The Tao of Cho

Comedienne. Actor. Musician. Advocate. Entrepreneur. Five-time Grammy and Emmy nominee. When hasn’t Margaret Cho’s strong voice been part of our consciousness? It feels like she has always been here, like a friend you can always count on, lighting the path for other queer people, women, other members of underrepresented groups, and other performers, to follow.

Margaret staunchly supports the causes that are important to her: anti-racism, anti-bullying, and gay rights, all while fulfilling her successful creative side with a legendary stand up career that has yielded 10-plus comedy tours. In March, her new one-woman show, Live and Livid, comes to the Hampton Coliseum. We caught up with her via to dish on the bat-shit crazy political environment and her career in show business.

Outwire757: Are you on the road? 

Cho: I am. I’m here in Chicago waiting for takeout before heading over to my show.

Outwire757:Let’s start out with that. You’re coming here to Hampton in March with your new Live and Livid Tour, and I’m sure it will be full of Cho-isms except updated to reflect all that’s going on in the world. 

Cho: For sure. I think it’s just like the good time to get out on the road again. I’ve never experienced such a homophobic, racist, sexist time. It’s like you fight these battles your whole life, and it’s meant to get better. 

Outwire757:Now that you’re on the road again how have you audiences changed since COVID? 

Cho: I’ve toured during COVID in clubs, just working things out. And I think people are excited to be out and seeing live shows. That’s impressive, and I’m excited to perform. I think performers who haven’t been able to tour are also refreshed and excited to be out there. So there is a kind of meeting of enthusiasms. I think what COVID did, too, was align everybody to new information sources. Social media was much more current with what’s happening. Whether that’s Britney Grinder’s freedom to this ridiculous Republican senator crying over gay marriage.

Outwire757:Oh lord, that guy….

Cho: So weird. Why are you crying about straight people? Are you that threatened by gay marriage that you have to cry about it? Obviously, it’s, the weirdest need to control others. I think Republicans have a weird control kink. They need to control the gay people, and that’s even more morally questionable than drag. 

Outwire757: And then there’s that wacko in North Carolina who tried to cancel the drag show by shooting out a power substation.

Cho: And the power station also brings electricity to hospitals, to any kind of emergency facility, to your own home. 

Outwire757:It doesn’t make any sense, this crazy environment, and I’m not quite sure if social media is more to our advantage or detriment at times. It’s just sometimes difficult to tune it out. 

Cho: It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. But I like having the information. I tend to think my sources are more correct and more impartial. But at the same time I’m also an avid watcher of the right-wing sources, conservative web sites, and I like look to those communities to see what’s going on so I can safeguard myself and see what they’re planning and what they’re saying. And it’s very shocking.

Outwire757: Know thine enemy. 

Cho: You’re right. My kink is watching them. How did they even get to that conclusion, that drag is somehow harmful? What they should be looking at is that now science is telling us that global warming is harmful for fetuses. So if you really care about unborn lives, take care of global warming. That’s going to work much better than fighting abortion.

Outwire757: It’s also true that churches are where we need to be looking for children who are being molested, and they are not legally responsible for reporting those incidents like schools and other organizations are. It’s not the drag queens. There’s never been one recorded incident of that ever.

Cho: Not a one. Again, deflecting. And then we’re in charge of defending ourselves even though we’ve never been accused. It puts us into defense mode as opposed to addressing their faulty logic and saying this is actually wrong, and you  don’t believe it either. I don’t know where they get it. 

And what about the Herschel Walker vampire versus werewolves discussion. That really kind of sent me. What about zombies versus ghosts? That’s actually a bigger battle. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to their absurd logic. 

Outwire757: I could not believe that election was even as close as it was. It was  a squeaker. And if it wasn’t for Atlanta, basically the cultural center of our country, Walker would probably be taking office

Cho: That’s depressing that it was so close. It should not have been like that. It’s really abomination. I mean, they give us so many abominations, including the abomination of ignorance. That’s really the problem.

Outwire757: It feels to me like every day we’re watching a cliffhanger unfold and what just happened with Congress passing the Respect for Marriage Act felt like being pulled back from the abyss right before we go over. But it’s not just the queer community in danger. I know you are a vocal advocate for all human rights. Where’s the intersection of all that for you?

