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Suzanne Westenhoefer - 20 Years, 20 Questions!

Suzanne Westenhoefer - 20 Years, 20 Questions!

SheWired recently chatted with Westenhoefer about her 20-year tenure in the entertainment industry, realizing her potential as a gay woman in a straight world, Miley, Britney, Lindsay and the realization that she [Westenhoefer] simply does not have any boundaries whatsoever. We asked the funny gal 20 questions for each year in the biz. Here are her answers.

It’s been 20 years since comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer first popped onto our comedy stages and television screens with her outrageously relatable candor and humor. A successful career comprised of multiple sold-out cross-country tours, Sweet Cruise and Club Skirts The Dinah appearances and Late Show with David Letterman stints followed filling in the 36-year-old’s career with gusto. Currently starring in the hugely-popular web series We Have to Stop Now (also starring Cathy DeBuono, Jill Bennett and guest star Meredith Baxter), Westenhoefer is living the good life…minus that perm she sported back in the 1980’s.

SheWired recently chatted with Westenhoefer about her 20-year tenure in the entertainment industry, realizing her potential as a gay woman in a straight world, Miley, Britney, Lindsay and the realization that she [Westenhoefer] simply does not have any boundaries whatsoever. We asked the funny gal 20 questions for each year in the biz. Here are her answers.

1. Do you feel like there is more of a responsibility on your shoulders now that you have become a fixture in the entertainment industry as opposed to when you were first starting out and had relative obscurity? If yes, can you provide us with an example?

I felt the responsibility much more in the beginning. There were so few open gay (especially lesbian) voices. Everyone looked to me to be PERFECT AND NOT UPSET THE HETEROS.....which was crazy for a long time. Now it's old hat and the expectation is just to be very funny. So I work on that. 

2. Knowing what you know now about comedy, fame and life in general, would you still have taken that dare to perform stand-up for the first time if you were given the opportunity to go back and do it again?

Not only would I have done it, but I would have done it earlier if I could’ve. It's the best thing that I do -next to practicing Buddhism.

3. Was there a fashion fad you donned onstage in the early days that you wish you could go back and erase from memory and photographic evidence?

Um....the spiral perm. I didn't let it go until 1999! I HELD on to that look. It was bad - painfully bad. I miss the all the hair scrunchies though.

4. What was the seediest place you’ve ever played? Tell us about it.

Pete's Waterfront Ale House in Brooklyn, New York.  The crowd was comprised of basically straight Mafia boys.  In Brooklyn. On the waterfront in the early 1990's. If you have seen any Martin Scorsese movie you know what I am talking about. It's a miracle Joe Pesci didn't beat someone to death during my four minutes.

5. How has your comedy style changed in the past 20 years?

I don't know what my comedy style is and I can never explain it, so I am not sure if it has changed. I DO know I tried VERY hard not to curse in the early years because I didn't want them to be able to say that that was why they didn't hire me. I wanted them to have to say it was because I was gay. Now, I curse. I do it to honor my sweet, but foulmouthed grandfather whom I was very close to. That is my story. 

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6. If you were to write a book about the past 20 years, what would you call it and why?

Book titles are the hardest thing to create! I think if I had the title, I could probably write the book. I would want to call it, "Yes I do remember you from high school and you were horrible to me".  However, that doesn't really sound like a best seller.

7. If we had a camera crew follow you around 10 years ago, what would we have witnessed upon review of the footage?

Severe co-dependence and inappropriate laughter.

8. Same question, but now instead of 10 years ago, how about one week ago?

Copious weeping and all of the above.

9. In 2006, you served as a panelist on the Game Show Network’s I’ve Got a Secret. Mind telling us one of yours?

I do not have secrets. It's is apparently because I have no boundaries. If you are friends with me or are in my life, YOU have no secrets either. That is how I think of stuff to talk about on stage. 

