By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Assistant Editor—
BOSTON, Mass.—DykeNight Productions will host a Valentine’s Day comedy and improv show with comedian Jennie McNulty Saturday, February 14 at Club Café in Boston. Known for their nightlife events throughout New England, DykeNight aims to provide entertainment for LBT women and their allies.
“This event was designed specifically to meet the very-different needs of couples and single women on Valentine’s Day,” said Kristen Porter, founder of DykeNight Productions and owner of The List: Boston’s Queer Agenda. “For those partnered, a high quality night out in a gay-owned establishment—aka PDA is encouraged—including a romantic dinner and a show is sure to thrill.”
For those who are single, Porter is also hosting a Singles Schmooze before the show, and during the show, McNulty will do some on-stage live personal ads for singles in the audience, according to Porter. There will also be a special row of seating just for those single or solo.
Named by Curve Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Lesbian Comics,” McNulty has traveled the world performing, including entertaining troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe. She’s been featured on Logo TV’s “One Night Stand Up” and in NBC’s “Starting Over,” as well as numerous commercials and co-starring roles. Her talk show, “Walking Funny With…” on AfterEllen.com is now in production for a fourth season. [pullquote]For those who are single, Porter is also hosting a Singles Schmooze before the show, and during the show, McNulty will do some on-stage live personal ads for singles in the audience, according to Porter. There will also be a special row of seating just for those single or solo.[/pullquote]
McNulty was a regular host at the Improv at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, and can also be heard on LA Talk Radio every Monday as co-host of the “Cathy is in” show. She is a contributor on the Lesbian.com website, and will appear in the upcoming Indie Sci-Fi film “Lights.” In addition, she headlines comedy clubs, colleges, and Pride festivals around the country, and spent six summer seasons performing nightly in Provincetown, Mass. She is also a comedy tutor and coach, offering stand-up writing workshops online via www.thejokedr.com.
The Rainbow Times caught up with McNulty recently ahead of her upcoming appearance in Boston.
Q: Why did you want to become a comedian? Was that always your dream?
A: I always wanted to be an entertainer and I always loved comedy. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a singer. One of my favorite jokes is that, “I would love to be a singer, but I can’t sing. Well, I can, but it sounds really bad when I do. And, unlike Taylor Swift, I know then not to try.” Sometimes I get groans at that, but I’m sure she’d laugh if she heard it—all the way to the bank.
Q: How did you get started in the business?
A: I was working in a research lab right after I got out of college, and I was working with a guy who was older than I, and he was going through what I perceived to be a mid-life crisis and, I thought to myself, “That’s me in 15 years if I don’t try something in entertainment.” I figured no one was going to wander into the lab at The University of Michigan and say, “Hey you there with that white rat. Come with me. I’m going to take you to Hollywood and make you a star.” And, as I said, I always wanted to do something in entertainment, and I was making the doctors in the lab laugh—as opposed to just making my friends laugh. I thought I’d give stand up a try, so I went to a few open mic nights, saw some people who looked like they were up there because they lost a bet, and I thought, “I could do at leastthat well.” So, after I watched open mics, I signed up and have been doing it ever since.
Q: What do you love most about doing comedy?
A: There are so many things. I love being able to make statements about the world in a way that makes people listen. You can say a lot of things or, perhaps more to the point, people can hear things a lot better when it’s said with comedy versus just arguing something. I love that people come up to me and tell me I made their day or made them feel better. And, I gotta tell you, there is nothing as intoxicating as the feeling of making people laugh, of having a room really with you, and I have a rather large amount of experience in intoxication. (laughs)
Q: How do you like the Boston comedy scene? Do you find it to be unique in any particular way?
A: Boston has a wonderful comedy scene. It’s in some ways a lot like my hometown of Detroit. Both cities have produced a lot of comedians, both have a great blue-collar work ethic and similar sensibilities, both are crazy about their sports teams, so I feel like I “get” the people there, and they me.
Q: Who have been your biggest comedic influences and why?
A: As a stand up, Steve Martin is my favorite. He was fun. As a stand up, he was funny, he wasn’t mean spirited, he was goofy and he was smart. I was also greatly influenced by Carol Burnett. I loved her show and used to imitate her bits, same thing with SNL [Saturday Night Live].
Q: Are there certain jokes that you can get away with that other comics can’t? What’s off limits for everyone?