Cho: Yes, it’s all connected, and I think it really boils down to what does it mean to be America? What does it mean to have equal rights? What does it mean to have a separation of church and state? We’re going into this very dangerous theocratic idealization for Christian evangelicals where they’re trying to justify Nazism, Yhey’re trying to justify these kinds of horrifying scenarios, and you can’t follow their logic because  they’re moving towards an authoritarian state. I think that the problem with Democrats is that we wish that we could not dignify it with a response. But the fact is that we have to.

Outwire757: I think that’s where the progressive movement falls a little bit short, because we’re so goddamn polite all the time. It’s time for that to end. We need to push a little bit harder and step up like you do through your comedy. Who are some of the bright queer comedians that we need to keep an eye out for? 

Cho: Robin Tran is really important. She’s a Vietnamese American trans woman who is just so impressive to me. I’ve worked with her many times. There’s so much talk about trans people in comedy and trans bodies in comedy and politics, but very little heard from trans activists and performers that need to be on the main stage. We need to focus our attention not on cis voices, but on trans voices. Alok Vaid-Menon is an amazing nonbinary trans performer comedian. They’re just amazing. Patti Harrison also. She’s a trans women, very surreal, and so unique as a musician and a performer. Trans voices are bending my approach to comedy towards politics and political humor. They’re the voices that I’m really paying attention to now.

Outwire757: One of the things you have talked so much about is your negative experience on the set of “All American Girl.” In the years since then, you’ve stayed in the entertainment industry. How has the industry changed since then?

Cho: It’s changed a lot. It’s changed for the better, in a great way. I think that there’s so much more inclusion and visibility, and we’re seeing so many more Asian-American stories, queer stories, queer Asian-American stories. There still needs to be more, but I’m excited for the future of media for entertainment in storytelling. I love that there is a whole generation in between myself first doing television to now. They are really making great strides, whether that’s Joel Kim Booster or Bowen Yang or Billy Eichner, who I really love. I think there are a lot of great things happening.

Outwire757: I love those young voices that are coming up too. It feels a lot like the 70s when we had Robin Williams and Richard Pryor and those sort of people that changed the comedy game. I know you knew Robin Williams. It seems like I saw somewhere that he was like a father figure to you. 

Cho: He was a huge part of San Francisco comedy, and he was the one successful person we would see all the time. He was a father figure for all of us coming up through comedy in San Francisco which is a very tight community. I would always have to perform after him which was the worst if you’re a young comedian, Can you imagine following Robin Williams? I think that experience made me a lot more aggressive on stage. 

The first autograph I ever got was from him when I was really young. My father owned a bookstore in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s, and Robin would come in. I still have it. It’s a copy of “The World According to Garp” with his picture on the cover. His story turned very tragic. But at the same time the immeasurable gifts that he gave to comedy and culture is really special. 

Outwire757: What kind of influence growing up in San Francisco’s gay culture have on you as a child and also your family? Because obviously, your parents really didn’t give a shit about their gay bookstore and clientele. When you came out to them, it seemed like they were accepting. But correct me if I’m wrong that when you came out as bisexual, they had a little bit of a struggle with that? 

Cho: They don’t understand bisexuality because it doesn’t exist to them. They only understand gayness like the lesbians with tweed jackets and suede elbow patches. They only understand academic lesbians and gay painters. They don’t really get that those archetypes of queerness are so stuck in gender and the 70s. They also look at the community through a separatist lens because they lived in that time before AIDS when the men were in one camp, and the women in another. Yes, there was drag but drag was its own thing outside of that. That was a different era of queerness, where everybody was serially separated. (Cho has since begun to identify as asexual.)

Outwire757: I always love it when you pop up in  these great cameos or ensemble roles in television or movies. We run to the movie theater or streaming to see what you’re up to. My favorite role of yours by far is as Charlene Lee in Randall Kaisers’ “It’s My Party” in 1996.

Cho: Oh, that’s a beautiful movie. Oh my god, it changed my life! It was my it was my first real encounter with an AIDS specific movie. 

Outwire757: How did you get involved in that? 

