Shawn lately

Comic Pelofsky pairs with Dallas’ Paul J. Williams for a gay ol’ time Saturday

COMIC PAIR  |  Paul J. Williams, right, opens for comedian Shawn Pelofsky at the Rose Room Saturday.
COMIC PAIR | Paul J. Williams, right, opens for comedian Shawn Pelofsky at the Rose Room Saturday.

SHAWN PELOFSKY
The Rose Room at Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Sept. 25. Show begins at 9:30 p.m. $4 cover. Caven.com

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Shawn Pelofsky has probably been on more gay cruises that any straight woman should feel comfortable claiming.

The L.A.-based comic, who performs nationwide with her Lady Haha & Friends Tour, has appeared on E! with Chelsea Handler, but is familiar to gay travelers for her frequent stints on Atlantis Cruises. She brings her act, alongside local comedian Paul J. Williams, for a show at the Rose Room Saturday.

Pelofsky chatted (with Williams) about what she likes about Dallas’ gay community and why she is so popular with gay audiences (hint: It’s her schnoz).

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: You were here a few years ago at the Lakewood Theater; how did this show come about? Pelofsky: I was already booked in Austin. I had a lot of requests from the Dallas boys from working the Atlantis Cruises so I thought, “If I’m gonna be that close, and we make it happen…” So I called Paul and he did it.

Williams: I am just a vessel for you to perform.

Pelofsky: Paul is so nice and funny.

Are we talking about the same person? Pelofsky: Yes. You can’t get much by me. He’s funny.

You’re straight — how’d you get to be so big in the gay community? Pelofsky: I was born with a Streisand face, so I couldn’t dodge anyone in the gay community — they stop me all the time. Actually, I wasn’t born with it — I broke my nose three times and it got this way. I think with that, people noticed me a little more.

About five or six yeas ago, I just noticed most of my friends were young gay men and I was working a lot of gay venues in Los Angeles. Then the Atlantis [Cruises] people saw me. I was really one of the first straight comics to work so much for them. I really represent the community because I understand that thought process, that mind behind the gay man. It’s my mind. And I’m very accepting.

Do you tailor your act for your audiences? Pelofsky: Sure. Believe it or not, I have worked in front of kids, and I do kid humor. Or when I’m in front of a bunch of old Jews in New Jersey. I can’t do all my gay material when I’m in Afghanistan for the troops.

Do you do it at all? Any “don’t ask, don’t tell” jokes when performing for the troops? Pelofsky: I haven’t really touched that. They say do nothing about that or the president. I just don’t go there. But it does come off the cuff…. But I do love gay humor. And I do it when I work at the Comedy Store.

Do you have any topics that are burning a hole in you comically speaking? Pelofsky: Yes, Prop 8. I support it. Just kidding!

You’ve worked Vegas — did you hear they are closing the Liberace Museum? Pelofsky: Yes! Who doesn’t wanna go to the Liberace Museum?

Williams: I just wanna know if they’re having a garage sale. I’d buy anything shaped like a piano.

Pelofsky: I want a Bedazzled jock strap.

You grew up in Oklahoma as, as you put it, one of 10 Jews born and raised in the state. Do you like coming back to your old stomping grounds? Pelofsky: I have not been to Texas in a few years. I’m not going home until Monday — gonna stay longer because I have a couple of best friends there. I will tell you this, though: I will always get to Texas before I get back to Oklahoma. My dad says, “You gonna be playing Dallas and not Oklahoma?” Yes.

But you like performing here? Pelofsky: Yes, I’m excited! I think the Dallas gay community is one of the best-looking communities, and I’ve been around. And yes, I know everything is bigger in Texas. And everyone knows I’m a size queen.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Mama knows best

Vicki Lawrence works to keep Mama up with the times in a new show she brings to Fort Worth

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Vicki Lawrence
DON’T TALK BACK | Vicki Lawrence has made Mama into such an icon that now she shares top billing in her newest show, which Lawrence brings to Fort Worth Saturday.

We like our mothers and grandmothers just the way they are: Ornery or pleasant, they are, for the most part, the only people who can get away with being themselves and remain dear to our hearts.

Tell this to comedian Vicki Lawrence. This Saturday, she’s bringing her most famous character, Thelma Harper — or as we know her, Mama — to the Laugh With a Legend Gala at Casa Manana. But it might be fair to say this is Mama 2.0.

