Jennifer Coolidge: Dinah's Best in Show

Grooming her stand-up comedy act for The Dinah, actress Jennifer Coolidge remembers getting intimate with ladies in the '80s, gay ex-boyfriends, and the day she wanted to blow her brains out in front of Sarah Jessica Parker.

BY Brandon Voss

March 31 2010 11:55 PM ET

With quirky roles like an apathetic hairstylist in The Broken Hearts Club, a ditzy manicurist in Legally Blonde, and the ultimate cougar in American Pie, it’s no wonder Jennifer Coolidge has amassed a mighty gay following. Now, having honed her improv skills in Christopher Guest films like Best in Show and For Your Consideration, she's added "stand-up comic" to her résumé. So what's next on her bucket list? Preparing to headline Girl Bar’s HRC fundraiser during the 20th anniversary of The Dinah, the annual lesbian party weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., the 48-year-old funny lady explains why she’d probably date a woman before doing Dancing with the Stars.

Advocate.com: Why did you decide to start doing stand-up comedy?
Jennifer Coolidge: It started out as a little experiment. I know this guy who has a club in Provincetown, and last year he said, “I’d love for you to come and put on a show.” I said, “Yeah, let’s try it out in July.” Then July came faster than I thought. I had something written, but it wasn’t really fleshed out with a beginning, middle, or end. All those boys in P-town should’ve gotten their money back. I just didn’t know what I was doing. Not that I’m an old salty sea captain now, but it feels like I am compared to what I was.

What about stand-up appeals to you?
I do have my New Orleans home to escape to, but when you live in L.A., where there aren’t a lot of seasons, it’s kind of like Groundhog Day, where you live the same day over and over again. And an actress in the Hollywood Hills lives a pretty isolated existence. When you do stand-up and go around the country, you get a really good idea of what’s going on in the world.

Is your act built on storytelling in the vein of Kathy Griffin and Sandra Bernhard, or do you do classic PMS and airplane food jokes?
No, I never have the line and then the joke. It’s maybe seven or eight stories where I talk about relationships, sex, and living in Hollywood.

A few years ago I caught your appearance at Barracuda, a Manhattan gay bar, where you told a great story about working with Toni Basil on Legally Blonde.
I told that story in P-town too. Toni Basil is very famous choreographer who’s done a lot of movies, but she never had to deal with anyone like me who just couldn’t get it. Reese Witherspoon learned the “bend and snap” in about five minutes, and I was in Toni’s garage for ages trying to learn that thing, so she was incredibly frustrated. I pitched to her that my character was so uncoordinated that I shouldn’t bother to learn her choreography. I was like, “My character’s kind of retarded, so I don’t really have to learn this stuff, right? It’ll be really true to character if I just pretend to know the moves.” Toni said, “I’ll tell you what, Jennifer. Learn all the dance steps and do your best, because even your best will still look retarded.” And you know what? She was kind of right.

I guess we shouldn’t expect to see you on Dancing with the Stars.
No. My agent called me about a year ago and said that Dancing with the Stars had approached me, but I passed. I want to be asked to be on a show that I’d be good on. I want to do a show where I just have to run really fast. If there was a show where celebrities just had to run fast, play capture the flag, and not be clever like you have to be on Amazing Race, I’d do that show.

When doing stand-up, do you notice any difference between straight crowds and gay crowds?
I’ve been doing a lot of comedy clubs, and that’s a very hetero audience. They don’t say mean stuff, but they’ll yell out my movies that they love over and over again, or all through the act they’ll ask me to go out with them after the show. The gay audience is just a much better match for me. I don’t know if it’s because gays can handle their liquor better, but you never have a heckler in a gay crowd. They’re so well mannered and polite because they go to the show like it’s theater.

Are you specially crafting your act for the lesbian crowd at The Dinah?
I’m trying some stuff out now because do want to have some good stuff for the girls. What can I talk about?

Well, the DJ headliner for the weekend is Samantha Ronson, who’s proven to be a pretty easy target for comics.
I like Samantha Ronson, though. I did some awards show last year and she was there in the green room, and I actually thought she was quite cool. Who else can I go after?

Tags: Comedy

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