Cho: I actually auditioned. In fact, I went through a long process auditioning with Eric Roberts and getting into these people’s lives. I got to meet Roddy McDowell. It was his last film which is incredible. Olivia Newton John and I became very good friends. 

Outwire757: OK, I see your take-out was delivered. One last question: where is Charlene today?

Cho: Charlene, I think, is pretty butch now. That hair is gone. That movie really messed up my hair. That’s all my real hair. Every day it was so big. They teased it every day. I think there’s like a bump it in it at some point. It really ruined my hair. 

Poppy Champlin Talks Comedy, Coming Out, the Casting Couch, and Basketball

Poppy Champlin’s stand up pedigree is flawless, from her Showtime special Pride: The Gay & Lesbian Comedy Slam and Logo special One Night Stand Up, to The Oprah Winfrey Show, and a featured story on Entertainment Tonight. She was a winner on The Joan Rivers Show and a panel guest on Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen. She is also a favorite on Atlantis and Olivia Cruises.

Champlin has opened for such comics as Ray Romano, Denis Leary, Bill Maher, Bill Hicks, and Rosie O’Donnell. Her club appearances are many. The Chicago Sun-Times calls Champlin, “Blisteringly funny.”

This Sunday, she brings her wildly successful Queer Queens of Qomedy tour to the Virginia Beach Funny Bone. She combines forces with two equally renowned lesbian comics, Vickie Shaw and Jess Miller—plus two special guests from the local LGBTQ community.

OutWire757 spoke with her recently about the tour and her long history as an out–and sometimes not out–comedienne.

Congratulations! This is the 12thyear of the Queer Queens of Qomedy Tour.
Thanks. We started in 2006. I wanted to be recognized in the lesbian and gay  community, and for each tour I’ve pulled in two other lesbian comics to go with me. I’ve had some really good bills. At our first show, we had 450 people show up.

This weekend’s bill is great. What can we expect?
With Vickie, you’re going to get that Southern style and that charm. It’s so infectious, her delivery. She was on one of the original Comedy Central shows, Premium Blend. She’s a regular and a favorite on Olivia Cruises. And she always dresses up real nice. Jessi is like a ringleader, she just really engages the crowd and talks with them. I like her style and mannerisms. She’s been working really hard in New York at Caroline’s. We also have a special appearance by an up and coming local comedian, Carmen Crow. And of course, Julie Clark is going to open the show. I performed with her in Provincetown years ago, and she’s one of my absolute favorites.

Tell me a little bit about how you’ve seen comedy embrace the LGBTQ comics over the years.
That whole thing has changed so much since I started in the 80s. I was right out of college, and I was definitely afraid to come out. It just seemed that all the comedy clubs were so straight-male oriented. Not that the regular comedy clubs have changed that much, but as far as having gay comics on the bill, the audiences don’t flinch as much as they used to. They’re much more accepting of gay color. So that’s really good.

What kind of clubs did you work back in those days? Did you have a gay following?
I didn’t come out until 2000. Because a lot of people around me kept telling me that it would ruin my chances of making it. I wanted to be star, to get a TV show, and get all that going on. Because Hollywood is so casting couch, as is being revealed, and those opportunities were there, I pretended I was straight so I could get these guys to give me a frickin’ leg up. But if I didn’t go all the way and walk the walk as straight, I wasn’t going to get it. And I just couldn’t get a break and make it happen. So I just came out, damn the torpedoes, and since then I’ve been embraced by the gay community. Now I support myself by doing comedy just for the LGBTQ community.

You’ve had your own comedy specials, been on Oprah and Joan Rivers, the list is endless. And you have some great comedy connections.
I really do. I came up through the ranks and paid my dues and have some really nice credits under my belt. I was America’s Funniest Real Woman on the Joan Rivers Show!

It seems that much of your comedy is informed, as much is, from observations in daily life. How do you decide what’s good enough to go into your act?
I skew things towards the audience. Like last night, I was in Denver for a show at a Matthew Sheppard Benefit, and I figured the audience would be more gay men. And when I do the Atlantis Cruises, it’s all gay men, so my routine trends more blue, which gets the biggest laughs from them. Whereas the lesbians, they don’t want it to graphically sexual. And if it’s a straight crowd, I don’t try to jam too much gay and lesbian sex down their throats. I try to keep people just on the edge of their comfort zone.

