This entry is the first in a new series entitled, as you may have guessed, “Standup Sunday,” where HA! contributors feature noteworthy comedians.
It gives me great pleasure to share with you a woman who makes me feel weak in the knees: Lea DeLaria. What charisma! What confidence! What carefully crafted hair!
And she can sing!
Also…uh, I think she can cook?
Much of my work studying queer comedians has focused on the prime time glass ceiling shattered by Ellen DeGeneres in 1997, but as I cobble together a larger picture of the status of lesbian comedians in the 1990s, performers like DeLaria helped me acknowledge that there were other, more abrasive queers performing out of the closet before DeGeneres’ outing on Ellen.
As her Wikipedia page will tell you, DeLaria appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1993–the first instance of an openly gay comic on late night. This appearance came in a time in the early 1990s when the number of openly gay comics started to surge. This phenomenon was further evidenced by Comedy Central’s Out There, one of the first in a long line of exhausting “Out” cliches. This, less importantly, was also the first all-gay comedy performance on television.
Here is a brief introduction to her delivery style. And no, it’s not about that kind of Bush, and yes, this is NSFW.
What better way to win the queer hearts of the Out Laugh Festival in LA than to Bush bash?
If you’re interested in learning more about DeLaria and enjoying some more of her fast talking, salty style, she is the subject of the documentary, The Butch, and has a website linking to her musical albums.