Jill of all trades

From the Emmy red carpet to phlebotomy school, out comic Margaret Smith always has a plan

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

comedy

LAUGHING LESBIAN | Former Ellen writer and newly-minted Texan Margaret Smith steers clear of gay jokes.

For someone who’s been in a Martin Scorsese film (a bit part in GoodFellas), written a book about single motherhood and won six Emmys, it’s hard to find out much about comedian Margaret Smith. Her bios online are mostly mirror images of each other, and don’t even think of checking the social networks — she’s not on them.

“I think I’m the only person I know that’s not on Facebook,” she says. “People from way back pop on there.

If I haven’t seen them in so long, there’s probably a reason. Really, I’m just lazy. A friend of mine told me that there is only one YouTube video of me out there. ”

But the recent transplant to Texas (she moved to Austin with her two children last year) and former Ellen

DeGeneres joke writer is busy working on her stand-up again, so her focus isn’t likely on who her next friend request is from. Instead, it’s figuring where her next paycheck might come from. And that could be anywhere from telling jokes to drawing blood. Fortunately, she’ll be doing the former this weekend at Backdoor Comedy.

“I’ve sort of been ticking around, wondering what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Smith says. “After Ellen, I moved to Austin and became a phlebotomist, but then I couldn’t find a job doing that! People don’t want a joke and a poke — just the joke. I did some open mic stuff and got a writing job here. I liked it.”

Smith picked up several of her Emmys writing for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, leaving just before the writer’s strike of 2007. That move forced Smith to rethink her career strategy. With the strike, a writing gig wasn’t an option. Stand-up comedy was, but custody issues of her two sons forced Smith to move, either to Atlanta or Austin; the latter won. She became a Texan last year.

“I wasn’t gonna go anywhere without my kids,” she says. “But things were different in Austin. I was in a different arena of comedians and there was none of the Hollywood shit going on. It was kind of refreshing.”

Although she’s driving up I-35 for a Friday and Saturday performance, she might stick around Dallas to spend Sunday at the State Fair. She was thrilled at the idea of fried butter and fried margaritas.

“If I get invited and someone is willing to go with me, then I’d stick around,” she says. “With all that fried stuff, I guess I better serve up some fried jokes, huh?”

Most of Smith’s shtick relates to her experience with her family and as a single mom to two boys. She jokes about taking her son to get tested for ADD; it turned out he was fine — she was the one with the problem. She deadpans her family’s supportive nature of her comic memoir, What Was I Thinking, was evident in how they passed it around eight times rather than buy each family member their own copy.

But the out comedian doesn’t joke too much on the gay stuff, which she calls “not that funny and a little dirty.” Besides, not having dated anyone in over six years, she’s a little detached from the scene.

“What’s funny about being a lezzie? “ she quips. “I talk about dating guys when I was in my 20s but  I think those experiences are funny. Jokes about women can get easily graphic and I’d never do that onstage. Gay or straight, the crowd may not relate and start to disconnect. But I did receive the best compliment in the women’s restroom when this lady asked me if I had a tampon. I just wanted to make out with her because I’m too old to have one!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lampanelli fights Westboro hate with comedy — and with cash for the GMHC

Lisa Lampanelli

Comedian Lisa Lampanelli — known for her equal opportunity insults against every group, minority or not and known as well as an LGBT rights supporter, despite her gay jokes — is performing tonight in Topeka, Kan. And of course, Fred Phelps and his bunch of loony-tunes from Westboro Baptist Church have announced they plan to protest outside the Topeka Performing Arts Center while Lampanelli is performing inside.

Taking a page, perhaps, from Resource Center Dallas‘ playbook, Lampanelli has announced that for every protester who shows up tonight, she’ll donate $1,000 to New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the country’s oldest AIDS/HIV service organization.

This has the potential to be a big money maker for GMHC.

Last July, the Phelps clan protested outside Resource Center Dallas because that’s where the primarily LGBT Congregation Beth El Binah holds its services. (The Phelps Phools protested outside Dallas’ Holocaust Museum and the Jewish Community Center that same day.) But instead of asking counter-protesters to come out to face off against the Westboro Baptist group — which often uses such encounters to provoke counter-protesters into doing something the WBC folks can sue over), RCD asked people to pledge donations to the center for every minute the WBC protesters remained outside the center. RCD ended up with more than $10,000, money that was used to purchase a new freezer to store food for the center’s meals program.

Personally, I am not a big fan of Lampanelli’s brand of insult-based comedy. It’s just not my cup of tea. But if I lived anywhere near Topeka, I would damn sure buy a ticket and go see her show tonight. Because anybody willing to open up their own pocketbook to turn Westboro Baptist’s hate into a positive thing for a worthy cause is somebody I am willing to support.

—  admin

Pentagon provides update on DADT repeal

Clifford Stanley

Few spousal benefits will be available to gay and lesbian servicemembers after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is implemented, according to Defense Undersecretary Clifford Stanley and Gen. James Cartwright.

Stanley and Cartwright spoke at a press conference this afternoon on the progress of implementing the repeal of DADT.

In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama said, “Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

Stanley said the Pentagon is still working through the process of drafting new policies needed to implement DADT repeal.

Asked to pinpoint a timetable for implementing the repeal beyond “expeditiously” or “quickly,” neither Stanley nor Cartwright was specific.

However, Cartwright said, “Expeditiously is better than dragging this out,” citing the experience of other countries in allowing gays and lesbians to serve in their armed forces. Training, they agreed, should begin in February.

Stanley and Cartwright addressed chaplains — one of the largest and most vocal groups opposing the repeal of DADT — saying they practice their own faiths and no rules changes would be needed. The two officials did not address chaplains refusing to serve gay and lesbian troops.

—  David Taffet

Best bets • 07.23.10

Friday 07.23

We just wanna know if we can tip
When six British gents lose their steel mill job and figure stripteasing is the way to make some cash, we applaud their entreneneurial efforts — especially if they have triceps and pecs like these. But most don’t in WaterTower’s The Full Monty. Regular Joes take it off for pound notes in their thongs and present beef in all shapes, sizes and songs.

DEETS: WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road. Through Aug. 15. $25–$40. WaterTowerTheatre.org.


Saturday 07.24

Vegans like to grill too, you know
Mercy For Animals Dallas is blunt when it points out this sweet face could be a family pet but that Babe the pig could be dinner. Animal-rights activisits and vegans know non-meat food can be just as satisfying. They’ll prove it with the Dallas branch’s launch party and vegan barbecue. MFA also shows off its new office which luckily is close to a pool.

DEETS: CityScape Dallas, 6467 Melody Lane. Noon. RSVP at EddieG@MercyForAnimals.org.


Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith

Wednesday 07.28

We heart our gay-friendly straight bears
Filmmaker Kevin Smith hits the road with longtime producer Scott Mosier for a night of lewdness and gratutitous sex onstage — only not that way. Their Smodcast Tour is like This American Life but with gay jokes and crass tales — and we love it.

DEETS: Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. 8 p.m. $40–$60. GranadaTheater.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens