Acclaimed comedienne and burlesque performer Scout Durwood is your next big crush. Not only was she named one of The Huffington Post’s “20 Burlesque Stars to Know,” but she’s a Moth Story Slam Champion and her work has been featured on The Mindy Project. As if being multi-talented weren’t enough this self-identified “full on homo” is also all kinds of hot.
Last week Durwood premiered her “Lesbian First Date” video and we knew we had to chat with her. She talked with us about what makes lesbians mockable, the difference between stand-up and storytelling and her appearance on A Shot At Love.
Photo by Georges Schemagin
AfterEllen.com: Who are your comedic influences?
Scout Durwood: I grew up on my dad doing a steady impression of Steve Martin, which I actually thought was his original material until I grew up and saw the movies for myself. Gilda Radner has been huge for me because she is so unapologetically silly, and Katharine Hepburn for wearing pants and speaking with a ridiculous accent. I do a lot of both. I have something of an old comedy soul, I think, and by old I don’t mean over 30 (showbiz) I mean like a cool vintage hat. Most of the things I love in life were invented before the internet.
AE: Your newest video seems to draw from experience. What exactly inspired it?
SD: “Lesbian First Date” was a collaboration with Kristin Key and Romi Barta for the CBS Diversity Showcase. We felt that the lady-gays weren’t represented in the material that was being accepted into the show, so we hunkered down and tried to put as many lesbian stereotypes as we could into a single sketch. Et voila! The first lesbian themed sketch to make it to showcase in its nine year existence. If I identify with anyone in that video, it is hands down “Lesbian Pam.” I have a propensity for singing at inappropriate times and for hitting on my exes.
AE: Why do you think lesbians move so quickly?
SD: Girl, have you ever seen a woman? We are beautiful, beautiful creatures! How could anyone stay away? I have no idea, honestly. When I lived in NYC, I assumed it was just to save money on rent, but now that I’m in LA where land is cheap, I guess it’s just women’s nature.
AE: What are the most easily mockable lesbian traits?
SD: Ugh. I love me some lesbians, but we need to work on expanding our sense of humor department. Whatever our most mockable traits are, you best watch your step if you’re making fun of them to our faces. We social working, three legged dog adopting, talk about our feelings with an acoustic guitar ladies who date ladies are super sensitive. Also, cargo shorts, sensible shoes and gluten intolerance.
Photo by Brian Janes
AE: How do you identify?
SD: A lot of people assume I am bi, because I tend to blur that line onstage. I am, in fact, full homo, though I do admit to having experimented with men briefly in my early to mid twenties on a backpacking trip through Belize. I like to think of those as my “who wouldn’t I sleep with” years, which were as overrated as they were short-lived. My lesbian identity is a huge part of how I see myself, but I am never offended by anyone’s assumptions. Kind of like how when I called myself a vegetarian but still ate fish, some people were like, “then you’re a pescaterrian,” and I was like, “whatever helps you sleep at night, Mom.”
AE: Why do you think lesbians tend to be suspicious of/avoid bisexuals?
SD: Sexuality is fluid, for sure, but a lot of bi girls I know are straight up flakey. Bisexuality, especially for women, just feels a little too “look at me” and, as a lesbian, I get huffy when I feel like my sexuality is being objectified for the benefit of others, especially for men, and especially when I’m not the one doing it, myself. At its core, I think hating on the bi-crowd it’s just the gay community trying to protect itself. Whose buddy didn’t get her heart broken in college by some girl on the volleyball team who was “experimenting?”
AE: What drew you to burlesque?
SD: I am a super physical comedienne who can sing and have a general irreverence to social boundaries. Je suis burlesque. Burlesque is insanely fun, and one of the most lady-positive spaces out there. Part of the draw for me was an opportunity to be goofy, which doesn’t always read in the stand up world. Comedy writing is about making people laugh with your words, but in burlesque, you get to use your entire body. Your. Entire. Body.
