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Westenhoefer, Suzanne (b. 1961)  
 
page: 1  2  

Westenhoefer's next project was the independent feature film A Family Affair (2001, directed by Helen Lesnick). Although the film has a lesbian theme, Westenhoefer, apparently still plagued by not looking enough like a lesbian, played a lesbian's straight sister.

The casting decision provided the grist for one of the pieces on her third comedy album, Guaranteed Fresh (2003). In his review of the disk, Bruce C. Steele commented on Westenhoefer's appeal: "Her humor comes not from an off-kilter persona, elaborate set-ups, or shock value, but an understanding of the intense silliness of everyday life."

Sponsor Message.

Television Appearances

From early in her career, Westenhoefer has had an impressive list of appearances on cable television, including stand-up performances on Comedy Central, Evening at the Improv, Caroline's Comedy Hour, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, and The Jon Stewart Show, but network television was slow in recognizing her.

Her first appearance on network TV came in March 2003 when she was a guest on the David Letterman Show. It was a first for Letterman as well: no out lesbian comic had been invited before, nor had any openly gay man.

The man in charge of booking comedians for Letterman had been trying for two years to convince executives to invite her on the show, and when the call finally came, she saw it as both an opportunity and a responsibility. "I felt the need to do really well because I was speaking--and hopefully opening doors--for lots of gay folks," she stated. "I was also scared because I am female. Watch TV; not too many chicks [are] getting the opportunity to do stand-up either."

Westenhoefer noted a bizarre parallel between the boosts to her career by her appearances on Raphael and Letterman: the former occurred the day before the start of the Gulf War, and the latter took place on the eve of the war with Iraq. "Two big milestones of my career, and a Bush goes into Iraq and attacks. There's something creepy about it."

Westenhoefer was one of four lesbian comedians--Kate Clinton, Marga Gómez, and Karen Williams were the others--profiled in Andrea Meyerson's 2004 film Laughing Matters. The documentary included interviews with the women as well as segments from their stage shows.

In 2006, Westenhoefer returned to cable television as a panelist on the Game Show Network's revival of I've Got a Secret, a long-running show of the 1950s and 1960s. Joining her on the all-gay panel of the new edition were radio host Frank DeCaro, actor and dancer Jermaine Taylor, and former major-league baseball player Billy Bean.

Activism

Women's and glbtq rights are important causes to Westenhoefer. She is a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. When she became pregnant at sixteen, she had an abortion and feels "extremely fortunate that the choice was available" so that she was able to escape the difficult situation of many girls in her hometown who were "pregnant at 16 or 17, married, [and] divorced by the time they [were] 20."

In retrospect, she also realizes that once she recognized her lesbianism, she would have met with societal disapproval and possibly have been declared an unfit mother, given the atmosphere of the time and place.

Westenhoefer is strongly committed to the glbtq community. She works numerous benefit appearances into her busy schedule of around one hundred concerts per year and exhorts other to do their part as well: "Host AIDS fundraisers, and breast cancer auctions, and drag queen contests, and drag king contests."

Entertainment critics have noted that Westenhoefer's language is relatively restrained compared to other queer performers such as Margaret Cho and Lea DeLaria. Westenhoefer acknowledges the difference in style, remarking, "I don't want to ever make my audience uncomfortable."

Although Westenhoefer is less aggressively political than some other comedians, she counts herself among "the sacred cow-busters." "Sometimes what comics do is we make jokes to get opinions across to people," she stated. "It's sneaky. We're getting you to see our opinions 'cause you're laughing and you've relaxed, and you don't even realize it."

Westenhoefer wed Jennifer Houston, a marketing executive, on September 9, 2008. The couple chose to set their wedding date before the November election, in which Proposition 8 would be on the ballot in California. Unfortunately, their caution was only too warranted, but because they married in advance of the election, their union is among the approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages legally recognized by the state.

The couple maintains homes in Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California.

Linda Rapp

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    Bibliography
   

Barnes, Steve. "Art Imitates Lie for Comedian Westenhoefer." Times-Union (Albany, N. Y.) (September 18, 1997): 15.

Belge, Kathy. "An Interview with Lesbian Comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer." Lesbian Life (April 2003): http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/subject1/a/westenhoefer.htm

Dalton, Joseph. "Sacred Cow-Buster; Meet Suzanne Westenhoefer, Buttoned-down Lesbian Comic." Times-Union (Albany, N. Y.) (February 6, 2003): 27.

Dietrich, Matthew. "Comic Proves that Times Have Changed." State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.) (March 12, 1998): Entertainment, 23.

Steele, Bruce C. "Fresh Laughs." The Advocate 892 (June 24, 2003): 138.

Turner, Guinevere. "Out for Laughs." The Advocate 730 (April 1, 1997): 65.

Warn, Sarah. "Interview with Suzanne Westenhoefer." AfterEllen.com (March 2003): http://www.afterellen.com/People/suzannew-interview.htm

www.suzannewestenhoefer.com

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Westenhoefer, Suzanne  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated December 12, 2011  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/westenhoefer_s.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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