“Mama has changed a lot,” Lawrence says. “I told myself for this run that I wouldn’t be happy going back. We need to go forward, and so we set about making Mama incredibly modern.”

Will our favorite ol’ grump be tweeting her snarky retorts? That would be a “no.” But Mama has come a long way since her inception on The Carol Burnett Show. Part of that evolution is thanks to Harvey Korman, whom Lawrence credits as really starting Mama’s growth.

“She changed between Burnett and Mama’s Family,” she says. “Korman really helped out. He made the point that people couldn’t just come home, relax and watch her be mean to everyone. She had to become a fun and silly character. I learned the most about comedy from Harvey.”

Lawrence plans to keep Mama topical because she apparently has opinions on BP and Mel Gibson. But she also has visions of Lil’ Kim in her head. For this show, Lawrence will perform Mama’s Rap to prove she’s no fuddy-duddy and knows what’s what.

Her metamorphosis mirrors Lawrence’s. As the years passed, Lawrence grew from 20something comedy ingénue into pop culture icon — and grew a little closer in age to Mama.

“She became this wonderful peacock of a character,” she says. “But I have to say, I tend to agree with her a little more as I get older. “

Vicki Lawrence
Vicki Lawrence

Through Mama, Lawrence has built her own gay fan base that surprised her initially. Her Mama’s Family co-star Dorothy Lyman was the first to show Lawrence pictures of drag queens in old lady garb. But then it all seems to make sense for her.

“Everyone has a twisted family,” Lawrence says. “And mother issues. But gay fans have been wonderful, and I guess they love that she is this outrageous female character — although probably not as much fun to dress up as as Cher.”

Lawrence is spending more time on the stage than the small screen, touring with Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show. But her heart sounds like it’s still in television. She’s had bit parts on Roseanne and Yes, Dear and even played against teen megastar Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana’s, grandmother Mamaw Stewart.

“That was a fun set, but if it’s television versus the stage, well that’s a loaded question,” she says. “We taped Burnett like a bat out of hell. I miss that kind of TV. Stage is like that with the live audience and interaction. I miss TV. Now, everybody’s putting their two cents in via committee.“

Lawrence sees today’s TV, at least behind the scenes, as far different from her heyday. It’s harder to have fun than when she was new to the medium.

“I wrote to Carol when I was in high school. She changed my life and told me I would have found showbiz anyway,” she says. “The funny thing is I don’t know how comedy found me. I was gonna go to college to become a dental hygienist, marry a dentist and be done with it!”
Of course, then we wouldn’t have Mama, or any of her other characters. But Thelma Harper is Vicki Lawrence’s comedic legacy — which is a duel-edged sword.

“I’m definitely in Mama’s shadow — she gets all the good jokes,” she laughs. “I need to be me before I’m not anymore. We were watching the Michael Jackson memorial and I think sometimes I wanna do that for Mama. The sad thing is, if I were gone, people would miss her!”

VICKI LAWRENCE
Casa Manana Theatre,
3101 W. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth. Aug. 28 at 8:45 p.m. $75.
CasaManana.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

‘This is what we get for voting for a clown’: Reykjavik mayor opens gay Pride in drag

Reykjavik Mayor Jon Gnarr, left, dressed in drag for the opening ceremonies of his city’s Pride festival.

I am sure that most people would agree that there’s a lot of funny business going on in politics. But when it comes to Reykjavik, Iceland, it’s not the kind of political funny business you might think.

In June, the citizens of Reykjavik elected top comedian Jon Gnarr as mayor. Gnarr ran for office on a platform that promised free towels at swimming pools and a new polar bear for the Reykjavik zoo. His Best Party won the council elections after promising transparency in government and used campaign videos of the candidates singing along to Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best.”

Gnarr had promised that, as mayor, he would appear at the city’s Pride festival. And this week, he made good on that promise: appearing in drag at the opening ceremonies. His blond drag persona told the crowd the mayor could not attend himself because “he’s busy, even though he promised to be here.”

Gnarr added: “What might he be up to? Maybe he is visiting Moomin Valley [the fictional setting of a series of Finnish children's stories that feature a family of white hippopotamus-like trolls]. This is what we get for voting for a clown in elections.”

Iceland, by the way, became the first country with an openly gay head of state last year when Joanna Sigurdardottir became prime minister.

