The New Joy Behar

By Matthew Breen

Originally published on Advocate.com December 01 2012 4:30 AM ET

“I’m still ticked off about the 2000 election,” Joy Behar told Eliot Spitzer, host of Viewpoint on Current TV (the network launched by former vice president Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt), about her decision to host Say Anything on that network. “I’m still ticked off at the Supreme Court because that was not an election, that was a decision.” The week in September that her talk show premiered, Behar spoke about her commitment to LGBTs, her political interests, the surprise end to her HLN show, and being bullied as a kid.

The Advocate: LGBT issues have been a part of Say Anything  from the first week, and you’ve had guests Melissa Etheridge, Augusten Burroughs, and Michael Ian Black—talking about his lesbian mom. Have you ever been told not to discuss LGBT issues on any of your shows?
Joy Behar: No. No one’s ever said that to me. They wouldn’t dare. I’m a GLAAD Award winner!

Have you ever been told that it’s inappropriate to talk about anything?
Yeah, I remember being told, don’t really go after Sarah Palin too hard because the audience likes her. I remember that on HLN.

Was having your HLN show canceled a surprise?
When it became clear, I got really mad. Because we were the second-highest-rated show on the air and I didn’t understand why we were getting the ax. I really thought that we were helping that channel.… It was starting to wear on me to talk about Casey Anthony and how much propofol Michael Jackson had in his system when he died. These are not topics that help anybody in any way — so what’s the point?

How did the Current TV show happen?
I had three different networks interested in me when HLN was canceled, and I like this place the most. And when they basically said to me, “You can have any kind of show you want over here, and you can have whoever you want on, and you can say whatever you want,” I said, “I’m in.” I’m very hands-on on this show. Everybody knows that when I’m interested in the subject, the audience will be interested, because there’s nothing worse than a disengaged host.

Are there any constraints?
Nothing. Just don’t say “fuck,” don’t say “cocksucker,” don’t say “tits.” I don’t know about “tits,” I might be able to say “tits.”

You’ve mentioned you like talking to Ann Coulter. How do you feel about having ideological opposites as guests?
I don’t need to talk to her constantly, but she’s been tweeting some stuff lately that’s been annoying me. I could live without it. But I sit with Elisabeth Hasselbeck every day [on The View], don’t I? So it’s not that I’m not used to sitting with ideological opposites. We’re trying to book more Republicans. I like to hear the other side so I can see why I disagree with it, and I like the audience to see why they disagree with it — or agree with it.

Ann Coulter says she has gay friends.
I’ve never heard that she’s homophobic. Have you?

Some of the things she’s said at Homocon and other GOProud events seem tone-deaf.
Aren’t the GOProud guys the ones that are voting for Romney? Why would she be against them?

She said if the GOP picked Romney, they’d lose.
Let’s hope she’s right. I don’t understand the GOProud people either. Why are they voting for someone who’s against gay marriage, gays in the military? The Republican platform wants to roll back into “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I mean, that is completely retro. It’s not all about your pocketbook, guys. I guess they feel their money will protect them from homophobia. A lot of people felt that way, in like Germany, for example.

When you accepted the GLAAD Award [for Excellence in Media, 2010], you said that you appreciated the award more than you would have an Oscar. Were you making a joke?
I totally meant it. First of all, the chances of my getting an Oscar are zero or less. But if I were up for an Oscar, I’d prefer the GLAAD Award because it meant to me that I actually made a difference in someone’s life. But I personally, apparently, have made a difference in the gay community.

Most of The View’s audience is not LGBT. Do you think your views have moved the needle with that audience on queer issues?
I think it’s possible, because [cohost] Barbara [Walters] very much talks about transgender [issues], she did a special on it. Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a Republican, but she’s not homophobic. We are totally pro-gay on that show. I believe we have, because people look to us, they come to us to see if our views match with theirs.

You mentioned in the GLAAD speech that 30 years ago you started in comedy clubs and gay clubs. Does it feel completely different from what you’re doing now?
I worked at Gerdes Folk City, Five Oaks, and the Duplex, and those were very gay rooms. And I basically plied my wares there. It’s on the same continuum, because you’re speaking to a bigger audience, but my personality stayed totally the same. I consider my whole life preparation for what I do for a living. I was a schoolteacher, I’m a parent, I was married, I went to college, I have a master’s [degree].… It’s an amazing thing that I got to this point because I feel like all of that just accumulated to put me where I am now.

You were bullied as a kid?
I stuck out in the neighborhood. If you can picture this gawky kid with Bermuda shorts and very curly hair — I did not look like the kids in the Italian neighborhood. So they picked on me quite a bit. [Kids would] come from other neighborhoods and say they wanted to beat the shit out of me for no reason.

You did mention that having good hair was a priority for the show. Are you happy with your hair?
I’m very happy with my hair. It’s extremely important.