The 31-year-old stand-up comic and Belmont, N.C. native has gotten herself the sweetest of gigs, as a writer for Chelsea Lately. Feimster says there were many people angling to be on Chelsea Handler’s popular, late-night bitchfest. Luckily, her appearances on NBC’s Last Comic Standing led to Handler and her staff taking a chance on her.
“They had about 400 people apply and I turned in a [writing] packet thinking I wouldn’t have a chance in the world,” says Feimster, on the phone, about to hop on a plane for a stand-up gig in San Francisco.
“And, then, they called me in, like, two months later for a meeting and it went well. Then, two days later, they called me in to meet Chelsea and, the next day, I had the job. So, I was pretty shocked.”
For a curly-haired, openly gay, zaftig gal who is funny but was also an entertainment news writer for the LA Daily News, writing for a pop-culture mocker like Handler is practically a dream job.
“I didn’t realize how much being an entertainment journalist would help out with doing Chelsea Lately, because it’s still pop-culture stuff,” she says. “So, I was very familiar with that world.”
Although she was an entertainment journalist for six years, she also had her foot in the funny, doing sketch comedy and improv with West Coast mainstays the Groundlings at the same time. She’s been doing stand-up for four and a half years.
Feimster caught the comedy bug while attending Peace College in Raleigh.
“I did some acting while I was there,” she says. “I kinda dabbled in improv, but not really. So, when I went to LA, I thought it would be cool to kinda take that back up again and see what it was like as an adult.”
She came up with many characters during her Groundlings time. She even made a YouTube video starring one of them, a portly, Southern-fried Hooters waitress named Darlene Witherspoon, that received more than 300,000 hits. “I’ve been on TV now for a year and a half and, like, I still get the most comments about that YouTube video,” she says.
“And people come up to me, like, quoting lines from it. . . . And some people think it’s a real person. They think that it’s an actual Hooters waitress.”
Feimster had Witherspoon and other characters ready to showcase when she had the opportunity to audition for Saturday Night Live not once, but twice. “It was certainly one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had,” she remembers.
“It’s such an iconic show, and everybody was really nice. Not a lot of comedians can even say that they got to try. So, I was happy just to get the try.”
So, would she consider leaving Chelsea Lately if she was given another shot at being a Not Ready for Prime Time Player?
“There are just so many opportunities at Chelsea Lately and with Chelsea Handler that I feel like the future is really bright there,” Feimster says. “So, I’m kinda content. I’m not really looking to do other things.”
At the moment, she’s also content with doing stand-up, which she’ll be doing as a first-time headliner at Goodnights Comedy Club this Friday. “I consider Raleigh kinda my hometown too,” she says. “So, it’s nice to be in front of a hometown crowd.”
And while Feimster may be known as a lesbian stand-up, she of course would prefer to be known as a stand-up who just happens to be a lesbian.
“Yes, it is a part of who I am, and people do know that I am gay,” she says. “But, luckily, comedy is kinda universal, and when you’re making people laugh, they tend to forget, like, if you’re gay or what race you are or your gender. They just know that you made them laugh. So, that’s kind of cool that comedy is one of the few things that sort of bridge the gap between different kinds of people. But it’s never hindered me and, hopefully, it never will.”
Fortune Feimster performs two sets Friday, Dec. 23, at Goodnights Comedy Club. Here's Feimster as Darlene Witherspoon.
Now, Hodgman has completed his continuously paginated saga of false knowledge with That is All (Dutton, $25), a massive compilation of made-up facts and stories centered around the coming global superpocalypse, Ragnarok, in 2012.
Hodgman will appear at the Durham Armory at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to read from and sign copies of That is All. We were able to get up with him on the road to ask him questions about the reading, his thoughts on Occupy Raleigh and the extremely unsettling mustache he's been sporting for That is All.
Independent: So, the description for the Durham event is a "reading and riffing." That scares the hell out of me. What will this be? Improvising? Do you have a talk or anything?
John Hodgman: Well, usually with book tours, I start by reading passages from the book I think the live audience will enjoy. Gradually, as the experience gets tattooed onto my brain, the book tends to fall aside, and I think by the time I'm in Durham, I will be speaking more or less extemporaneously from the book.
I might talk about sports, and the difference between American football and European football, including the fact that one actually uses a ball, while the other uses something that could only be called a ball by a mentally ill person. I'll also probably touch on how magic tricks are performed, and a reality television show I think is going to be very successful that I have devised, and certainly the coming global superpocalypse, which I refer to as Ragnarok.
