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Lesbian Comedian Spotlight: Erin Foley

Lesbian Comedian Spotlight: Erin Foley

Erin Foley's enthusiasm for performing prompted her to create a stand-up show for like-minded individuals: The gays. The openly lesbian comedian began producing Gays R Us, a monthly show at the Hollywood Improv. Foley also opened for iconic stand-up performer Suzanne Westenhoefer, the first comedian to come out on-stage at a straight comedy club.

Erin Foley had just started graduate school when she was first exposed to stand-up comedy on late-night TV. At that moment, a career was born. Moving from the East Coast to L.A., Foley's enthusiasm for performing prompted her to create a stand-up show for like-minded individuals: The gays. That was two years ago when the openly gay comedian began producing Gays R Us, a monthly show at the Hollywood Improv. On top of her regular performances at the Improv and around the city, Foley also had the distinct opportunity to open for iconic stand-up performer Suzanne Westenhoefer, the first comedian to come out on-stage at a straight comedy club.

SheWired recently caught up with Foley during a break filming a pair of pilots for E! to talk Gays R Us (which runs the first Wednesday of every month at the Hollywood Improv), highlights — and lowlights — of her career.

SheWired: How and when did you get your start in stand-up?

Erin Foley: I started performing stand up comedy about 10 years ago in New York City. At the time, I was in an improv comedy troupe, just having fun and mucking around until I started grad school. I never made it to grad school, and I'm still apologizing to my mother. My sister, however, is getting her doctorate in English at Fordham, so it all seems to have worked out!

I was never exposed to stand-up comedy before and began watching shows night after night. Our improv troupe eventually dissolved and I thought I would try my hand at stand-up. I loved the immediacy of it all. I can see something funny at 4 p.m. and share it with everyone later that night. That excitement and energy still keeps me going today.

SheWired: What was touring with Suzanne Westenhoefer like?

Foley: I actually never toured with Suzanne. I opened for her at the Ford Ampitheatre and at Dinah Shore and it was great. She has built up an amazing following and it was a pleasure to perform alongside her. She kicks a lot of comedy ass.

SheWired: How did you get involved with Gays R Us at the Improv? What promoted you to create the event?

Foley: About two years ago, I started producing a monthly show at the Hollywood Improv called Gays R Us. It’s a great show where gay and gay-friendly comics can perform without any inhibitions or restrictions. Not that other shows or clubs have certain restrictions, but it’s nice to have at least a couple of shows where the entire crowd is on the same page. And when I say on the same page, I mean a bunch of gays. I feel very relaxed and free on-stage when I perform at "gay-themed" shows. That being said, I think it’s very important to perform for every type of crowd, not just gay, in order to grow as a comic. I did stand-up comedy for seven years before I “came out” on-stage.

That was simply my path, but it has helped me feel comfortable performing anywhere.

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SheWired: What do you look for in a performer for the Gays R Us shows?

Foley: The only criteria to perform at Gays R Us is to be funny… and gay … and/or a huge fan of gay peeps.

SheWired: Who are your comedic influences?

Foley: My comedic influences are Wanda Sykes, Judy Gold, Maria Bamford, Gilda Radner, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan and Lewis Black. I know there are more, but these comics make me pee my pantaloons.

Wanda Sykes:


Judy Gold: 


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Maria Bamford: 


Gilda Radner:


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SheWired: What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on-stage?

Foley: The worst thing that has ever happened to me on-stage was getting hit by an onion ring in Peoria, Ill. Second place would have to be performing stand up during lunch time at a couple of colleges. Brutal. Just brutal.


SheWired: What other projects are you currently working on?

Foley: I just shot two comedy pilots for the E! Network. I’m hoping one of them will get picked up so I have a job in the fall!

SheWired: What's been the highlight of your stand-up career thus far?

Foley: The highlight of my stand-up comedy career was taping my first stand-up comedy special on Comedy Central last year. Having my own Comedy Central Presents show was a goal of mine since I started. It was extra special because we taped the show in New York City so my family and friends were in the crowd. It was super dreamy.

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SheWired: What will you consider as the pinnacle of your stand-up career?

Foley: I’m not sure if there is a pinnacle because the ultimate goal for stand-up comics is to keep performing until you lose your teeth. I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall. I would also love to run a comedy show at the senior center when I’m 85.


SheWired: Do you feel it's harder for lesbians to succeed in the stand-up comedy world? Why/why not?

Foley: It’s going to be harder to succeed in the comedy world if you’re a woman, period. I don’t know if it’s harder if you’re gay, I guess some could argue that point. But at the end of the day, being gay is just a part of who I am, just a part of what I talk about on-stage, so I don’t feel like it has held me back in any way. In my book, funny is funny and you just need to focus on that. Write what truly makes you laugh and it will work. Of course, red wine always helps.

For more information about Erin Foley, visit her blog, and keep track of her on Facebook.

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Lesley Goldberg