glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Clinton, Kate (b. 1947)  

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1947, the self-described "fumerist" (feminist+humorist), "Madame President of Comedy," and "sister of Bill Clinton" (not the President), Kate Clinton first began her career as an English teacher. After teaching for eight years and after having taken a women's writing workshop, Clinton changed careers. She began performing stand-up comedy professionally in 1981.

Although she has described herself as a late-bloomer who had been in the closet with "a foyer, a turnstile, [and] a few locks," Clinton has been comfortably open about her lesbianism from the beginning of her career in the entertainment field. As an out lesbian, however, she could not work in mainstream comedy clubs. Her unwillingness to alter her material for mainstream venues may have initially impeded her career in some ways, but she nevertheless quickly found an appreciative audience among lesbians and gay men.

Drawing on her experiences as a teacher, lesbian, and Catholic, Clinton creates humor that is often satirical and political. However, she also speaks with wit and insight about such issues of specific interest to lesbians and gay men as the coming out process and relationships with lovers, friends, and families. Underlying her humor is the affirming notion that lesbians and gay men are an integral part of all aspects of society. In 1999, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Clinton's performances have evolved from stand-up comedy to one-woman shows centered around monologues. Recent shows include "Y2K8" (2000), "Correct Me If I'm Right" (1999), "All Het Up" (1996), "Impure Thoughts" (1995), and "Out Is In" (1993). Both "Correct Me If I'm Right" and "Out Is In" had significant runs on Broadway.

Several of Clinton's performances have been recorded and produced as audio albums, including Making Light! (1982), Making Waves! (1984), Live at the Great American Music Hall (1985), Babes in Joyland (1990), and Comedy You Can Dance To (1998), and The Marrying Kind (2004). She has also appeared in Out There 2, a video compilation of gay and lesbian comics. She has hosted the PBS television series In the Life and has made appearances on numerous popular broadcast and cable television programs.

As an actress, Clinton has performed on both stage and film. She appears in Alan Rudolph's The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002) and is one of four lesbian comics features in Andrea Meyerson's Laughing Matters (2003), an award-winning documentary. She narrates Joan E. Biren's documentary No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons (2003). Clinton also made a cameo appearance in Dee Mosbacher's documentary about the Women's Music movement, Radical Harmonies (2002), and has performed on Broadway in The Rocky Horror Show (2001) and off-Broadway in The Vagina Monologues (2002).

In 1998, Clinton published a collection of her material, Don't Get Me Started; and she writes regular columns for the gay and lesbian news magazine The Advocate, and the left-leaning political journal The Progressive. She has also contributed articles to The New York Times and George magazine, and served as a writer during the start-up period of The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 1996.

Undoubtedly influenced by her first career, her writing is characterized by puns and wordplays, including especially those based on her name, such as, for example, "KateChism" (religion), "adjudiKate" (the legal system), "compuKate" (computers), "eduKate" (education), and "forniKate" (sex). Characteristically, she uses her own life experiences to parody and satirize public events, current trends, and political figures.

In addition to publishing her column, "CommuniKate" online, she maintains an interesting website ( that features her recently founded group The Permanent Standing Committee to Impeach George W. Bush, Inc., which aspires to be a venue for scrutinizing the President.

Clinton's book in progress is tentatively titled, "Kate Clinton: Collected Speeches (I Never Gave)." Filmmaker Catherine Gund is currently working on a documentary about her past and future career.

Clinton and writer and activist Urvashi Vaid have been partners since 1988. Since 1992, they have resided in Provincetown.

Kelly A. Wacker


zoom in
A portrait of Kate Clinton by David Rodgers.
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts
Popular Topics:

The Arts

Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall
Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall

Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male
Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male

New Queer Cinema

White, Minor

Halston (Roy Halston Frowick)


Winfield, Paul

McDowall, Roddy
McDowall, Roddy

Cadinot, Jean-Daniel
Cadinot, Jean-Daniel


   Related Entries
arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

arts >> Overview:  Comedy: Stand-Up, Lesbian

Lesbian stand-up comedy provides an excellent example of how comedy can foster social and political awareness in both minority and mainstream communities.

literature >> Overview:  Political Blogs

The explosion of political blogs has served to multiply greatly the number of voices    participating in glbtq activism and to expedite the transmission of political information to glbtq communities.

arts >> Biren, Joan Elizabeth (JEB)

During the 1970s and 1980s, the photographs of Joan Elizabeth Biren, better known as JEB, defined and set the standard for lesbian feminist image making in the United States.

arts >> DeCaro, Frank

Funnyman Frank DeCaro has found success both in serious journalism as a fashion writer and editor and in comedy as a writer, performer, and radio talk show host.

arts >> In the Life

America's only nationally broadcast gay and lesbian newsmagazine, In the Life began in 1992 as a variety show, but has since evolved into an acclaimed public-affairs program.

social sciences >> Lyon, Phyllis, (b. 1924) and Del Martin (1921-2008)

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were among the founders of a lesbian liberation movement that developed and enlarged the very definition of lesbianism.

arts >> Sweet Honey in the Rock

An ensemble of Black women singers who are also cultural and political activists, Sweet Honey in the Rock has embraced lesbianism as a life force and given it a voice.

social sciences >> Vaid, Urvashi

Activist Urvashi Vaid has devoted her energies to trying to create a queer liberation movement that would have as its core the liberation of all people.

arts >> Westenhoefer, Suzanne

Out, proud, pretty, and funny, stand-up comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer is also an outspoken supporter of glbtq and feminist causes.


Blakely, Mary Kay. "Kate Clinton on the feminist comedy circuit." Ms. 13 (October 1984): 128.

Buck, Andy. "First Act: News...Gossip...People...Events: Clinton Speaks Out." InTheater 74 (February 22, 1999): 7

Willis, Julia. "Studying Our Kate-Chism." Lambda Book Report 6.12 (July 10, 1998): 6.


    Citation Information
    Author: Wacker, Kelly A.  
    Entry Title: Clinton, Kate  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 17, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.