
Your video “Katina the Pole Dance Instructor” received a ton of hits on FunnyOrDie.com. How did you develop the Katina character?
I was a member of the Sunday Company at the Groundlings, which is a big sketch comedy training ground and a lot of “Saturday Night Live” cast members have studied there. We have to write about 4-6 new sketches a week, so we’re constantly having to think of characters. Katina was something I came up with for that and then I basically improvised a short little video. I just grabbed a bunch of random costumes in my room and, boom, Katina was born!
You’ve traveled extensively in Europe; how has that influenced your comedy?
I lived in Spain for a year and backpacked all over Europe, and while it was the coolest thing I have ever done, it certainly wasn’t easy. Once I did that, I felt like I could do anything. I don’t know that it has influenced my comedy directly, but it made me a stronger person, so that sort of inadvertently has helped me on stage.
Many straight stand-up comics make a lot of gay jokes. Does this ever bother you as a comic? How do you deal with it?
To be honest, I don’t really pay attention to it. I figure they are on their journey and I am on mine. If they need to make a bunch of gay jokes, then chances are they are running out of material.
Do you think being a lesbian has affected the trajectory of your stand-up career?
To be honest, I was a little nervous about doing gay jokes on “Last Comic Standing” just because I would officially be coming out to the entire country and there was a part of me that was worried that it would keep me from getting jobs. But that thought was very fleeting because being gay is part of who I am and I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not just to get a job. I would rather be able to live with myself and to have the respect of people that I care about. Plus, our community needs more role models and I would happily accept the responsibility of being a good example to any young kids out there who are struggling with their sexuality.
You mentioned coming out and being an example to young people feeling the pressure of that issue. Can you tell us how you came out to your parents?
I was 25 years old and had flown home to visit my family for one of my annual trips. I just knew it was the right time to tell them. My whole family couldn’t have been more supportive. I was blown away and just really relieved that they accepted me no matter what.
As a comedian, are you able to turn a loaded moment, such as coming out, into something more fun and less serious?
Oh, yeah. I actually tell the story of my coming out to my dad on stage and people seem to get a kick out of it. It’s one of those things you’d have to hear, so check it out on YouTube. I just think a comic’s own stories are some of the funniest, so it’s nice to be able to turn something serious into something entertaining. My family certainly provides me with tons of material.
How did your improv work with the Groundlings differ from stand-up? Which do you enjoy more?
They are two totally different things. At the Groundlings, it was more about being a good actor, writing smart scenes, coming up with characters, and just learning how to be a solid part of an ensemble. Plus, it was a lot more structured.
With stand-up, it’s just you and the mic. You can do anything you want, talk about anything you want, which is awesome; but you’re all by yourself so if you mess up, there is no one else to get you out of it. I love them both for many different reasons, but I do feel like I’m better at being myself so stand-up is very special to me.
Many people expect comedians to be funny all the time in everyday life. When your friends/family/strangers ask you to say something funny what do you say?
People telling you to be funny is the worst thing you can say to a comedian, and I get it all the time, especially when I’m at home. I do think I am pretty funny in everyday life, but I’m also not one of those comedians who is “on” all the time. It’s too exhausting to everybody around you if you’re constantly doing bits. So if someone tells me to be funny, I usually just invite them to one of my shows.
Is there anything we should have asked you that we didn’t?
How do I maintain this perfect body and full head of awesomely curly hair, you ask? Genetics and Super Cuts! Thank you, God!
Photo by Erin Gibson