I love your segment comparing lesbians to postage stamps: once you lick them, they stick.
I have that as a bumper sticker!

When you were in college in Rhode Island, was performing on your radar screen?
I went to college to play basketball.  I was really good in high school and broke the standing record with 33 points in one game. So, yeah, that was my thing in college. The coach was a big dyke, and I loved her. I always wanted to play under her. So I played for two years, then dropped out entirely to take a break. And when I went back, acting wason my radar screen, so I got a BFA in Acting. I didn’t know my thing was comedy until I landed the role of a fish in a cabaret, and I had a monologue “My Fish Stick.” I killed every night. “Kelp! Kelp! Is there a sturgeon in the house?” I was like, wow, this is so easy, and I can do this as a job.  Then I went through classes at Second City in Chicago. Never made it to the main stage, but was there with folks like Mike Meyers, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Farley.

Where does the tour go from here?
I just put them together throughout the year, depending on which clubs will book us. So from here, I have a one-night with Suzanne Westenhoefer in Syracuse, then down to Texas with Vickie for a couple of nights, then Palm Springs and California in September and November. We just go where they’ll have us.

Are your shows all benefits for LGBTQ organizations, such as this one is for the Life Center?
Yes, everywhere I go, I give back to the centers.

Sandra Bernhard on LGBTQ Gentrification, “Roseanne,” the 70s, and “Sandemonium”

Sandra Bernhard has been a show business stalwart for some three decades in a career that has seen her in films (most memorably in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” as psycho-stalker Masha), off-Broadway, Broadway, television (“Roseanne,” “Will & Grace,” “Difficult People”), and now radio. But it is her solo stage shows where she mixes music and commentary in equal measure that show Bernhard at her pointed best.

For the past three years Bernhard has added radio personality to her resume with a daily show on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM channel called “Sandyland” that has endeared her to many new fans. On the show, she interviews other celebrities as well as offering her pointed commentary on a variety of pop culture subjects.

“Sandemonium” is an extension of her radio show: a nod to craziness with the wisdom and sanity of someone who’s been here before, plus a touch of her signature sass and snark. “This too shall pass,” she consoles. “Trump’s not going to be president forever. We had Nixon. We had Attila the Hun, and humans lived through that.”

Outwire757 recently spoke with the eclectic performer and long-time LGBTQ advocate for more of Sandy’s Words of Wisdom.

OUTWIRE757: So you are everywhere all the time right now. I love that.

BERNHARD: Yeah baby!

OUTWIRE757: But you’ve always been prolific. I saw your show at Jane Street in 2001. What’s the biggest difference between 2001 Sandra shows and your current ones?

BERNHARD: I just think it’s about shedding your skin as a performer, and every year that you hone your craft as an artist you come closer to your essence. I think sometimes I’m more able to access more of my emotions without becoming maudlin. Of course, that’s a no-no in my world. I just think I’m always able to maintain a certain distance and certain sophistication about my material and my approach to my performing. So, in many ways, it’s a continuum and in some ways, I’ve stripped away more and more of the artifice. But that artifice is part of what makes a performer interesting.

OUTWIRE757: So, from everything I’ve heard, we can expect more of Sandra’s world when “Sandemonium” blows into town.

BERNHARD: Yeah, yeah. My world has always been funny mash up of the outside world and the inside world. So that continues. And as the world keeps spinning on its axis, and you see more and more of the craziness, it’s up to your artists and performers to distill out the crap and give you the diamonds.

OUTWIRE757: You know you’re going to be in the heart of Pat Robertsonland, right?

BERNHARD: Yeah, but I figured this is a performing arts center, and wherever you are in the country right now, there are pockets of people who are starving for alternative entertainment. I’m sure plenty of great people will show up. In my Sirius radio show “Sandyland,” I’ve actually reached people who never knew what I did, and they daily listen to me and call me up and say, I don’t agree with your politics, but I love you. So, it’s a funny thing, and I’m sure some of those people will show up, too. And they won’t be offended by the show. They’ll be uplifted and entertained, and maybe have some light shed on things they might not have ever been exposed to.

