The comic on what it’s like to have the biggest moment of your career coincide with the start of a global pandemic, and why she hopes to be the representation she never had.
Oprah was the key to Fortune Feimster’s transformation, just like the best of us,Her 2020 Netflix special, Sweet & Salty was a hit and she is often chased by police in Toronto because of her role as a Mindy Project . This wasn’t supposed to happen. For tall lesbians in North Carolina, who discovered they were gay after watching Lifetime’s movie about a girl who was struggling to be open to her mother. They had no representation around them.
Feimster worked as an entertainment journalist
Feimster worked as an entertainment journalist 20 years ago. Feimster remembers those red carpet publicists of those days. She’d tell them that she was taking Groundlings improv classes during her free time, and they’d give her an L.A. “good fortune.” Feimster was fired in 2009 amid severe media upheavals and a recession.
Femister recalls that in 2010, she was confused about how she would pay her bills. “I don’t know how my rent will be paid in January,” Femister said. Her friend was asking everyone at a New Year’s Eve party what they would like for the next year. Feimster, who was hopeless and broke, laughed and said: “A miracle.”
Oprah’s famous Oprah quote “You get a vehicle!” “You get a car!” is as popular a meme today as it was in the pre-meme era. Teasers had just begun to play for Winfrey’s final season, hinting that she would be taking her audience members to Australia, rather than just a car. Oprah, as usual, was on her mind.
It’s a miracle
Feimster’s friend was not planning to host a pity party. Feimster jumped up and began to bounce around the room, exclaiming, “You get a miracle!” It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!
After submitting a packet of information to Chelsea Laterly three weeks later, the E! Feimster was hired by Chelsea Handler as a performer and writer. This is a rare feat if you’re trying to get a job in Hollywood. This staff meeting was about the topic of a trip to Australia where Chelsea Lately would be filming in May.
Fortune Feimster’s origin story isn’t the most fascinating.
Feimster and me chat over coffee after Feimster performed her new stand up act at Town Hall in New York City. It’s tentatively called Sweet 2 Salty and, as the title suggests it, is a sequel to the Netflix special which, in essence, revealed who Feimster was to the world.
Feimster was not the only one who had arrived. She was an iconic scene-stealer on shows such as The Mindy Project and Chelsea Lately. This is what happens when you are that tall with broad shoulders and sandy blonde hair. You’re memorable. People like you aren’t often seen on the screen.
Sweet and Salty
Feimster seems to have really grasped this point in recent months. It’s something she has to do. Viewers of Sweet and Salty sent in messages to respond to her story. They were amazed to see a multitudinous, unapologetic lesbian on the TV screen. Parents and their children who are queer helped her to share her fears about coming out with her family. Feimster was even contacted by the director of Lifetime’s movie after it aired. She expressed her amazement that people were talking about the movie considering how difficult it was to make.
Feimster states, “I’m at a place with these jokes which are all very funny to my,” “But clearly there is pain, and at root of coming out it’s difficult.” Feimster was stunned when she began to receive positive feedback. “I was like, Oh my God! Comedy is not something you do if you think that you can do it.
Feimster was thrilled to release the special in January 2020. Feimster had never seen a TV special before Netflix. The response from the audience was overwhelming and Sweet and Salty was nominated alongside Jerry Seinfeld and Marc Maron for a Critics Choice Award.
It was the dream of the creator: She wanted a piece that was true to her and what she wanted to give out into the world. She was one after a career that involved interviewing the Next Big Things. It was finally her turn to shoot out of a cannon…and, as it turned out, into the wall.
The world had other plans.
Feimster began scheduling a tour after the success of Sweet & Salty. She also included a few–she giggles as she adds this–“classics,” for those who have watched the Netflix special. In the second week in March 2020, the first show would be in Grand Rapids (Michigan). Evidently, the world had other plans.
Feimster is having the breakthrough year she should’ve had a year ago when we meet. It’s possible that this is a good thing. Feimster’s taking a quick break allows her to see things from a different perspective than if she had launched directly into new material.
Feimster married during the pandemic. She and her wife had nothing to do except go hiking together so they had plenty of time to discuss and clarify their experiences, which would be the basis for new jokes. (Her engagement and the ridiculous waiter who was a key part in it get a prime spot during her new act.
Oh my God, it’s a terrible pandemic
She said that her original tour was postponed because it was “on a personal level, super disappointing”. But then, you have to look beyond that. It’s like you’re thinking, “Oh my God, it’s a terrible pandemic.” You lose your focus quickly. It was hard for a while, but then it became a lot more bearable.
Sweet & Salty is, in some respects, Feimster’s coming-out story, and there was a mission behind that. “If you’re a little girl in Oklahoma wearing sweatpants and a cutoff T-shirt, I see you,” she says in the special. That’s important. Growing up, she didn’t see herself. That Lifetime movie anecdote was real—she was 25 and watching a fictional character realize she was gay and figure out how she was going to tell her family. It was a eureka moment, one that took seeing someone she could relate to talk about their feelings in a TV movie.
Netflix Is a Joke Sirius XM channel
She’s had people tell her that they showed her special to their parents, waited to see how they reacted to it, and then once they started laughing, felt safe to come out themselves. A straight man once called into her radio show, What a Joke, on the Netflix Is a Joke Sirius XM channel, and shared that he hadn’t realized how hard it must be for a person to come out, even to an accepting family—the terror of truly not being able to tell if your parent will reject you and never want to talk to you again. And then she’s had people send her hateful direct messages about her “life choices.” (One of those particular messages even ends up in her new act.)
“I wanted it to be like, ‘How can my story be relatable to people from all different walks of life?’” Feimster says. “And so I just shared my truth: here’s my journey. I didn’t have a lot of representation growing up, so hopefully this means something to someone. Maybe they can see themselves in some part of my story that will help them figure out who they are. We know how long it took me to figure out who I am. Maybe this will make their journey a little quicker.”
If Sweet & Salty dealt with Feimster realizing who she was, this new act interrogates how people see her and engage with her in the world. She deals with the fact that in spite of her physical appearance and style, she is not the butch lesbian that people expect her to be. Her very feminine wife, Jacqueline, it turns out, is the one who can be relied on to fix the plumbing or be strong in a moment of crisis. Feimster, in contrast, had to be banished from a veterinary office because her emotional breakdown when their dog had a health scare was too much for everyone to handle.
“I have this large body and these big shoulders,” she says. “I go into bathrooms and people say, ‘Hi, you’re in the wrong bathroom.’ I’m just like… I’m a lady. So it’s funny to have this look and then to be daintier on the inside than people might realize. I just feel like this mixture is a funny juxtaposition, because it’s not what anyone would assume. My very feminine wife has proven herself to be way butcher than me. Especially in this pandemic.”
The week that we meet, the question of what role comedians serve in culture is a hot talking point. Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special was in, at that time, what may have been the third or fourth news cycle relating to the comedian’s “jokes” about the trans community, the streaming service’s decision to give him a platform, and whether or not criticizing him constitutes “cancel culture.”