’Last Butch Standing’ Lea DeLaria Belts at Oberon Monday
About the same time that Ellen DeGeneres was starring in the ill-fated comedy "Mr. Wrong," Lea DeLaria was tearing up late night as "that fucking dyke" on "The Arsenio Hall Show," where, in 1993, she became the first openly gay comic on a national late-night talk program.
The raucous, in-your-face world of stand-up is only one outlet for DeLaria’s enormous talents, however. She is an accomplished actress in film ("The First Wives Club," "Edge of Seventeen") and television ("Will & Grace," "Californication" and, most memorably, the daytime soap "One Life To Live"). In theater, she has appeared nude in Paul Rudnick’s off-Broadway "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told;" on Broadway in "The Rocky Horror Show;" and as the man-hungry cab driver in "On The Town," where her rendition of "I Can Cook Too" had audiences on their feet.
Every inch a star
In reviewing that 1998 revival, New York Times critic Vincent Canby called her "a big, assertive stage personality with the implacable presence of the young Ethel Merman. She can sing sweetly, she can scat and she can belt in a way to test the capacity of most sound amplification systems. She is also genuinely funny. She would seem to be every inch and ounce a star."
Music, jazz in particular, has long been part of DeLaria’s life. With a jazz pianist for a father, she grew up surrounded by music and musicians. The glissandos and scat of great jazz singing is second nature to DeLaria, although it continues to surprise those who only her comedy. With four best-selling CDs and gigs in top jazz clubs, she’s intent on bringing "be-bop jazz back into the gay and lesbian community."
After returning from a gig in London recently, DeLaria noted: "They are polite and don’t like to make noise in public. In fact the English think it is rude to let people know what you are thinking. But at a concert? Luckily, they are also very self-deprecating in their sense of humor, so I just make fun of them until they start laughing and then we have a show. And they love fart jokes."
Last Dyke Standing
She’s at Oberon on Nov. 5, 2012, where she’ll sing and no doubt riff on events in the news in her show Last Butch Standing. On Mitt Romney, she promises to "fist his wife" if he wins, adding "and if you’ve seen her you know how much of an improbability I think that is." Oberon is familiar ground for DeLaria, who appeared there in 2010 in the American Repertory Theater rock musical adaptation of "Prometheus Bound."
As a comic who was out early on, DeLaria has an informed opinion of the homophobia still rife in the macho world of stand-up. "Comedy is the last safe place for the straight white male. Every comedy club is their urinal. Every comedy show is where they work. Women still can’t get booked in a club if there is another woman on the bill because ’we can’t have two women performing on the same night’ - while there are six men booked. Look, how many times can we hear about their periods?"
DeLaria also acknowledges that lesbians have a reputation for being humorless but notes that a sense of humor was something lesbians had to earn. "I’m speaking from a historical perspective. Not like a "Well of Loneliness"-historical perspective, more like the modern end of the 20th century. Feminism was fueled by and combined with the anti-establishment movement. There wasn’t a lot of humor going around then - it was considered frivolous. But every good push for change has come with a cultural quiver. Humor has always been a big arrow in that quiver. Once lesbians got out of the hum-drum mainstream feminist ideology and into our own cultural groove, that’s when we found our sense of humor."
Lea DeLaria performs The Last Butch Standing on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 8pm at Oberon, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA. For more information visit the Oberon website. For more on Lea DeLaria,
Watch Lea DeLaria sing "I Can Cook Too":