OUTWIRE757: Speaking of “Sandyland,” how’s the adjustment to from live performance to radio, and center stage to talk show host?

BERNHARD: It took a couple of months to get my sea legs, but once I got my rhythm, it’s been great. And again, I open up a show with something akin to what I do in my performances–not as well-honed, but some sort of improvisation about what’s happened in my day and or what I’ve heard about from the world, whether it’s music, fashion, or politics. I try to keep it very eclectic, and so it is kind of a natural fit. It’s also more conversation that interview anyway. I mean, I drive the conversation and keep it going, but I just want to bring out the best in the people in have on.

OUTWIRE757: Growing up the 60s and 70s, we had no openly queer role models. But there were plenty of pop culture idols. Who did you identify with?

BERNHARD: Oh my god, so many people. From Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing, Barbara Streisand to Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner. I mean, all the iconic people of the day. They had a profound influence of the way I perceive the world and how I perform.

OUTWIRE757: Do you kind of miss the rough and tumble queer world of the 60s and 70s? Are we too gentrified now?

BERNHARD: Yes, I do think so. And yes, I do miss it. When I first moved to LA in 1974, and I was out every night dancing at Studio One with all the people celebrating, just going crazy, it was just a different world. It was separate from the straight world, and yet sort of unapologetic. I do miss that, and of course the AIDS crisis had so much to do with the change in the culture. But, you know, wanting the equality naturally moves people to be more mainstream, and you do lose some of the fun and spontaneity of those times.

OUTWIRE757: But now I know kids who are barely teenagers who are coming out not only as gay or bi, but trans. Some are even transitioning with their parents’ support.

BERNHARD: Oh yes, I think that’s really great that parents now just go, well, you’re on your path, and I’m here to guide and support you. As it should be.

OUTWIRE757: Now you’re a parent of an adult woman. How does your experience inform your parenting?

BERNHARD: A lot of it pivots off the relationship I had with my mother. She was great, an artist, one of a kind, but she wasn’t always there in the way I needed her to be. I try to step back and let my daughter be who she is. But when she needs more of me or my partner (of 18 years, Sara Switzer), we’re here. I think that we dole out good advice. We don’t impose it, but when we see her having missteps, we jump in. We give her a lot of space, and a lot of love.

OUTWIRE757: I believe you said that your iconic role as lesbian Nancy Bartlett on “Roseanne” was both a blessing and a curse.

BERNHARD: I never said that, I think that someone must have misquoted me. No, I love the role, she’s back, and my episode airs sometime in May. It’s really fun. It reintroduces Nancy and picks up where she left off. Yeah, I love that character and I love the ensemble. I just wish it was less politicized than it is. But I feel like now everyone is calming down and enjoying the show for what it is: a funny, down to earth commentary on working middle class America.

OUTWIRE757: From Nancy’s perspective, what do you think ever happened to The Lunchbox?

BERNHARD: I think we sold it, or just dumped it, or declared bankruptcy probably.

OUTWIRE757: Will Sandra Bernhard make an appearance on “Will and Grace?” Perhaps with another apartment to sell?

BERNHARD: I don’t think they’re going to bring me back on that show. That’s a story line that played out, and it was super fun and iconic. But I don’t think there’s anything left to tell.

OUTWIRE757: Finally, where is Masha today?

BERNHARD: Masha today is probably running a nonprofit organization. She finally got her shit together.

Richmond Native Emily Skinner Talks Cher, Raging Queens, Christopher Walken’s Pickle, And Being A Hyper Kid

Richmond native Emily Skinner is the epitome of Broadway’s leading lady.

Over her 26 years in the biz, she has played leading roles in such Broadway productions as Prince of Broadway, Jekyll & Hyde, James Joyce’s The Dead, The Full Monty, Dinner at Eight, and Billy Elliot.

Skinner’s role as one half of a pair of Siamese twins in Side Show earned her critical acclaim and a Tony Award nomination shared with co-star Alice Ripley

She recorded an excellent self-titled solo album, which was released in 2001, and she has sung with orchestras around the world.

This winter, she will appear in The Cher Show as Georgia Holt, Cher’s mother, in the Broadway run at the Neil Simon Theatre which begins previews November 1.

