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Comedy: Stand-Up, Lesbian  
page: 1  2  3  4  

Kate Clinton

Kate Clinton began doing stand-up comedy in 1981, always as an out lesbian. Born in upstate New York to a middle class, white family, Clinton gathers material from her own 1960s Catholic girlhood, from the queer community itself (she called the 1990s focus on gay marriage "mad vow disease"), and from current political events.

One of the most topical of the well-known lesbian comics, Clinton keeps her act up to the political moment and skewers the establishment in shows with titles like "Out Is In," and "Correct Me if I'm Right."

Clinton has not focused her career on the hard-edged nightclub side of stand-up comedy, preferring instead to perform at festivals and university venues, where she is welcomed by both lesbian and mixed left-wing audiences.

Clinton's savvy humor also brings her frequently before mainstream audiences. She worked for a time as a writer on ABC's popular Rosie O'Donnell Show and has appeared as a comic and a commentator on Arsenio Hall, Nightline, and Good Morning America. She also appears regularly on the PBS gay news show In the Life.

Lea DeLaria

In contrast to Clinton, with her sharply satiric wit and well-scrubbed appearance, Lea DeLaria is most often described by reviewers as "a big, butch dyke." Loud and raunchy, DeLaria made her name in stand-up comedy with her over-the-top delivery and her apparent willingness to offend everyone. She mortified some conservative lesbians at the 1992 Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, D.C. when she referred to Hillary Clinton as "a first lady you could fuck."

Although she began her act in 1981, performing in San Francisco comedy clubs as a brashly out lesbian, she did not come out to her own parents until six years later. DeLaria's first loves are singing and acting, and her success in stand-up comedy has led her to film and television appearances, including cameos in the movie The First Wives Club (1996) and the television situation comedy Friends.

She played a major role in the feature film Edge of Seventeen (1998). She exercised her acting skills still further to play a straight woman in the 1997 Broadway revival of Leonard Bernstein's musical On the Town, where she received rave reviews for her acting, singing, and dancing.

Ellen DeGeneres

Probably the most famous lesbian comic in the straight world is Ellen DeGeneres. DeGeneres began her career as a stand-up comic in the 1970s. With dead-on timing and an appealing accessibility, she performed her wonderfully loopy routine in comedy clubs and television specials until 1994, when she was offered her own situation comedy on network television.

Although many lesbians in her audiences had their suspicions about her sexuality, DeGeneres was never out either doing stand-up comedy or in the first two years of her ABC show.

Ellen was an uneven comedy with a funny, but strangely sexless heroine--until the third season. After a long buildup of hints and clues, the show's heroine Ellen Morgan came out as a lesbian on April 30, 1997 in an hour-long special that was watched by 45 million viewers.

Although many lesbians and gay men were thrilled with the first lesbian situation comedy, others criticized the white-bread conservatism of the show. The network, however, considered the comedy just too controversial and its heroine and star "too gay." Citing poor ratings, ABC canceled it suddenly at the end of the third season.

After a break to recover from the disappointment of the cancellation, DeGeneres has returned to stand-up comedy. Her act is still both sharp and silly, full of the comic's trademark long and hilariously rambling stories, and it now contains an honesty it lacked before, since it includes jokes about her life as a lesbian.

As a visible role model, however, DeGeneres has become an icon to young, mostly white, lesbian audiences; and some critics claim that this adoration from the audience has had the effect of blunting the edge of the comic's stand-up routine.

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