In 2014, Feimster appeared on Comedy Central’s The Half Hour series and then did another half-hour special as part of Netflix’s The Standups three years later. But her brand new Netflix special is the first hour-long special of her career, a major milestone for any comic. And it is all her.
Sweet & Salty was taped in Charlotte, not far from where she grew up in the small town of Belmont, North Carolina. “It was a little stressful,” Feimster says, joking that her family and friends got “sloshed” before the show and started yelling things out during her set.
The extra time afforded Feimster the opportunity to deliver a far more personal stand-up set than she has in the past, essentially telling the story of her life through comedy. She jokes on stage that she was considered to be a “tomboy” growing up, “which was a more appropriate term for ‘future lesbian.’”
“I didn’t come out until I was 25 or 26,” she tells me. “And you can look back to plenty of periods in your life where you go, ‘Oh, OK, obviously I was this all along, I just didn’t know.’” It wasn’t until she moved to L.A. and was watching a Lifetime movie about a teenage girl struggling to come out to her mother that she said the words out loud for the first time: “Oh my God, I’m gay!”
The lack of representation of gay women in pop culture when she was a kid is part of what made Feimster, who spent years as an entertainment journalist before starting comedy, decide she never wanted to hide her sexual orientation in her work. Now, on shows like Chelsea Lately, The Mindy Project and even The Simpsons—where she played the “female Homer” who dates Marge’s sister Patty—Feimster has become the representation she wished she had all along.
On gay representation in pop culture
“There was no representation, no seeing yourself out there in the world. And then when I moved to L.A., this thing starts to bubble up inside of me that’s always been there to the point where I can’t really deny it anymore. Growing up we just didn’t have the shows that you have now, Will & Grace, stuff like that. YouTube alone has made the most difference with representation because you have these young gay people that have platforms, like Hannah Hart or Todrick Hall—these are celebrities, huge icons to these young kids. I think if I had had a platform like that to watch when I was young where you see people like you, I think I probably would have come out sooner. Once a mirror is being held up to you, you can see yourself better.”
On making the transition from entertainment journalism to comedy
“Having been on the other end of it, I see the mutual beneficial relationship. Whereas I think some actors or comedians might see it as, ‘Ugh, I have to do this thing and I don’t want to do it.’ So they might not want to be there, they already have their guard up. Having been a journalist for seven years, journalists need celebrities and actors and musicians as much as we need them. They have a job to do and we have a job that we want to promote. No one is more important in the transaction, we’re both wanting something out of it.”
On getting turned down by ‘Saturday Night Live’
“For a lot of comics, that was kind of the end-all, be-all. It was such a part of our childhood and I mean, SNL back in the day would make people stars overnight. It’s not quite the same way now because there’s so much content out there. At the time though, I was still doing the entertainment journalism. I was broke. And I had not been on TV. So you think in your head, this was my only opportunity, this is the only shot I could get. And once you get the no—they don’t actually tell you no, you just read in the paper who got hired that year—the dream just has to shift. You just have to have a new dream. And who knows? Maybe I would have been miserable on the show or in New York. For whatever reason, it wasn’t supposed to happen for me.”
On playing Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Chelsea Handler’s Netflix show
“That one really resonated with people because my accent was very similar to hers. We were kind of the first people that did an impression of Sarah and then SNL started a little bit after that. But I played her very intense. I would try to put Chelsea in her place. It was fun while it lasted because at the time things were a little lighter. And then as Sarah kind of became more complicit in the falsities, it became a little more difficult for me. And I am not a political comedian, I don’t like to get political, so for me that was uncomfortable. The very last thing we shot was something that they wrote, this makeup tutorial. It focused more on the physical appearance of things. And people didn’t like it. Some people loved it. But some people were like, you’re making fun of someone’s appearance, which I’m not a fan of doing. And I got like four days of hate mail and death threats. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I’m trying to put out in the world.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Comedian Maria Bamford, whose new stand-up special Weakness Is the Brand premieres Tuesday, January 28th.