This Saturday night, she comes to Hampton Roads as the headliner at the Hampton Arts 31st Anniversary Gala, an invitation extended by Richard Parison, artistic director and a friend since their days in Richmond together.

It’s amazing to look back over your career how much you’ve been involved in. Just the last two years alone is impressive. When do you sleep?

It’s good to be busy and have diverse projects. I really love my career, and I’ve worked hard to get here.

What can we expect from your concert this week at the Hampton Arts Gala?

I think pretty much everything. Everything I’m going to sing is from Broadway. I like variety, so I try to mix up the program with a wide range of classic stuff and contemporary stuff. I’ve got everything in there: Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein. I even have some Mae West.

You have bounced back and forth from Broadway musical to Cabaret to stage actress and recording artist. What jazzes you the most?

That’s so hard! I really like it all. When I sing a lot, there’s a part of me that says, “Gosh, I wish I was doing a play.” And when I’m doing a play, I want to do a musical. It’s good to go back and forth and hit everything. I sort of feel like when I’m performing a musical or cabaret, it tends to be a little more a giving to the audience. Versus when I’m doing legit acting, it feels a little more internal.

Do you have any new recordings in the works?

The Cher Show cast album will be out at the beginning of the year, that’s the big one.

Speaking of the Cher Show, wow, Georgia Holt. What an iconic role to play.

She’s an interesting mother.

How did you prepare to play her?

I was asked to audition for the show, and I didn’t really know anything about Cher’s mom. So I Googled her and watched lots of footage of Cher and her mom online, including the documentary that Cher did about her. I have this weird thing when I’m asked to go on auditions. I have to be able to visualize myself playing the role, or I don’t bother. And as soon as I started to watch Georgia, I thought, yeah, I know who she is. I can do this.

They put my audition on tape for Cher so she could have final approval on casting. She caretakes her mother in such a beautiful way, so I was incredibly honored when I got the part. I knew Cher sat there in her Malibu home, watched the tape and picked me.

I read that after the pre-Broadway run in Chicago, Cher said she loved it, but in typical Cher fashion, said it needed a little work.

And she’s right. And that’s why we love her. She’s such a straight shooter, uncensored. No pretense, no bullshit.

And now you’re taking that role to Broadway this autumn.

Yes, we start rehearsals right after the Gala on October 1, and then it’s out there.

I was intrigued in your participation in the AIDS themed Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queensback in the day. How did you get involved in that?

Oh my gosh, this is such a weird story. I had first heard the song My Brother Lived in San Franciscoyears ago when I was in college. And I thought it was a beautiful song. When I auditioned for Sideshow, I actually used that song. At the end of my audition, there were a bunch of people in the room, and a guy stood up from the table and said, “I wrote that song.” And it was Bill Russell, who wrote the music for Elegies and for Side Show.

I was so lucky to be in that production, and I’ve been in different versions of it over the last 15 years. It’s such a moving and beautiful show. The monologues that make it up are knockout, and the songs are gorgeous. I’m so happy it keeps getting done.

You were in the original cast of Prince of Broadway, which debuted in Tokyo. Is there any difference between American theater audiences and Japanese audiences?

Well, you know, I will say in Asia they love American musical theater. They’re wild for it. So our audiences were crazy for that show. There’s really very little book in that show. It’s literally back-to-back 11 o’clock numbers from Harold Princes’ shows. And most of the shows, Phantom and West Side Story, they’re in our musical consciousness internationally. Everyone knows them. I think in the future they’re going to continue to play that show internationally because it did do well in Asia.

I was looking at the impressive roster of your leading male co-stars over the years. Who are some your favorites?

Oh, that is so hard! I did a show with Chris Walken years ago, and he is a riot. He’s so on his own special planet. He was wildly kind and entertaining to work with. He was always trying to keep things fresh, and he always had things in his pockets. Sometimes he would pull out peanuts, shell them, then throw them at me. Or he’d take out a pickle and start eating it. So he was a lot of fun.

So you and Alice (Ripley): you two are so fantastic in everything you do. How in your mind has that relationship evolved over the years?