Of all the things to latch onto from what you just said, I have to say your reality show is going to have a hard time topping Hillbilly Handfishin', which is sort of a sign of Ragnarok in and of itself.
Are you referring to the ancient art of noodling, or catching a catfish with one's bare hands? That's the ancient battle of man against disgusting mud creature. It taps into that.
Just last night, you did "Money Talks" on The Daily Show, riffing on the Occupy Wall Street movement. You might be interested to know that just 20 miles or so from Durham, there's an Occupy Raleigh movement going on near the State Capitol. Any plans to drop by?
Is this specific to North Carolinian (pronounced "North Caro-LEAN-ian") issues?
There's some overlap with local issues and the broader movement.
I don't know that I'll have time to visit the Occupy movement there in Raleigh. I don't want to make fun of people when I don't know what they look like. That's the thing with the whole Occupy movement—it truly is leaderless and grassroots in every possible way, so even I hesitate to call those people "dirty hippies" as a joke, because there are a lot of people down there who are extremely eccentric, and many who are extremely thoughtful.
There would be a lot of people down there I would agree with tremendously—in or out of character as the "Deranged Millionaire." There's a lot of people I feel are not going to be productive trying to solve our problems with a drum circle.
Speaking generally, I think when it is not violent, which I do not think is productive even as an expression of frustration, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to be happening, and it tests our ability to tolerate ambiguity that we cannot put a particular ideology on it. It's a good challenge for our media and our country to appreciate, that we are not living in a world where politics are right vs. left, like two opposing sports teams.
But I do hope that they are able to take showers before I come to town, because that's just something that I'm not willing to tolerate.
Speaking of the "Deranged Millionaire," of all the things you discuss in your book, the thing that has burned itself most into my brain is the mustache.
Right. I think you put it well. More than anything else, it is an issue. It is troubling to people; it is a subject of debate; it is controversial.
Will you be bringing this mustache to your reading, and what does it say about the mindset of myself and others that the mustache is the first thing that leaps out at people?
Well, I will be bringing the mustache, because it has attached itself to my face. So I have no choice about that. I can reassure the people of Durham that it will not be jumping out at people. It seems to have established a very stable parasitic relationship with my upper lip, and it seems to not be wanting to change hosts. So people should not fear my mustache, or worry that it's going to take over their own upper lips.
So it's a mustache détente, where it's peacefully occupying your face?
In many ways, you're right. The mustache has a lot of similarities to what's going on on Wall Street; it's almost like an outgrowth of the Occupy movement. It is clearly a disruptive presence. It has something to say, and yet precisely what statement it is making is multitudinous and unfathomable.
And I don't quite know what to do about it. I grew it on a whim earlier this year, where it was something that I liked, and yet it is something that causes a lot of discussion. I think that people are unnerved by an otherwise pale and baby-faced human baby walking around with a mustache, and because of its unnatural lustrous dark color. It is jet black with streaks of gray, compared to my otherwise mousy brown, limp hair, and people presume it is fake.
I think people are concerned I'm turning into some kind of creature. You remember the 1980s movie The Fly, when Jeff Goldblum was transforming into the giant fly? His transformation manifested itself in many ways, including large dense coarse hairs growing out of his body. And that is effectively what has happened to me, though what I am becoming remains to be seen.
"Perhaps I was a mustache that dreamed it was a man, and now the dream is over and the mustache is awake."
But now that he’s 36 years old and three years sober, the Jackass crew’s rowdiest, most extreme daredevil has became more serene and cautious these days. (Viewers of the last, cinematic Jackass outing, Jackass 3D, may have noticed how he sat out the more dangerous stunts, but still took in gross ones like drinking a fat guy’s sweat.) But the man is still crazy enough to take on some risk-taking feats, like performing stand-up. This weekend, Steve-O will be the headliner at Goodnights Comedy Club, the latest stop on his “Entirely Too Much Information Tour.”
The Indy spoke with the self-described “distraction therapist” (and former Dancing with the Stars contestant) about his new persona as a stand-up comedian.
The last time you were on tour, nearly a decade ago with “Don’t Try This At Home: The Tour,” it was more of you just doing crazy, hazardous, usually drug and alcohol-induced things onstage. Now that you’re on the wagon, what’s different about this show?
I’ll tell you how it’s the same and how it’s different. Back then, when I was doing that old tour, I promoted each show by promising that I would be drunk and on drugs or your money back. And there was really a lot of emphasis on how wasted I could be, and I’d come out onstage with breaking beers on my head and chugging hard liquor from a bottle. And I would do a lot of drunken rambling and I would do a lot of crazy stunts as well. And, now, I’ve been clean and sober for some time. And what I’ve done with this tour is to replace the rambling with stand-up comedy, and kept the crazy stunts.
