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Lesbian Comedy Spotlight: Fortune Feimster

Lesbian Comedy Spotlight: Fortune Feimster

Fortune Feimster has a Southern charm that’s evident from the moment you meet her — and not just because she’s been going to Hooters for family dinners since age 10. A regular in the LA comedy scene, she mocks what she knows, taking shots at her beloved mother and riffs on her sexual orientation. SheWired grilled her about what auditioning for Saturday Night Live was like.

Fortune Feimster has a natural Southern charm that’s evident from the moment you meet her — and it’s not just because she’s been going to Hooters for family dinners since she was 10. The out stand-up comic has embraced her background and unique comedy style to become a regular on the L.A. comedy scene where she often mocks what she knows — taking shots at her beloved mother and riffs on her sexual orientation. SheWired.com caught up with Feimster before she took the stage at the Comedy Store and grilled her about when she knew she wanted to be a comic, the differences between stand-up and improv comedy and what auditioning for Saturday Night Live was like.

SheWired.com: When did you know you wanted to be a comedian?

Fortune Feimster: In high school, I used to watch Saturday Night Live all the time and my friends and I would always imitate Molly Shannon. I did an impression of Mary Katherine Gallagher for this talent show at my high school. I just remember people really laughing and having a great feeling about it. I never really thought that there was a possibly that I could do that for a living.

SW: When was the first minute you realized that stand-up comedy was something you could be doing full-time?

Feimster: I remember when I was taking classes at Groundlings, I really wasn’t getting to perform, so I started this improv group with some friends I met in class called Gas Money and we started doing all these improv shows around town and people were responding really well. The more feedback I got, the more I thought, “Oh wow, this is really cool. I think there’s a way to make a living at this.” It’s just such a process to be able to be a professional at it. And I’m still in that process, but I think when I started stand-up particularly was when I realized that this is something I wanted to do forever because it’s just you and the microphone and you get to tell your stories. It’s just such a cool thing to make a whole room full of people laugh.

SW: Which do you think is harder, stand-up or improv?

Feimster: Everyone says stand-up, but I think improv. I think I’m just suited more for stand-up because I look different and I sound different, so it’s hard for me to disappear into a character in improve or in a sketch because you can always see parts of Fortune and you can always hear my accent and see my sensibility. I can only pass for certain characters. But in stand-up, I can be myself. I’m Southern and so many of us are just natural storytellers. I grew up around people telling stories all the time so you just kind of pick that up. So when I get on stage and do stand-up it seems like a natural thing.

Watch Fortune's Video from The Comedy Store

SW: You have so many great improv characters that are based on your own life — like your impression of your mom. What does she think of that?

Feimster: Oh gosh! (Laughs.) My mom already told me she wanted me to go to grad school and be the academic person of the family, but she supports me no matter what. She came out this summer and saw me perform for the first time and she really liked it and got to see that it’s something I’m really good at. People asked me if I was going to do all my impressions of my mom with her sitting right in front of me, and I was like, “Yeah! It’s even better!” It was awesome because she just sat there and laughed at every story I told about her. But yes, she provides me with so much comedy — in stand-up and in sketch. She’s just a relatable mom.

Watch Fortune's Richard Simmons vs Cake Video

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SW: What did she think of the lesbian humor in your act?

Feimster: (Laughs.) She couldn’t be more open and supportive about my being gay. My whole family is so accepting of it. She doesn’t even flinch if I talk about anything that has to do with lesbians or gay stuff, she just doesn’t like it when I cuss! (Laughs.) She doesn’t like it when I’m dirty; it has nothing to do with sexuality. If I tell a gay story, she doesn’t mind. If I say “shit” she’ll be like (in character): “What! Stop it!” (Laughs.)

SW: One of my favorite clips of yours is you on your first lesbian date. Was that based on an actual experience you had?

Feimster: The Gay Date thing? (Laughs.) I did that for my lab show at the Groundlings; it was the very first monologue I ever wrote. I like to think I’m not as weird or as awkward as that character, but some women might disagree! It kind of was based on the first official date I went on with a woman. I did that whole online thing and I met this girl from the site and I was terrified. I’d never gone on a date before with a woman and I remember spilling my coffee and being so awkward and not knowing what to say. So I took that experience and heightened it by 100. I kept thinking about the words “gay date” and it made me laugh.

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SW: You auditioned last year for Lorne Michaels to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. What was that audition like?

Feimster: Obviously that’s the most amazing thing I’ve gotten to do in my comedy career so far because as a comedian, that’s the Mecca of comedy. That’s like going to Oz. I had to be on a plane that night and had to audition the next day in New York. I had less than 24 hours to prepare and it really is a testament to all the training we do out here — the classes, the Groundlings, the Comedy Store — you do all these shows, you don’t get paid for them, but when an opportunity like this comes, and you only get 24 hours notice, all that training and all that preparation kicks in and you go out there and do your thing. It was really awesome to go out there and be on that stage and make Lorne Michaels laugh. I knew even if I didn’t get it, just to be on that stage and see him laugh at my jokes was well worth the experience.

SW: Did you do any of your gay material for him?

Feimster: I did not. But I only have gay material really in stand-up and I performed all characters. I haven’t actually created a gay character besides “Gay Date” but that’s more of a monologue. For my audition, I did all characters I created at the Groundlings and sketch shows and a lot of them were on YouTube and I had wigs and costumes and existing dialogue. Even though I didn’t have any gay characters, when the possibility of me being on Saturday Night Live existed, I thought abut the fact that there aren’t any openly gay cast members and I don’t think there’s been one since the ’80s. I don’t know if there are people who are gay or who are in the closet, but I thought about the possibility of me being on that. That was one thing that I thought would be really cool: to be an openly gay cast member. That could have been something that really would mean a lot not only to me but also to the community. To see someone who’s gay on a show like that, that’s so beloved by so many people. It’s like what Ellen DeGeneres does: to normalize it. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not, as long as you’re funny, people are going to laugh. That opportunity didn’t happen with Saturday Night Live, but I certainly hope it does happen in the future; if not there, then somewhere else.

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SW: Did you do Darlene Witherspoon for him?

Feimster: I did! That was the last thing I did! Actually, under my regular clothes (during the audition), I put on my Hooters outfit. I thought if anything, by the end of my audition, if I take off the top layer of my clothes and they see this Hooters outfit, they would at least remember that. Just seeing this really big girl in a tiny Hooters outfit meant for these tiny women? I just think it’s funny no matter who you are; you can’t help but laugh at that.

SW: I laugh every time I see Darlene.

Feimster: My family has been eating at Hooters since I was like 10; we just have a big family. I have two brothers and it was just always a really easy place to go and just order a big thing of wings and my whole family went. It’s such a normal thing for me, so I get to pay homage to a place that has been a family tradition!

SW: Last question: If you couldn’t be a comic, what would your day job be?

Feimster: In a fantasy world, every comic wants to be a rock star. If I could play any kind of instrument or sing or if I was hot, I would probably be a rock star. But since I don’t have any of those things, I am a comedian!

Catch Fortune Feimster Fridays at the Comedy Store and Sundays at the Groundlings in Los Angeles. Become a fan on Facebook and keep tabs on her latest viral videos at youtube.com/funnyfortune.

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Lesley Goldberg