Earlier this year, The Advocate cosponsored its first LGBT stand-up comedy competition at Zanie's Comedy Club in Chicago. After narrowing down the scores of applicants, eight finalists were invited to compete live September 24 for a cash prize and the honor of being the "Next Great Queer Comedian." Maggie Faris, who has been seen on NBC's Last Comic Standing, emerged as winner.
On the heels of her win, Faris spoke with The Advocate about the difficulties LGBT comedians face, the moment she knew she was addicted to making people laugh, and following in the footsteps of the great lesbian comedians who have come before.
The Advocate: How does it feel to be our contest's first victor? Maggie Faris: It feels awesome. I'm really happy that I won. It's a huge honor. I was surprised because everyone did so well. I'm just blown away because the competition was so tough.
Have you updated your business cards to say "Next Great Queer Comedian" yet? No but I asked Adam [the producer] if I could use the title of "Funniest Queer" and he said no. I have to say "Next Great Queer Comedian." Ellen still has that title. How could you beat her?
She's been out of the stand-up game for a while. I think if she entered a competition, she might be rusty. Oh, you think I could kick her butt in a competition?
I won't put it past you. I think it would make for an interesting show. I challenge her! Let's do this.
I'll let her know. For people out there who haven't seen your comedy, how would you describe your style? I try not to do anything too self-deprecating or stuff that's been done before. I try not to bash anyone. I try to include the largest audience out there. I think everyone should get something out of it.
So you wouldn't say that your material is particularly "gay," then? No, I wouldn't. In fact, I wrote specific gay material just for this contest. I wrote about how I didn't think I was the best queer for the job because I'm not very political. I'm a horrible gay. I didn't even go to the Pride parade. There was a Brady Bunch marathon on. I couldn't get there.
Do you find that one audience is tougher than another? Some gay comedians find gay audiences harder to work for. Do you see a difference? I find that gay audiences are sometimes harder because they tend to be more political and get offended easier. I hate to lump people together like that, but I'll tell you that the hardest show I ever did was at a lesbian bachelorette party. They were offended at everything I said. At a bachelorette party!
They were OK with the vagina-shaped cake but not your jokes, huh? I'm gonna have one of those cakes if I ever get lesbian married. Honestly, when I play gay audiences, I do less controversial material. I did a joke once about how I used a handicapped bathroom stall and a lady in a wheelchair was waiting for it when I left, so I panicked and gimped my way out of the bathroom. I can't do that joke for gay audiences. Even though I said that I panicked and made the wrong move, it doesn't matter. I didn't do that joke in the contest because I don't want to get hanged. Not all lesbians! Now people are going to read this article and think, Oh, we don't like her now.
Well, it's interesting that you say this about gay audiences, because it makes me think about how most famous lesbian comedians -- Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, Rosie O'Donnell -- like you, they don't do a lot of "gay" material either. It's true. Well, look, I'm walking in the same footsteps of all of those greats. Ha.
It's a tough profession. What's the job like for you? I've been fighting this fight for 14 years now and I absolutely love it. I'm probably one of the funnier unknown people out there because I don't care that much. I know that the industry is so cutthroat that the chances of making it as superstar or a wealthy performer is so tiny that you really have to do this becuase you love it. There is a drive in me that will never go away. I can't quit. I don't make a good living from it but I love it too much to stop.
How did you get into it? I started at Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis, which is one of the best clubs in the country. I went to an open mike night and I was horrible and I cried and it was probably one of the worst days of my life. My sister was a waitress at that club, so I used to hang out there a lot and watch shows and I would think, Oh, I could do that. But once you do it, you realize that, Oh, my God, no, that is hard. That is awful. It took me six months to try again, but the next time I got a couple of laughs and then I was hooked. Those laughs are like a drug and I haven't stopped since.
What's next for you? I'm going to tape one of my CDs at the Joke Joint in Lilydale, Minn., on December 26-28. I'll be headlining there and taping my first of three CDs this next year. The first one is called Vintage Maggie Faris. They will be available this next year.
Catch Maggie at Zanie's Comedy Club in Chicago from January 28 through February 1. Find more information at https://extrememaggie.com