And, you know, it’s so rewarding for me. What makes me feel really good is, after my shows, generally someone comes up to me every night and says, “Hey man, your stand-up comedy is really good. You don’t have to hurt yourself anymore.” That really means a lot to hear that.
So, what do you talk about onstage?
Basically, what people are interested in is kind of the way that the notoriety of Jackass has afforded me. Like, how that’s changed my life, I think that’s what people are interested in hearing. And the fact is when you go from being unknown to being known, all of the sudden, you find that the women are a lot more attracted to you. And it’s really pretty hilarious how that’s the case. So, there’s a lot of, like, behind-the-scenes, sort of juicy stuff about my life as a jackass and my love life in particular.
And, you know, the fact is I’m a shameless son of a bitch and there’s nothing too personal to share with an audience. And that’s why it’s a really appropriate name for the tour, because I really just have some really ridiculous personal shit, you know. A lot of it revolves around, you know, the trials and tribulations of my life as a chronic premature ejaculator with a crooked dick, you know. [Laughs]
Steve-O performs tonight through Sunday at Goodnights Comedy Club, 861 W. Morgan St., in Raleigh. For info, call 828-LAFF or go online at www.goodnightscomedy.com.
Salman Rushdie's lecture Tuesday night, at Duke University's Page Auditorium, was technically "sold out," although tickets were free. So it seemed appropriate that Rushdie began his engaging and witty talk, "Public Events, Private Lives: Literature and Politics in the Modern World," the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute's Distinguished Lecture, by talking about Charles Dickens.
As Rushdie recounted for the audience, Dickens was probably the first really famous novelist. In his travels to America, he "perform[ed] greatest hits from his works"—spicing up the act by adopting the different voices of his characters—for packed houses, and was chased down the street by fans. Dickens was the 19th-century prototype for the rock star (and he "invented Christmas," as Rushdie put it, with a wry grin).
Dickens' overexposure also led to his demise, Rushdie said. That may not be quite accurate, historically—although Dickens grew ill during his second American visit, in 1867-68, it wasn't until over a year later that he had a stroke, and another year after that until he died. But it seems plausible that the poor health that befell Dickens during his wintertime American travels weakened him and made him vulnerable to the maladies that finally killed him.
In any case, opening with Dickens was shrewd on Rushdie's part. Without saying so explicitly, Rushdie essentially anointed himself the Dickens of his time, and he may be right: Like Dickens, he is not only wildly, peerlessly famous (and a Londoner), the author of many beloved books, but also, like Dickens, imperiled by exposure. Hovering over everything Rushdie does is the legacy of what he called "the excrement that hit the ventilation system" after he published The Satanic Verses in 1988. In what was surely the bloodiest valentine ever sent, on Feb. 14, 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini "sentenced" him to death.
As Rushdie gleefully pointed out, the author of the novel is still alive while the author of the death threat is not—in fact, the Ayatollah died just months after issuing it. Rushdie concluded: "All I can say is, do not mess with novelists."
Here, for example, is his explanation as to why he’s playing the NC Comedy Arts Festival at Cat’s Cradle:
“Well, about two years ago, I played Charlie Goodnight’s in Raleigh, and (festival creator) Zach Ward came up to me afterwards, and asked, ‘Would you like to play this festival?’ And I thought, ‘Boy, it’d be nice to play a slightly different market.’ Because Charlie Goodnight’s is amazing, but this festival is pretty far away, and it’s probably going to skew a tad younger, and it’s good to get the younger generation excited about me, because by the time I go back to Charlie Goodnight’s again they’ll all have families and they can afford me with their jobs working for the government, monitoring people’s thoughts or whatever we’ll be doing, I don’t know how technology is going. But then again, an asteroid might be heading toward Earth by 2036, so that takes the pressure off considerably.”
[The club formerly known as Charlie Goodnight's is now called simply "Goodnight's Comedy Club."—Editor]
Philips came to prominence in the 1980s, with his witty wordplay and bird-like voice and features granting him a distinct stage presence. He’s toned down his look—gone is the Prince Valiant haircut from his early years on stage—but there’s no mistaking the voice that uttered such classic one-liners as, “Some mornings it just doesn't seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.”
He often uses religion in his humor (a few years ago, one of his longer jokes was picked as the best religious joke of all time).
“For some reason, religious jokes seem as trivial as jokes about food or driving,” Philips says.
