Recharging her activist batteries

Posted on 21 Jan 2010 at 5:50pm
By David Taffet | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Comedian Kate Clinton coming to Dallas in Feburary to be M.C. for Creating Change conference


Kate Clinton

When political comedian Kate Clinton comes to Dallas in February, she will be mistress of ceremonies for each of the plenary sessions at the Creating Change conference.

"I plug into it and get my batteries charged," Clinton said in a phone conversation with Dallas Voice.

She called herself the Ryan Seacrest of the event, the spiritual timekeeper.

Clinton began doing stand-up comedy 29 years ago and has been with her partner, Urvashi Vaid, the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that stages the conference, for 22 of those years.

Clinton commented on how the community has changed since Creating Change began.

"People have salaried jobs in the movement now," she said, noting that people retire from their day jobs and devote their time to working on senior issues. Young people have different expectations of their rights now.

"What I find so exciting is their delightful sense of entitlement," she said.

Clinton’s comedy is political, and George Bush was often her target.

"I was a fan of the endless amount of material he provided for me," she said.

And Obama? "I’m disappointed. [But] I’m not racked with the despair of the eight years of Bush. Things are happening at low levels and bubbling up."

She mentioned a few of those things, including the lifting of the travel and immigration ban for persons with HIV, the new hate crime law and the large number of LGBT appointments. She said she would like to see more pressure from the White House on ending "Don’t ask, don’t tell," but thinks Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was burned from his involvement in the issue in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration and has shied away.

Recently, Kate Clinton met Obama. She and Vaid were invited to the White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Vaid, who was born in India, is the most prominent Indian-American working in the LGBT community. Other gay or lesbian couples that attended, such as Fred Hochberg, chair of the Export-Import Bank, and his partner, were from within the administration.

Clinton said she and Vaid arrived just before the Salahis, the infamous White House gatecrashers. She said their Hummer SUV pulled onto the White House grounds right after she and Vaid, with cameras rolling for the Bravo show, "Real Housewives of D.C."

In the reception line, Vaid said to Obama, "We work in the LGBT movement. We really appreciate all the things you’re trying to do and you’ve got to be tougher on the right wing."

Clinton shook the president’s hand next and simply said, "That’s my girlfriend."

Then Michaele Salahi, who passed through the line after them, said, "We just got back from India and it was shopping paradise."

Clinton was out as a lesbian comedian from the beginning of her career but, she said, "Being with Urvashi has jacked up my activist quotient."

She said she gets entirely too many magazines and is always trolling for lines.

"People are overwhelmed with information," she said. "My job is to put it together."

"I do concerts, some dinners and conferences, lots of shows at colleges, some lecturing to women’s studies classes — sort of stand-up lecture."

And to recharge her activist batteries, she’ll be in Dallas for Creating Change Feb. 3–7, attending workshops when she’s not serving as mistress of ceremonies.

Clinton mentioned a radio interview she had that she called the worst in her career. At 7 in the morning, before even having a cup of coffee, she sat down at the mike in a studio across from a DJ who told her, "I love your music." At Creating Change, Clinton promised not to sing.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 22, 2010.

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