3 min

Classic Kate Clinton

Premiere dyke comic stays fresh-and relevant

Credit: Kate Clinton

These days, Kate Clinton has a lot on her mind. From George W Bush’s warmongering, to the Pope’s missing apologies (bingo, fashion and 2,000 years of sexual abuse), to ex-gay ads and Christian fundamentalists, Clinton says her stand-up shows are a little like reading the newspaper.

With one exception: her shows are funny; and so is she.

(Daily papers are also a little less apt to discuss hydroplaning in the context of Clinton’s sex life and the on-going effects of aging on said sex life.)

But back to George W, the object of most of Clinton’s ire these days. “I’ve got Bush fatigue-and not the good kind,” the lesbian comic says in her latest CD, Read These Lips.

The founder of her very own Permanent Standing Committee to Impeach George W Bush, Inc, Clinton says she feels “really, really sad and disheartened” by US foreign policy and its current bent on war. “We refuse to use the United Nations, we seem to treat world treaties as policy options,” she begins, just warming up.

But don’t expect Clinton’s show to be doom and gloom. Clinton’s number one goal is still making people laugh. “I don’t think there’s anything more wonderful than having an audience rolling with laughter,” she says. “And if they go home and they think about what I’ve said, too, then that’s a gift. Comedy can easily carry the weight of heavy thoughts.”

For Clinton, encouraging people to think heavy thoughts, and question the world around them, is particularly important in the current atmosphere of patriotic correctness. “It’s the new PC,” she says.

It’s become seriously frowned upon to talk about alternatives to war, she explains. In fact, admitting to any feelings of doubt about the US campaign on terrorism reminds Clinton of coming out. It’s a different sort of closet, a peace closet, she says, encouraging people to poke their heads out.

Clinton admits that some of her fans are uncomfortable with her political brand of humour. But that’s not about to stop her.

“I think it’s important to create a show where people feel comfortable and uncomfortable,” she says.

The lesbian comic has never shied away from risking the discomfort of her audience. She’s been out and proud since the moment she stepped on stage for her very first stand-up gig in Syracuse, New York, 20 years ago. Of course, she had very little choice in the matter, she says with a smile.

Clinton had been donning Liz Claiborne outfits and teaching high school students for eight years when her world suddenly tilted radically and she bounded out of the closet. She met a woman, discovered the lesbian community and “thought ‘oh man, there’s a whole other world out here.'”

It was a world Clinton just couldn’t stop talking about-especially during her brand new comedy routines.

Back then, being an out lesbian was, in itself, a political act, Clinton recalls. Of course, she hastens to add, it still is a political act, even though the level of “homo ignorance” is not as high as it once was.

People still need out gay and lesbian role models, she says. The gay and lesbian movement may have come a long way in the last 20 years but the job is not over-despite the existence of a couple of gay characters on TV. As long as some teenagers have a hard time coming out, “there is still work to do,” Clinton says.

As for her own work, Clinton spends about six months every year on the road. She also keeps up a steady stream of biting humour columns for The Advocate and other US magazines and has been known to pause for the occasional one-woman show, on- and off-Broadway.

It’s a schedule she and her partner of almost 15 years, Urvashi Vaid, have had to seriously negotiate over the years. They’re still learning to handle the constant separations, Clinton says. Though they still sometimes fight, the key to their longevity is actually very simple. “I really like her,” Clinton explains.

But don’t expect the couple to get married anytime soon.

“I just loathe the state,” Clinton says, adding that the state has no place regulating anybody’s relationship. “It’s the libertarian in me.”

Though she says she wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to a nice bridal shower with some good Tupperware, marriage just isn’t for her. “If it’s about medical insurance, [or] visiting rights, [or] if it smoothes over immigration, I can understand it,” she concedes. “But, I don’t know. I never behave well at weddings anyway!”

Clinton’s current comedy tour ends in Vancouver at the Stanley Theatre on Granville St on Nov 18.

* Tickets are available at Little Sister’s, Women in Print and Urban Empire on Commercial Dr. Or call Ticketmaster at 604.280.4444. Tickets cost $22/$25 at the door.


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