He says that religion is a topic that almost everyone in an audience can relate to. "Even if you don’t care about religion, your neighbor might, if he votes.”
Philips admits times have changed since he started doing stand-up.
“A few days ago, it was my birthday, and it was in the newspaper, and growing up I never would have guessed that a) my name would be in the newspaper, and b) that I might outlast those papers.”
Even in today’s age of MySpace, YouTube and Funny Or Die, Philips remains a staunch supporter of old-school stand-up comedy. Still, he’s adapted to new media (“My latest Facebook fan is a teenage girl studying drama, kind of like a Mexican taking Spanish”), but he doesn’t text and needed confirmation from this reporter to confirm that “LOL” stands for “laugh out loud.”
He prefers the communal feeling of a live show to a tiny screen on the Internet.
“I understand if you want to stay home and watch me on YouTube, but it’s like incest—you’re putting convenience over quality.”
Emo Philips plays Cat’s Cradle Friday, Feb.18 at 9 p.m. as part of the NC Comedy Arts Festival. He has been in town all week, though, and additional sightings are possible.
But in recent years, the once larger-than-life Goldthwait is keeping it small. He’s gone from the guy who once set The Tonight Show guest chair on fire to the acclaimed writer-director of the small-scale, ribald and pitch-black comedies Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad.
Still, his wild-man reputation persists. Not that Goldthwait—whose weekend gig at Goodnight’s Comedy Club continues through Sunday, Feb. 19, is completely against that perception by fans.
“I think I’m always fighting being a nostalgia act,” says Goldthwait on the phone from Los Angeles.
“I understand how people want to talk to me about my older material, and I hate it when some showbiz people don’t want to talk about their pasts. But you’ll see something about you posted (on YouTube) and think, ‘Wow, that’s all I am to this person?’ But it’s a perception that I perpetuated, so I could be frustrated by it, but it’d be a lot of wasted energy.”
Goldthwait sounds completely different on the phone than those only familiar with his acting and stand-up work would expect. He’s calm, laid-back and thoughtful when it comes to describing his life and career.
These days, he prefers to stay behind the scenes with his films, a career he eased into with a few years of directing Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“At this point in my life, I’m interested in working out things that I’m concerned about, or that eat up a lot of my gray matter,” Goldthwait says.
“Just simply to be famous is not fulfilling, so that’s why I’ve got to get stuff going with a little meat on it.”
His next film starts production in April, based on an original screenplay he calls “kind of like Badlands or Network, about the American coliseum, about how we’re all about throwing people under the bus.”
Last year, it was announced that he’d helm a film version of the Kinks album Schoolboys in Disgrace, though he says that project’s taking longer to come together, resulting in his going with the smaller original project in the meantime.
“I like keeping it smaller,” Goldthwait says of his films. “The Kinks musical I am very serious about—it’s going to cost more than the size and scope of the movies I usually make, and I keep working on it, but it’s going to take longer to get it going. And I like the freedom of doing a tiny movie.”
Though Goldthwait has announced his retirement from stand-up comedy a few times, he says he continues to draw inspiration from the people and places he sees on the road, and is looking forward to returning to Goodnight’s, a venue he’s played several times throughout his career.
Does he think the Goodnight's audience will be open to his new material?
“I just hope folks come out to the show and not expect the Grover voice,” he says.
Bobcat Goldthwait appears at Goodnight’s through Sunday.
Months ago, when this show was announced, I bought a ticket and reserved a dinner table at Goodnight’s Comedy Club. It turned out to be a smart move—not only did it get me a front-row seat for one of the club’s biggest shows of the year, but reserving for Saturday meant I wasn’t one of those affected when Morgan had to shift his schedule for his 30 Rock taping.
Though his most recent films—Cop Out and the Death at a Funeral remake—weren’t worth the price of admission, Morgan is a comic genius with the right setting and material. His semi-autobiographical 30 Rock character, Tracy Jordan, is such a masterpiece of malapropisms that this website exists to record down everything the character says. And Morgan’s autobiography, I Am the New Black, features some surprisingly dark passages about his father’s battle with drugs and AIDS and his own fight with alcoholism.
As I sat there in the front row, Morgan shuffled on-stage for his second of three shows that night wearing jeans and a black shirt that wouldn’t be out of place at a club. He turns out to be even more imposing than I’d expected, with a doughy chest and a face filled out with puffy cheeks and large eyes. Although he says he hasn’t had a drink in more than year, there’s a slow, slurry quality to his words and movements—perhaps brought on by exhaustion (I was watching the second of three sets scheduled for the night).
