According to out comedian Julie Goldman, performing on an Olivia cruise isn’t all fun and games; it’s hard work keeping 1,500 vacationing women laughing. “It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s tough, though, lesbians can either be incredibly supportive and fun, or they can be a tough nut to crack.”
But Goldman is no stranger to winning over tough audiences — gay and straight alike — and her successful stand-up career and roles in The D Word and Mom have led to her most recent gig on The Big Gay Sketch Show, which airs on Logo, AfterEllen.com’s parent company. Goldman has been performing stand-up comedy since she was 15 years old, and for her, being a part of the show was a dream come true.
The series began its six-episode run last week, and Goldman promises all kinds of entertaining insanity, from pop-culture parodies to wacky recurring characters — all with an LGBT slant. “It was awesome!” Goldman said of the experience working on the show. “To be able to do a sketch comedy show that had this perspective was like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening!’ We’re able to actually do these jokes and not be the brunt of the joke anymore, which is amazing.”
Far from being the brunt of a joke, Goldman makes great use of gay material in her stand-up act. “I talk about my relationship and my wedding and my family and political stuff,” she said. “And even everyday stuff to me is viewed through the perspective that I have that is being gay. That’s what really compelled me to do comedy, in that it’s kind of where I’m coming from. So everything is peppered by a sort of lesbianic flair, if you will.”
The comedian got her start at a very early age, beginning with improv in junior high and moving on to stand-up at Boston’s Comedy Connection at age 15. After perfecting her skills in college and moving to New York, she started moving up in the comedy world. “By performing here and meeting people, I hooked up with my first booking agents, and, just from there, it started snowballing,” she explained.
A veteran of the often fickle and always tough to navigate world of stand-up, Goldman offered some advice to comics just getting their start: “I would say just stick to your guns in what you want to do, don’t give up, and keep moving forward. A lot of people are going to tell you a lot of things, and you just have to filter out the bulls—.”
She added: “And just be comfortable, and be confident. Because when you’re comfortable and confident, the audience can see that. When you’re [not], that’s when you choke.”
Goldman is a big believer in the power of comedy as a tool for communicating and equalizing. By performing for straight or mixed crowds, she feels that she’s found a kind of heartening power in the ability to cross barriers and allow people to lighten up about issues they may be uncomfortable with. “I found personally that doing shows for straight or mixed crowds, or crowds that I thought would not like me … to be able to win them over and [they’ll] be like, ‘Wow, I really relate to that,’ is really something,” she said.
“Just the other day,” she continued, “I got an email from a kid at a college I [performed at] saying, ‘I’m not gay, but I’m gay-friendly, and I just really relate to being an outsider. I’m a fat guy; I know what it’s like!’ And it’s like yeah, we’re all living the same life; it’s just that some people are too scared to realize it. But it is cool to do comedy and get people to sort of open up about things.”
The performer has noticed a sea change in the past few years on that front, especially in gay audiences, a progression she attributes to the political climate. “People are really responding well [to the act], and I think people are just changing a little bit and opening up a little bit more,” she said. “I think politically, people are really tired of bulls—.”
Specifically speaking about the LGBT population, she said: “I think in some ways, this president and this atmosphere we’re living in has really riled people up the last couple of years. They’re very tired of it now, where maybe five years ago they would’ve been like, ‘Yeah, its all right. I’m comfortable in my oppression, no problem.'”
Though her onstage persona is entirely out and proud, a younger Goldman struggled with the process of coming out to her family. “At 19, I thought it was going to be the end of the world. I was scared, and it took a lot of years,” she recalled. “And it’s still not ideal for my parents, but I’m really lucky that they’ve been really supportive and totally OK.”
That doesn’t mean that they’ve escaped becoming part of her material, but she keeps all the jokes above the belt. “A huge part of my act right now is about my mother, and this wedding we had a year ago,” Goldman explained. “I talk a lot about my family, and they all have come and seen it, and they love it! I don’t really do anything with real malice, so I think they see that and see the humor in what I’m saying … and I think my mother is really enjoying kind of hearing herself talk.”
Like all stand-up comics, Goldman still has to deal with the occasional nightmare audience. “There have definitely been shows where I’ve had to follow comedians who were [homophobic]. People are used to the gays being the brunt of the joke, you know what I mean? When you go on the show where all the other comics are utilizing that, then people get in that mindset, and when you go up to break that mindset, they’re resistant towards it.”
And when that occurs, she has a valiant attitude about getting through the set. “Just plow through it, and remember that it’s going to be done, and you can go eat!” she advised, and laughed. “There’s really no other way. Once you’re up there, you’re up there, and that’s it. And sometimes you’d be surprised; you think the audience isn’t going to like it and then they do, so you never know.”
It’s safe to say that Goldman’s star is on the rise. In addition to her role on The Big Gay Sketch Show, Goldman’s film Mom, which has been retitled Big Dreams in Little Hope, has just been released on DVD. She is also part of Comedy Central’s stand-up series Live at Gotham, which premieres May 18. Beyond that, the door is wide open.
Find out more about Julie Goldman at www.julie-goldman.com.