It’s been said that women aren’t funny. It’s also been said that lesbians have no sense of humor. If those ridiculous statements were true, stars like Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Kate Clinton, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Michelle Balan and Julie Goldman would all be unemployed. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
With nothing but a brick wall and a mic, future Ellens and Rosies are performing nightly in clubs all across the country. Whether you like smart, observational humor or dark, twisted riffs, there’s a lesbian comic for you.
Here, in alphabetical order, are five lesbian stand-up comics, some you may know, others you may not. There are dozens of hard-working, hilarious women out there who deserve recognition, but due to space limitations, we couldn’t fit them all in. If you have a favorite comic or know an underground sensation in your city, let us know!
Claudia Cogan: "I long to be a modern lesbian pirate"
Claudia Cogan is a native New Yorker with an "award-losing" blog and a loyal and ever-growing fan base. Riffing on everything from being mistaken for Jewish (she’s not), to idiotic temp agency names, to her wistful desire to be a stripper, Cogan brings a wry, snarky sensibility to her act and writing. When she’s not performing in and around New York, Cogan is putting together a tour called Under the Gaydar.
AfterEllen.com: How long have you been doing stand-up?
Claudia Cogan: It’s been almost six years of crafting the yuk yuk. I was already doing improv and sketch and I got the itch to work on my own. My first ever set was at an all-women variety show called Pussy Power. It took place in a sketchy part of town. At least two pimps wandered in, I guess drawn in by the name. Or maybe they just enjoyed Melissa Ferrick covers.
AE: I’d go based on that title, too, but that’s just me. Did that first show go well?
CC: The first joke I told was: "My mom keeps close tabs on me. In fact, she keeps the names of and numbers of all my friends under ‘R’ for ‘Rivals.’" I guess that’s what happens when you write jokes and live at home. It was a shaky beginning, but I felt so good afterwards. I knew I needed more.
AE: It takes a brave soul to do stand-up. Do you ever get heckled?
CC: I never get heckled. No one defies me! [Long silence.] Excuse me while I gulp some more Xanax with this vodka.
AE: Do you think being gay limits a stand-up performer’s audience or opportunities?
CC: It seems like it should, but I don’t come at it from that standpoint. You’re limited by what’s popular and whether you fit into that mold, so that’s why you have to work to make your voice, your offering, invaluable no matter who you are.
Honestly, I couldn’t say what effect is has in the minds of industry. I’ve always been out onstage so I could either attribute any career stalls to homophobia — but more likely [to] the fact that I forgot to send my comedy tape to a manager last week or something dumb like that.
AE: What do you find funny about lesbians?
CC: I think it’s funny and very lesbian that The L Word has a vocal faction of fans that only want Tina and Bette to get back together. The "Tibetters." They’re both still on the show, dating other hot chicks. But leave it to lesbians to get fixated on a couple.
You know, after Alice and Dana broke up, in order for the fans to consider allowing Alice to date other people, I think Dana had to die. That would explain it for me. Although some think Alice should have gone ahead and given Danish one more shot by moving up north to marry the waterfall.
AE: There’s's an idea — a lesbian with water for a partner. Some people think the show could use more diversity anyway.
CC: I also think it’s weird, with our reputation for diverse representation, no butches have produced an exploration of their naughty parts and called it the The Strap-On Monologues yet. It’d be a hit, right?
AE: Sure. Again, I’d go based on the title alone. Maybe that’s a show whose time has come. We’ve come a long way. Why do you think lesbians used to have a stereotype for being humorless?
CC: Because they were too busy generating drama. Hey oh! Seriously, considering most jokes are at the expense of outsiders, like women and gays or any other group that doesn’t happen to be white and male — I’m sure this is setting off bitterness alarms already — and considering how vocal lesbians are, it just makes sense that we’d be the first to point out something is offensive. I think we’re like cultural umpires. "Foul joke!" we cry.
AE: At some point, I think any lesbian stand-up worth her salt gets to work an Olivia Cruise. Would you work on one? Would it be a great gig or a seafaring nightmare?
CC: As most people know, I long to be a modern lesbian pirate. [In a pirate accent] If I could bring my eye patch and an accordion to play me favorite shanties, I would feel right at home on their craft.
AE: Keep talking with that accent and I don’t see how they can resist. What else are you working on besides your pirate-speak?
CC: Something I’m really excited about is a tour that I’m producing that should be underway soon called Under the Gaydar. It’s going to be a showcase for gay and lesbian comics, ones who are not well-known yet but should be. Some fresh faces who could very well be the next generation of gay comedy. If there are AfterEllen.com readers who have a big old venue or college auditorium just waiting for some hilarious gay comics, contact me!
AE: If you weren’t in comedy, what would be your dream job?
CC: Lesbian Recruiter, Department of Gay and Lesbian Affairs, Ipanema office.