A: I don’t think anything is off limits. There’s a certain amount of time that needs to go by before any “tragedy” can be made a comedy, as the adage goes. But, if it’s presented well, you can do anything. Now, that being said, the question is “why?” “What’s your point?” Many people feel that rape jokes are never funny, and when you think of the huge number of women who’ve been raped, you’re bringing up potentially the worst day of many women’s lives. So, to me, you better really be saying something meaningful. Sometimes you can get a lot of laughs out of shock humor—the “I can’t believe they just said that…” [type of] laughs. Andrew Dice Clay made a career out of it. But, those are just easy laughs, and if you’re saying something about, for example, rape, that’s more along that shock value vein, then just shut up as far as I’m concerned. At that point it’s more about the comic’s ego than “art.” I’m not saying everything out of our mouths has to be genius, but if what you’re saying could potentially hurt someone, it should at least have a point. Do I believe in censorship? Absolutely not. Professionalism, yes. If you’ve got something to say that’s funny about something “off limits,” then say it. It might need to be heard. But, if you’re just bringing something up because it’s off limits, grow up, or at least shut up.
Q: Were you out as a lesbian as you began doing stand-up? How has your identity affected your experience in the comedy world?
A: I started doing stand-up before I came out in life, and once I did come out in life, I came out onstage. I can’t really say if it helped or hurt, but it would have felt really disingenuous to me to not be out onstage. Part of what kept me in the closet so long was that I didn’t see other women like me. So, I kind of feel that it’s my duty to be out because I can be out. I’m not going to lose my job if I come out. Perhaps they might not hire me, but I don’t think that has happened, and I wouldn’t want to work there then anyway.
Q: As a comedian, do you think you have an opportunity to also educate audiences or break down stereotypes? Do you actively try to do this with your material?
A: It’s a wonderful opportunity to educate. I can “pass for straight,” if there is such a thing anymore, so I feel it’s important to be out. If I’m in a club and people like me then I say I’m gay, maybe that might affect their opinions on our community. In fact, people always “out” their cousins to me after a show, or brother, or sister. It’s really funny, but I like that. It reconfirms to me that our visibility can change minds.
Q: Why did you decide to start teaching and coaching new comedians? What do you enjoy about that experience, and what can people gain in your classes?
A: I travel with an improv troupe called “Queer on Their Feet.” It’s myself and one or two other comics who come out and do stand-up first and then play improv games. It’s a great format for a show and it’s really fun. A friend of mine who is an actor and an amazing improviser wanted to join the group, so I told her I would teach her stand-up and she’d help with the improv. She was already a great actor and funny storyteller, so I knew she’d be good, and she was. And, as it turns out, I’m a great teacher—she said modestly (laughs). Actually, a numerologist told me I would be an “excellent” teacher. Also, I help my comic buddies punch up/fix jokes all the time. I’m pretty good at it. But, I thought, as I travel it would be too hard to stay home long enough to teach a class. Then I thought of doing it online via web-conferencing and gave it a try. It went really well the first time and I’ve been doing it for about three or four years now, and I love it.
Q: What advice would you give to LGBTQ people who are starting out as stand-up comics?
A: Take my class (laughs). I was working in Kansas City many years ago and a comic who was just starting out asked me for advice. I prattled on for about 30 minutes about all I knew about the biz. I proceeded to go out onstage the next night and totally eat it. So, I vowed to never again give “advice.” I will say however, write your own material and be yourself. Don’t give up if it’s what you really want to do, but be honest with yourself about your set. It’s very rarely “the audience” even though it feels much better placing the blame there.
Q: Since this is for a Valentine’s Day show: any love or relationship advice you’d like to share with our readers?
A: Ha! I’m 3,000 miles away from my girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Not the best person for that. (laughs) Actually, like start up stand-ups, be honest.
Q: What current and future projects are you working on? What causes are near and dear to your heart?
A: I’m in pre-production right now of “Walking Funny With…” It’s the web series I used to do on AfterEllen.com. I loved doing that show, but I was doing it all myself, and it just got to be too hard to continue to produce by myself. And, my camera guy moved to New Orleans. It’s actually really hard to find someone who can walk backwards and keep the camera steady! So I went on hiatus. But, I’ve had so many people tell me that they liked the show and I loved doing it so I’m bringing it back. I’m talking with some producers now, getting all the details worked out and will be doing a fundraising campaign soon. I’m really excited about it. For those that don’t know about it, it’s a “walking talk show.” I interview my guests as we take a walk and encourage the viewer to download and walk along. Get your treadmills ready, peeps!
Doors open at 8 p.m. for the show February 14, and the show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission, and $30 for VIP with reserved seats and free entry to the after party. Ticketholders can also order a three course prix fixe dinner for an additional $20. Dinner reservations should be made separately with Club Café and scheduled by 7:30 p.m. to ensure enough time before the show.The event is 21+ and will be ASL interpreted. For tickets, visit tiny.cc/da6ysx. For more on DykeNight Productions, visit www.dykenight.com. For more on McNulty, visit jenniemcnulty.com.