We sort of yin and yang each other. We’re wacky. It’s funny, they say we become more of who we are innately as we age, and that’s definitely true of Alice and myself. We’re both super busy with our own projects, but we do get together on some concert stuff occasionally. We have a new show coming up in January.

You also have your own show, and I get this affinity from you for the classic Broadway musicals of the last century.

I grew up with a mother who loved classic Broadway, and she had a cast album collection. So I grew up listening to that. That’s always where my first love is. That’s when people really knew how to craft, you know? They knew how to sit down and write a three-page song that would knock you in the guts. And when you have great material, you really don’t need to bell and whistle things up.

I read something about one of your early teachers in Richmond giving you a hot minute in class to perform.

Yup, that’s true. So many times kids these days get diagnosed with ADD, and many times all they need is an outlet. I am a case study of that kid. I was so manic. I was so hyper. They weren’t going to pass me on to first grade.

At some point towards the end of my kindergarten year, my teacher said, “OK Emily, you’re going to get 15 minutes every day to entertain the class.” And that was the opening of Pandora’s box. After about three weeks of this, my teacher called my mother and said, “I just thought you should know that you have an entertainer on your hands.”

That was an early and correct diagnosis!

Yes, she was right. So always think that if I ever won anything in my whole life with regards to the theater, I would stand up and thank that kindergarten teacher.

Judy Gold Talks Standup, Being Jewish and Gay, Provincetown, and Packing Anxiety

Judy Gold is one of the most prolific and multifaceted comics working today.

Her career has spanned 35 years, from the golden days of the New York comedy circuit in the 80s to present-day guest starring roles on a multitude of the hottest TV shows.

She also just happens to be a gay Jewish mother, experiences that inform much of her standup act.

Through it all, she has remained outspoken and unafraid to take on anyone and any topic with a twinkle in her eye that let’s you know it’s just a joke. But a joke that makes you think.

OutWire757 had the opportunity to speak with Judy in advance of her appearance this at Outer Banks Pridefest and take a walk through her stellar career and her million-miles-a-minute head.

I love your podcast, “Kill Me Now.” You have had every imaginable person on that podcast. How do you determine who you want to talk to? Is there anyone left?

I have a wish list, and it’s really people I find interesting. I mean, it runs the gamut. I’ll have Amy Schumer, then I’ll have Lorraine Newman. Marilyn Maye was this week. I fucking love Marilyn Maye. It’s sometimes a challenge because the advertisers are like, Marilyn Maye, who’s that? But it makes for a better podcast. Just the showbiz stories she has! I mean, the more you’ve lived, the better stories you have.

And those interviews have become a huge archive that never existed before.

Yeah, that’s what I really love. I just find people interesting, and I want know what makes them who they are. I don’t want to talk about what you’re plugging. I had Christine Taylor (Ben Stiller’s wife) on. She was really popular in high school, and she got some commercial, then they were all mean to her. And she said to me, “No one’s going to care about this.” And I was like, yes they are! We’re all still in high school. Life is fucking high school. Showbiz is definitely high school. And now the fucking bully is the president of the class.

The best part is that are no parameters. I can do whatever the fuck I want. And I love hearing what pisses people off.

You’ve had a veritable Who’s Who of LGBTQ guests, too.

Yes, Rosie, Guy Branum, Lady Bunny, Lea Deluria. One of my favorites was Roberta Kaplan (Edith Windsor’s the attorney in the DOMA case).

It feels a lot like Sandra Bernhard’s Sirius XM talk show.

I was just on her show this morning pimping the Nags Head thing!

You got your start winning Emmys for writing on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” How did you and Rosie cross paths?

I knew Rosie before she was famous. She was good friends with this comic Margaret Smith who’s not in the standup business anymore but was pretty famous back in the 70s and 80s. Margaret was staying with me in New York, and she introduced me to Rosie. We all became good friends from the clubs. It’s like all these people! Ray Romano and John Stewart, Louis CK.

You talk a lot about ageism and how its impact on women in the business is much more profound than it is for men. How do you adapt your act to stay relevant and get bookings?

Oh, it’s definitely harder on women. And, look, I love the male comics. I mean, no one is telling Louis Black he’s too old, you know? I focus on the work and doing the job. I could let them get me down and give them power. Or I can just look at the people who have influenced me, like Joan Rivers who was never more relevant at 82 when she died.

