8 p.m. Aug. 22
The Ark, Ann Arbor
316 S. Main St.
Suzanne Westenhoefer won’t do a dog (or cat, or horse), but the comedian’s still as tasteless as they come. So crass, in fact, that her current tour, “Totally Inappropriate,” is named after her brand of dirty humor that she’s been hawking for two decades.
We caught up with the comedian, who chatted about what is inappropriate, proving her lesbianism and why her Aug. 22 Ann Arbor stop might end in murder.
You recently celebrated a big milestone: 20 years since your stand-up debut. How does that make you feel?
It seems impossible. Sometimes I go, “Oh my God, it feels like 40!” But most of the time I just can’t believe it.
Your first gig was at Kelly’s Cabaret in New York’s West Village. What do you remember from that?
I remember everything, but what I remember most was my perfectly memorized three minutes was a big deal because nobody was an openly gay comic. It was all straight comics, or comics who were gay who weren’t out then. And it was such a big deal! I opened with, “I’ll be the only lesbian comedian on stage tonight … well, that you know of.” Oh, I thought I was so clever!
What about performing for straight audiences has changed?
Straight people aren’t completely freaked out anymore. Twenty years ago they wouldn’t even accept it – like, “Ha-ha! She’s a lesbian!” It would take two or three more jokes before it was like, “Oh my God, she’s not kidding!”
You mention that you used to work from a script, but you don’t anymore, right?
In the very beginning I memorized my lines, but now I don’t have a memorized script. I have an idea of what I want to do, but it doesn’t mean I’ll do it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do (at a show) in Nashville, and for some reason the audience was just a little randy – I think it was the heat – and then we talked about a whole lot of stuff that I’ve never talked about before … and may never again.
It’s hot here, too. And people are randy.
By the time I get to Ann Arbor, you better get that fucking weather together! I love my Ann Arbor audience, and that venue is ridiculous and the audience is great and that’s always a super fun show. But if it’s 98 degrees and you guys are all miserable and I get there and it ruins it, someone’s going to die. I will kill somebody! (Laughs)
Between touring, you’ve been shooting a web drama, “We Have to Stop Now” (see it at www.wehavetostopnow.tv). What interested you in that?
One-hundred-thousand years ago I wanted to be an actor, and I never had that happen. It’s just been such a great experience, and it’s freaking me out. It’s winning awards, people are watching it, there’s been interest from some production companies, they’re thinking about selling it to cable. It’s amazing because truly we are doing this for like $8. No one’s making any money. Everything is being done like, wear your own clothes! Can we borrow that chair? And quick, let’s film this! And then we run.
It’s hard to watch my own stuff, but Meredith Baxter in the second season will make you laugh out loud. She’s playing way against type. She isn’t Elyse Keaton this time, baby!
So with this tour, why the name “Totally Inappropriate”?
I always have to pick a name, and I don’t think anything’s inappropriate. It’s that other people think that certain things I say in life are inappropriate. To me, this is how I am. It’s the appropriate tour (laughs).
Your girlfriend is one of those people, right?
Exactly. In her mind, some of the things that I blurt out, which I’m actually talking about on stage right now, are completely unbelievable. In my mind, it’s like, “What?”
Is she just too much of a square?
No, she was just raised … better (laughs). She’s from outside Milwaukee, and I lived for 10 years in New Jersey. I haven’t really been around people who don’t talk about religion, don’t talk about sex, don’t talk about politics. I wouldn’t even have anything to say then! I mean, I can do some pretty good material about my cat and dog, but not years of material.
You could always go into bestiality.
(Long pause) Now even I think that’s inappropriate, although I laughed when you said it but I was drinking water so I couldn’t laugh really hard.
So bestiality is one, but are there other things you find inappropriate? Is there a line?
I don’t think I’m ever going to be making jokes of things that are cruel. You can make anything funny, and I think, in fact, that with pain and suffering, the more funny you make it the better it is because the truth is we’re all suffering, and we’re going to suffer from something – heartache and death and cheating, all these terrible, terrible things. I’m not good at being cruel to people who couldn’t fight back. I don’t like that kind of humor. It bums me out.
So then you’ve never seen Lisa Lampanelli?
Oh, yes. I’ve seen Lisa Lampanelli many times. But that’s an act. I don’t have an act like that. This is who I am. When I do the stand-up, it’s true. She’s an act.
Some comics have an alter ego, so I wouldn’t say that it’s not true or true to them – I don’t mean it like that – but you know Robin Williams isn’t running around the way he does on stage. But some comedians are really far removed from what they do on stage, and with me, what you see on stage is exactly how I am off stage. I don’t have a – maybe that’s the inappropriate part! Maybe I’m just starting to understand it right now! Oh, I get it – I’m supposed to have an act! I’m supposed to be different! (Laughs)
It only took you 20 years.
But look, I did it!