AE: Did you get your full frontal on?
GJ: Every single time I got a script, I’m looking for that frontal nudity shot.
AE: And it never came.
GJ: Yes, exactly. I am the only female actress on Deadwood that never took her pants off.
AE: Are you disappointed?
GJ: I was disappointed. Every script I got: Where is that sexual simulation?
AE: You should have just randomly taken your shirt off in the middle of a scene.
GJ: You know what? I should have.
AE: Your entire journey in show biz started with stand-up comedy. How did that come about?
GJ: After my third year in college, my special ed gap was really closing in on me; I was flunking Algebra and Anatomy and Physiology. The AP instructor was really upset with me because I think I dropped a skull in lab. I mean, can you imagine me on CSI? “Oops! Sorry!”
AE: [laughs] There’s a sitcom waiting to happen.
GJ: Well, my friend Alex, who’s blind, said, “Why don’t you do stand-up comedy? I go to the Comedy Store every week and tell blind jokes.”
I didn’t know anything about stand-up comedy, so I said, “What do I do? How do I do it?” Alex told me to tell jokes about CP, and also integrate them with what’s hot at the time. He said, “You have to have the audience relate to you. If you do just CP material, you’ll lose a lot of people. So you’ve got to read the newspapers.”
It was 1978. The hottest topic in all the papers was Anita Bryant [and her anti-gay crusade.] So, the first line out of my mouth was, “You’ve heard a lot lately about gays coming out of the closet. But what you probably haven’t heard about are all the cerebral palsy people coming out of the closet. But don’t tell anybody that I have cerebral palsy, OK?”
AE: [laughs] So basically, you went into comedy to get out of going to college.
GJ: Looking back 30 odd years later, I’m stunned that I even had the courage.
AE: Let’s see. Stand-up to a wildly successful network TV show, to writing books and advocating for people with disabilities, to an HBO series. Courage sounds like just the tip of the Geri Jewell iceberg.
GJ: I believe that my success partially had to do with the theory of the bumblebee. Have you ever heard that before?
GJ: The theory of the bumblebee is that, scientifically and technically, a bumblebee’s body weight is too heavy to fly with those tiny little wings. But the bumblebee doesn’t know any different. So he flies away.