Go to BBC to read more.

—  admin

XL laughs

Plus-sized comedian Ryan O’Connor doesn’t shy away from fat jokes

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com


EAT THAT | The chubby gay boy, center, gets his revenge by turning his life into a humorous cabaret in ‘Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings.’

RYAN O’CONNOR EATS
Greenville Center for the Arts, 5601 Sears St.
June 23 at 8 p.m. $15.
ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com







Don’t call Ryan O’Connor a standup comic. Sure, he’s funny, he stands onstage in front of a microphone and people laugh, but his show is more than that.
The former actor and talk-show character player recently embarked on his first tour (complete with a rented Minivan) and took time out hours before the debut performance in San Francisco to talk about his career, his show and the foods that make him happy. His current boyfriend is Mormon, three of his exes have gone off to marry women and he’s not above smuggling dogs into hotel rooms. How could he not be a comic?

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Dallas Voice: So when did you first start doing comedy — or rather, getting paid for doing comedy? Ryan O’Connor: My first paid comedy gig was with Second City in New York. We formed an improv group out of that called the Birdwatchers. There were eight of us and we got a split of the door, so we got about 20 bucks.

How is being a comedian different from being an actor? It’s been an evolution. In a lot of ways I fought being a comedian because there’s a lot of fear involved in it. Even describing myself as a comedian right now feels ambitious. I consider myself more a storyteller, and I tend to tell funny stories. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that people would like me to call myself a comedian, so I’ll oblige.

People like labels. Exactly. But even when you’re doing cabaret, you’re still one man standing in front of a microphone. I’m a cabaret artist, which I sometimes describe as singing standup. You will never catch me at a standup open mike; you will never catch me going on after a standup performer. It’s just way too terrifying for me. Even though it’s not that much different than what I do, in my brain, it’s terrifying.

You sing a lot in your show. Is the singing your security blanket? Yeah, kind of. It’s not even that I have the world’s most terrific voice. It’s just that I’m comfortable.

Musical theater is what I grew up in. It’s what I’ve known my entire life. It gives me security knowing that if a story bombs, I have a song I can go into and songs are easier to sell than comedy. Even funny songs, it’s at least written into the music. This sounds like the most defensive interview of all time!

I’m sorry. No it’s me, not you!

Your publicity describes you as the “big gay singing Kathy Griffin.” Do you think she’s worried about you stealing her gays? Kathy’s a friend of mine. I got her blessing to refer to myself as the big gay singing Kathy Griffin. I don’t think Kathy sees anyone as a threat any more. In the last couple of years she’s finally getting the acclaim she’s deserved forever.

I’m sure she loves the label — it gets her name out there more. It’s only fair, too, because I’ve been in her act before. She used to refer to me in her act as her Pink Hollywood Gay or something.

That’s the double gay dream: Being friends with Kathy Griffin and being mentioned in her act. I was a huge fan before we became friends, so to have a story mentioned in her act was very surreal.

Do you have any juicy celebrity stories? Not in this show, but I do. I am not as willing as Kathy is to “go there.” Most Hollywood types are so difficult to deal with anyway, that once you do something publicly, it’s even worse. I see how tough it can be for her. It’s isolated her. There’s groups of people that shy away from her. I think they laugh at her in the privacy of their homes, but if she walks into a party, they all avoid her like the plague. That’s a very lonely kind of fame.

I tell stories in my show and I don’t say it and people don’t know that I’m talking about a very famous person. I could cash in and make this more exciting, but I choose not to.

What can people expect from your show? It’s a comedic, self-effacing journey through story and song about my life and experiences as a compulsive overeater. It goes into my food addiction and how that is a manifestation of my experiences as a child, as well as an adult. My experiences in show business, my experiences as a gay man, all sorts of things. The show is Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings, but it could just as easily be Joe Schmo Eats His Feelings or Tiger Woods Fucks His Feelings.

You don’t have to be gay to enjoy it then. My show’s definitely not a gay show. It’s a gay story so gay people relate to it immediately.

Are you empowered by the self-effacing part of it, beating others to the punch? That’s absolutely what it is. The whole show is what I learned as a 10-year-old fat kid. My mom always told me if I made the joke first, they can’t make it. That was my survival tool as a fat boy and a gay boy. That’s how you get through it.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice