Kristen Johnston Is the Queen of Freaks



Ever since Kristen Johnston, a six-foot-tall self-described “freak,” hit our TV screens on Third Rock From the Sun, queers have adored her. Sexy blond Johnson’s character of Sally, an alien military combat specialist hiding out in a new female body with her faux family in middle America, was one that resonated with lesbians especially because she was powerful but vulnerable, gangly but beautiful, tough but nerdy, and above all, a total freaking outsider.

But despite decades of us hoping she was lesbian herself, turns out Johnston likes the wang a little too much to give in to full sapphic surrender. However, she still says LGBT folks helped make her career, nay, her life. “I love you guys. I do. You know I love the gays. I can’t help it,” Johnston gushes.

These days Johnston is starring in TV Land’s The Exes (season 2 premieres in June) and touring with her new book, Guts, a surprisingly raw and funny memoir about growing up as a freak (she was six feet tall at age 11), being bullied in middle school (“it was horrible”), and coming out as a former pill-popping drug and alcohol addict (“screw my career, or my privacy ... I’ll tell whoever I damn well please). Like Augusten Burroughs, Johnston is able to be frank and compelling when talking about her life, including her personal foibles, the confusion of sudden fame, and the life-threatening medical emergency that landed her in a British hospital for months after her “intestines ripped open.”

The Advocate: I think your new book is going to resonate with a lot of people.
Kristen Johnston: You do?

I though it was fantastic.
Aww. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I, I mean, I’m really proud of it.

The fact that you felt like a freak so much of your life is something that a lot of people actually can identify with.
Right. Well, as I say, I think everyone is an addict. I think everyone can relate to that. I mean, look, everyone is addicted to something. So when you think of drugs or alcohol you kind of tend to put yourself on a nice little throne and think, Oh, wow, poor, poor Lindsay. Or, you know, Oh, Courtney, do that again. But the bottom line is, you’re an addict too. You’re addicted to something else. You know what I mean? Your kids, work, TV, Twitter, I don’t know, whatever it is. So it’s like we’re all on the same leaky boat, as I say. I think that’s kind of the most important thing. I also just really wanted to reach people. I wanted to write the book that I wished I had read when I was struggling.

Did you read a lot of addiction books?

I read so many. And, uh, you know, none of them just had the ring of [authenticity] for me. I couldn’t relate to any of them.

Why do you think that is?
Some of them are beautifully written, like Mary Karr’s book Lit, which was exquisite. But ... you sort of you go into this different world, and obviously I can’t relate to growing up the way she grew up, and then of course there’s Carrie Fisher, and I can’t relate to how she grew up. I just sort of wanted to write something a little bit more universal about we all feel. Whether it’s our food addiction, sex addiction, love addiction. And so I tried to sort of make it that, you know, universal in that way. With, of course, a heavy, uh, nod toward the gays.

When I heard that there was a coming out in the book I have to admit I was really hoping that you were going to be coming out as a lesbian, not an addict.
[Laughs] I mean, that’s my next book.

Is there any chance you’re at least bisexual?
I’m not. I’m sorry.

You can’t throw me a bone here?
No, I can throw you this bone. I really wish I was. I can say that. But I’m not. Unfortunately, I like the cock. It’s tragic but true.

You’ve always had great gay friends.
Well, yeah.

You say in the book is that it was a gay man who was the first man who ever told you you were beautiful.
Absolutely. And it was gay men who first really got me as an actress too. My life is kind of, I am Auntie Mame, let’s just face it.

Why do you think you forge such close relationships with gay men? Why do they get you?
I don’t know. I think that there’s certainly a kinship in terms of feeling like a freak. When you’re, that, at that vulnerable age of, you know, 10, 9, 8, 11, in that age range and I was already six feet tall and a loser too, and I was loud. I think I’ve always been a freak. And I think gay people feel like freaks when they’re younger, maybe not as much anymore, but certainly they used to. I mean, certainly when you were ... when you were sort of at that age, it must have been so confusing and horrible and weird and hard. And you didn’t have anybody to look up to. There was no Will & Grace, you know what I mean?

Not that you want to look up to them, but you know what I’m saying. There was no Logo. Now it’s a different animal, thank God.

Tags: Books