AE: Any positive/negative/awkward experiences you can share?
SD: Nah. Who would hate on me? I’ve always said the only thing more intimidating than a naked woman is a naked woman who can talk, and if there is one thing I have been doing all my life in gluttonous excess, it is talk. If anything, being boldly under-clothed has helped me command respect from an audience. It knocks people off center to see a woman who is naked, well-spoken, and funny. My mom hates it, but I chalk it up to generational differences. She grew up Catholic. That said, I keep my clothes on a lot more these days, especially in LA where nudity doesn’t have the playful framework it had in NYC. New York has so many different contexts for nudity—performance art, burlesque, shock comedy—but LA pretty much assumes anyone who disrobes is a full time stripper for hire.
AE: How does writing for a reading series like The Moth differ from writing standup?
SD: Stand up is all about the funny. Storytelling requires heart. That said, I think all of the best stand up has heart and all of the best storytelling has humor, so they are closely related. Stand up requires an extremely intimate relationship with an audience; they have a lot of say in what plays or not. Comedy is giving, which requires of a comedienne to know what an audience is in the mood to receive. Storytelling gets to be quieter, more intellectual, more pre-conceived. I wear my glasses when I tell stories. I don’t when I do stand up.
AE: Can you take us through the process of developing a comedy bit from inspiration to finished product?
SD: Oy. Trial and error and blinding repetition. My songs tend to be slightly more pre-meditated (duh, there’s a chord progression) but stand up bits can come up naturally in conversation, or as an afterthought to something else and then get workshopped over time until they find their more permanent home in my act. Stand up always has some wiggle room, though, so it is difficult to say that anything is ever “finished.” I’ve had jokes go to sleep for years and then re-surface in something entirely unrelated as a side note.
AE: As a female standup, how is your experience unique?
SD: Boy humor is EVERYWHERE! This is an extremely prolific time for female comediennes, especially in television, but it still feels very much like a boys’ club that you have to fight your way into. I have a lot of female comedienne allies, and that helps. Sometimes, though, I’ll be on a line up of a bunch of guys in gross t-shirts with greasy hair and glasses, making obscure comic book references and talking about their wieners, and here I am wearing a tasteful gown and tiara, singing songs about white wine and glitter, and it feels like we live in two completely different worlds. Meh, we probably do.
AE: Rape jokes. Weigh in.
SD: I am 134 lbs against rape jokes, which is all the weighing in I have to do right now. Nothing is off the table in comedy, I get it, but it almost feels like men right now are trying to “take back” their ability to make fun of rape from women who have fought so hard to get serious recognition for the issue. Funny is funny, and if you can pull off a killer joke about rape, more power to ya, but even the most irreverent comedian has to be aware of the world he or she is aspiring to create.
AE: How did you get involved with The Mindy Project and what was your experience like there?
SD: I been going up for various roles on The Mindy Project since it was a pilot, and finally ended up cast as Dr. Zandra Fiore, gynecologist. It was an insanely good time: totally supportive and a very carefully and thoughtfully crafted script, which makes it such a haven for performers. Also, there was an ice cream truck one day on set, and that made my damn week. Done.
AE: You were once on the bisexual dating series A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. Can you talk about that?
SD: I was the first person eliminated. I speak of it rarely, as it is very embarrassing, but I suppose I could have done worse things when I was young and needed the money. Maybe even something that paid. At the time I justified it as being a feminist thing that a lesbian could finally sleep her way to the top, because before that had always been pretty much a straight girl thing. Then I realized it was a reality show, so at best it was going to be sleeping my way to the middle… maybe even the top of the lower third.
AE: Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
SD: I’d like to be doing exactly what I’m doing, only bigger, better, sparklier and on a larger stage. I’m lucky to get to work a little bit in so many worlds from film and TV to stand up and storytelling. I’d like to be doing all of that and also have dental insurance.