[caption id="attachment_1674" align="alignleft" width="204" caption="Jennifer Coolidge in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans, which plays its final Triangle engagement Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. (Photo courtesy of First Look Pictures)"]
It took one simple acronym to put Jennifer Coolidge in the public eye: "MILF." Since her appearance as the teen-deflowering Stifler's mom in 1999's American Pie, the actress says she's been inundated with scripts for "horny mother and trophy wife" roles. But she looks back on the part with fondness: "It's gotten me a lot of dates."
Coolidge will appear at Goodnight's for a stand-up comedy show beginning tonight and continuing through Sunday, though she doesn't quite know what her set will be: "Probably a lot of weird stories about being an actress." She should have plenty of those, for the last decade has made her a familiar face in film and TV, particularly in such films as Legally Blonde, A Cinderella Story and Best in Show.
"Kids will go up to me who've seen Cinderalla and go 'Are you a bad witch?' Sometimes you'll get someone who goes, 'You're the crazy evil lady in Pootie Tang! Someone said they loved the girl I played on an episode of Friends, and I forgot I did Friends. It all becomes a distant memory."
In the past year, Coolidge has played a hooker on ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a plastic surgery addict on Nip/ Tuck, another mom in Gentlemen Broncos, and a small part in Bat Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans for Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage.
"It's honestly my favorite film from last year," says Coolidge, who that both Cage and Herzog were a pleasure to work with, despite their gonzo on-set antics. "I had no idea what it would be like working with Nic Cage, but he's just such a nice person, a real professional."
And she's a big supporter of the film, which is still playing in the Triangle: "I think it's one of the best movies of the year, and not just because I have a small part in it. Watching it, it was just brilliant. And I think it's the best thing I've ever seen Nic Cage in. He takes such huge risks sometimes, and he just went for it." She also praises Werner Herzog as "un-Hollywood," and reveals that despite the outrageous content of his films, he's "never taken anything stronger than an Aspirin."
Who would she like to work with? "I always liked Jack Nicholson, and I always hoped one day to get in a movie with him. I've always been obsessed with him and Anthony Hopkins. I would love to be like the mother or mentor of Angelina Jolie, or some up-and-coming young actress and show her how to operate the high-powered guns."
Despite her prolific output, Coolidge says her acting plans this year are unclear." "I'm doing the standup so I don't get bored with my life," she says. "When you live in Hollywood, it's like you're behind a tall hedge, this life that doesn't feel normal. When I started doing standup as a lark, you have to fly everywhere and hang out with people at hotels and get to know the area. I've gotten to see all these parts of the United States I never would have seen otherwise. It's like there's this whole life I've been missing."
She's looking forward to checking out the local sights in Raleigh, which could include the flea market. "I have yet to go to a city where they don't have a good flea market," she says.
"It's hard to find places where people are enthusiastic about what's local," she says. "I went on a date with this guy at one stop, and he took me to the mall."
"I'd never written a play before this spring. Since then, I've written nine of them." The surprising words belong to nacent playwright Debbie Barrett, who apparently won the 2009 ArtsCenter Play Slam on Saturday night in Carrboro based on 22% of her total lifetime dramatic output -- to date, at any rate.
Under rules similar to those used in poetry slams, a boisterous crowd of over 200 voted her tender, comic three-minute play Conception as one of the top five plays in the first round of competition. Then A Commitment in Ink sealed the deal in round two, garnering the newby playwright the coveted honorarium -- 100 one dollar bills, tastefully arranged in a plexiglass fishbowl -- along with crucial bragging rights until the 2010 competition.
Though Barrett's works benefited from strong performances -- on the basis of a total of ten minutes' rehearsal time before the night of staged readings began -- both also clearly featured intelligent writing that mixed humor with the humane.More details after the break.
Indy contributor Danny Hooley wrote this preview of David Cross' performance in Durham Wednesday night. He then went to the show and found that the show started before the patrons even entered Fletcher Hall.
Poor "Larry the Cable Guy." He thought he was going to a Jeff Foxworthy show. Instead, he found out that the ticket he purchased for the Carolina Theatre Wednesday night was for his old nemesis, David Cross.
When he discovered his boneheaded mistake, he tried the only thing he could think of: scalping.
"Git 'er donnnne! Y'all need tickets?"
There he was, in all his plaid, bare-armed glory, harassing people lined up at the door, just before 8 p.m.
"It's a souvenir," Larry informed one patron as he showed him the very special ticket. "You know why? 'Cause I signed it. And then I wrote 'GIT R DONE.' And then I wrote 'DAVID CROSS SUCKS.' HAHA HAHAHA! It's only a hundred dollars."