10. You are currently touring with your new stand-up show Totally Inappropriate. Over the past 20 years, can you recall a time when you were asked on the record about something totally inappropriate? How did you respond?

Years ago a reporter from a gay paper tried to get me into a fight of words with Lea Delaria. It was awful. She tried to bait me and get me to comment about things I didn't know the first thing about. Lea and I are friends so it was horrible. I was so new and I felt like I was being attacked. That sort of thing happens now and again and it is my least favorite thing about this world. Trying to start trouble? Isn't there enough [trouble] just on its own?

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11. Do you consider yourself a rule-breaker or follower? How has this served your career in comedy over the years?

I’m a rule breaker but I need everyone else to follow ALL the rules. This may be a problem. I try not to dwell on it.

12. Without mentioning names, was there ever a time when you wished one of your comrades on the comedy circuit would come out of the closet? How did you handle it?

MANY. It took a long time for many of the women who are out now to be out in their act. I am so glad everyone is out now.

13. Speaking of names, did anyone ever attempt to make you change your last name when you were starting out in the business? If not, can you tell us as a consolation prize what your stripper name would be?

No one, not even I, thought I was going to make a living in comedy so no one thought about changing my name.  We are all surprised. My stripper name is the worst: Tiger Third. When you grow up [being] poor the street names are crappy.

14. How have your girlfriends responded to your tell-it-like-it-is banter onstage? Did you ever feel as though you needed to edit yourself or were you always given free reign over your material?

I have to edit myself on occasion and I hate it. It doesn't last. If I can't say what I need to say then there is no relationship. Anyone close to me knows me and understands what I am about. They know I don't have evil or cruelty inside of me. It is all for fun and comedy.

15. We all have a “pinch me” moment in our lives and/or career (some of us have many). Over the past 20 years, what have been some of your favorite “pinch me” moments?

Years ago, I performed at Yankee Stadium during the closing ceremonies of the Gay Games in New York City.  I was on the Jumbo-tron like a huge rock star. Comics do not get that often. It was magical. Meeting Martina [Navratilova] and having her know who I was because she had seen me and heard me talk about her. Oh yeah. That was THE moment. Yummy.

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16. Do you have a favorite heckler story to share?

I hate heckling. I absolutely hate when people yell out. I am not good at it and it always makes me want to have a paintball gun in my hand and say, “Shut up people, I am working here!” 

17. You have been in the business long enough to see all of the careers of the Mickey Mouse Club kids bloom, doom and resurface (this is, in fact, a compliment aimed at you). Do you have any advice for Lindsay or Miley?

Miley is going to be huge and fine. She has strong friends and family. Lindsey has already crashed and burned so often. It's very sad to me. I still miss the old Britney. I am a huge pop music whore.

18. Social media was certainly not around when you were making the rounds as a twenty-something on the comedy scene. How has your career changed with social media in the mix?

Social media is astonishing. People find you and say anything they want. It's crazy and fun and horrible all at the same time. I love connecting with people who like my work, but I do not like connecting with people who do not. THAT is the problem. There should be a filter that can get rid of anyone who doesn't love you completely.  Hey, I would totally want that in life too.

19. Web series were not as prevalent as they appear to be now with the Webby Awards, etc. You star in the hilarious web series We Have to Stop Now with Cathy DeBuono, Jill Bennett and newly-out Meredith Baxter. What will season three hold for you gals?

My goal in season three is to make out with Meredith [Baxter]. I have already been begging the writers to find a way [to make it happen]. Everyone else's goal just seems to be funny and entertaining storylines. Whatever…

20. 20 years from now, where will we see you? Is there a Vegas stint at Caesar’s Palace in your future?

20 years from now, in all honesty, I hope they are making a documentary about me like they did this year about Joan Rivers. A documentary that shows that I never want to stop, that I love it [comedy] so much and that I was always trying to be the funniest one in the room. I have the best job in the world.  

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Sarah Toce