Kate Clinton asks ‘What the L?’

By |2018-01-16T01:55:07-05:00October 13th, 2005|Entertainment|

Kate Clinton has been carving out a niche for herself as one of America’s favorite lesbian comedians for nearly 25 years now.
“It’s really amazing,” Clinton said long distance from her home in New York. “I look at my dad who worked for the power company for 33 years and I think, ‘Wow, I’m getting there myself.’ It’s been very fast. It’s such an exciting time to be doing what I’m doing in the context of a 35-year-old gay movement. So that’s really been wonderful. Although I have to say that there have been some hours circling Newark when it seems almost 25 years long.”
And navigating around New Jersey hasn’t been the only challenge. Keeping the material fresh, updating and tweaking it, can also be a struggle.
“Unfortunately, politically there’s still lots of material,” said Clinton. “They keep it fresh for me. I’d be happy to try to work material out of dull people like Al Gore and John Kerry, but apparently that wasn’t in the cards.”
Instead she has Dubya for inspiration. But the challenge there is transforming the atrocity that has been his presidency – with all the horrific hurt and bile-inducing bitterness it has generated – into something that folks can laugh about.
“That’s really what comedy is about,” Clinton said. “I don’t know who said it, but comedy is tragedy plus time. I think the job of the comedian is to transform difficult material into something that’s really more accessible to people. I’m amazed at how shut down audiences are, and given any opportunity to laugh they just burst open. Sometimes it’s completely disproportionate to anything I’ve actually said. It’s sort of like almost post-traumatic stress [syndrome]. I’ve had people say to me after, ‘You know, I was thinking about what you were saying and I was just amazed that I wasn’t crying.’ There’s a great Hindi word that’s called ‘rolla.’ It means laughing and crying at the same time, and I think that’s where we are.”
Where Clinton’s at is in the midst of a tour she cleverly calls “Talking a Blue Streak.” So the question that begs asking is what’s the difference between playing a blue state and a red one?
“You would think that the blue would be easier to do, and it is easy in a way,” explained Clinton. “But the red states are really more rewarding because they’re just dying to hear some different things. Occasionally you have to break through, because they’re not used to hearing it or they’re worried that something is going to happen to me for saying it or to them for listening. And once you break through then it’s really exciting.”
In addition to the tour, Clinton is also busy promoting her new book, “What the L.” Currently in its fourth printing from Carroll & Graf, the book is a hit. Then there’s her latest CD. But even though it’s called “The Marrying Kind,” Clinton clearly isn’t. Partnered since 1988 with Urvashi Vaid, the political genius who authored “Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation,” the two have no plans to march down the aisle.
“I don’t know if it’s our old feminist roots but we have a difficult time with it,” Clinton said. “I absolutely do fight and do support people’s right to choose to get married, and there might come a time when we do. But at this point we haven’t.”
The couple did, however, call Massachusetts, the first state to legalize marriage for gays, home for nearly a decade. Clinton said she still has a fondness for the progressive state, where last week the Catholic Church kicked off a campaign to overturn the rights of gays to marry.
“I think it’s time to tax the church if they’re going to get this involved in legislative and civil matters,” said Clinton. “Tax them. We need the money. I think that Massachusetts actually is wonderful proof that a year has gone by and civilization hasn’t ended. There hasn’t been an increase in polygamy and, near as I know, people aren’t doing it with their pets. That’s what they say, people will want to marry their pets. But I haven’t seen it in the paper, those wedding pictures of somebody and their Labrador.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.