There’s this misconception that standup comedy has this demographic of young white straight guys. Well, I’ve never been funnier. And I’m going to get funnier the more I live. I’m fearless. You can’t say anything to me that I haven’t heard before. I have heard it all: you’re too this or not enough that, you can’t say this, you can’t say that. Fuck you! Don’t tell me what to do.

I’ve been doing this for over 35 years. No one is going to stop me. I’m out five, six nights a week doing standup. I was at the Comedy Cellar last night, and I was like oh my God! I look around, and I’m twenty some years older than these people. But this is what I am, I’m a comic, and I love it.

Does the traveling get hard?

Traveling sucks, I never liked it. When I started travelling it was horrible because we had no cell phones, no computers. I had one suitcase that was a junk drawer. I would literally throw all my shit in there. I travelled with a two-cup coffee maker and coffee from Zabars because it was pre-Starbucks. And it was so isolating. You couldn’t use the phone in the hotel because it would chew up your whole salary.

Travelling now is way better than it was because you’re much more connected. But I still hate the packing. I’ve been doing this so long, and whenever I have to pack, it’s two days of anxiety. I’ve been stranded so many times that now I’m like, OK, bring enough antidepressants in case there’s a fucking terrorist attack or natural disaster.

But once I get there, I love it, getting in front of the audiences who love you back.

You have cobbled together this patchwork career of television and movie cameos, and my husband and I cheer when you pop up. The latest thing we saw you in was your quick turn on TBS’ “Search Party.”

I love that! You know, it’s so nice that these people just ask me to do these things. I did “Broad City,” and I just did “Friends From College.” But I want the regular thing, not the cameo. You know what I’m talking about?

Is that in your future?

You tell me!

You’ve also done a ton of writing, and you received accolades for “25 Questions for Jewish Mothers,” which earned you a GLAAD Award.

That show was the first show I wrote with my writing partner Kate Moira Ryan. I had just become a mother, and I said I can’t with these going to clubs and travelling. I want to do a one-person show, but I don’t want it to be my standup act with music behind it.

So, we actually went around the country interviewing Jewish mothers. Initially it was to find out if the stereotype was real. But it ended up being this amazing journey that morphed into a stage show and a book.

In the show, I talk a lot about coming out and being gay and a Jew and a mother, and it was so cathartic for people. Gay kids would come see the show, then bring their parents back with them and come out . I got so many letters from kids who had been shunned by their families, who said they never thought they could be Jewish and gay until they saw that show.

What was your personal experience growing up gay in a Jewish household in New Jersey in the 60s and 70s?

Well, I always knew I was gay. You don’t know what it is until you’re an adolescent. You’re like, wait, I’m different. I’m not going to get a Barbie, I want to mow the lawn. You realize what it is, and to grow up in that era…I mean you’re my age, and you know how it is thinking it’s the most horrible thing. You can’t tell anyone else, and you think it’s going to be over if you tell anyone else. The fear.

And then the AIDS crisis hits, oh my God! But that actually brought the community together, so that was one positive. I think that was the catalyst for marriage equality as well. But it just wasn’t easy keeping that secret.

I feel you, but there’s a part of me that kind of misses those hard knock days when we had to fight for our lives. Our community seems so splintered now that we’re acceptable.

I spend the summers in Provincetown, my girlfriend and I have a house there. And I sit on that same beach that I’ve been going to since the mid-Eighties. Now we have our equality, and there’s straight people there. I’m like, NOOOO! Go to Hyannis! You have the whole rest of the Cape.

There was something about being on that beach in the Eighties, and everyone single one of us was going through the same shit. But there we were, just for one week a year, living our lives, having fun. There was such a connection.

Now it sometimes feels like the community is just kicking itself in the face. Now we have gender politics going on. I’m like, hey, I fought for your rights, and if I make a joke about you, and you get offended, don’t give me that “I don’t feel safe” shit. Sorry, the world is not safe place. Plus, it’s a fucking joke!

I am very proud to be a part of this community. I have seen a lot, and I’ve been through it. And I have a lot to say about it. Because, come on, let’s stop taking ourselves so fucking seriously.