Our most political comic tells us how she really feels.
While stand-up comics are outspoken—it’s part of their job—Judy Gold is more vociferous than most. And she has a lot to talk about. Active in the Jewish community, and an activist in the LGBT community, the usually hilarious Gold is in a serious mood when we talk—and little wonder. As the daughter of an elderly mother and the mother of two teenage boys, she’s got a lot on her plate. Along with wanting to be a good parent and partner, her ambitions also include someday having her own TV show. For a glimpse of what that could be like, watch her guest appearances on The View and The Joy Behar Show. Gold’s work schedule is challenging and fatiguing— especially since she began shooting a mystery project that she’s keeping under wraps for now—but it hasn’t dulled her political savvy, especially during Pride season.
When did the ambition to have your own TV show take hold of you?
It probably started as a very young girl. I used to go in my bathroom and make believe I was Johnny Carson, and I’d sit on my toilet and that was the host’s desk. But I always wanted to be a performer, and I got rejected from graduate school in theater because the head of the School of the Arts at Rutgers told me I was too tall [Gold is 6 foot 3] and there was no way to cast me. But I had done stand-up in college a few times and really I am truly a stand-up comic, that’s who I am, I am most comfortable on stage. There was a time in the ’90s when pretty much every comic had a deal for their own TV show. And I thought, “Oh my God, my life is such a sitcom. Here I am in this tiny apartment with my two kids, my partner, my crazy mother.” I felt like this was really the template for a great show. But I was constantly rejected, and it was always about how America was not ready for a gay family.
You incorporate your family and kids into your routines. Isn’t that your private life?
Ninety percent of comics talk about their families—why should I not be able to talk about my family? Before Henry was born in 1996 I did stand-up, and I didn’t really say anything about being gay…There was a gay sensibility to my act, but I talked a lot about my mother. I had this child and I had all this material and although it was the mid-to-late ’90s there weren’t a lot of out comics—or out people for that matter. What does it say to my children if I go up on stage and I talk about my family and I don’t mention them? Or it seems like it’s a big secret we don’t talk about? No. This is who I am, these are my children, this is my family. I am proud of it, I am funny about it, and my goal is for people to watch my act and forget that it’s a gay family—because it’s a family just like everyone else’s. I think that humor is the most palatable way to get a point across. If you can write a joke that makes people laugh and makes people think, you’ve accomplished a lot.
What advice would you give prospective lesbian moms?
It is by far the greatest thing I ever did. It’s my greatest accomplishment. You’re creating a human being. There’s no greater responsibility in this world. It’s so great not to have to think about yourself and take care of someone else and get out of your fucking miserable head.
It took Edie Windsor to really fire up marriage equality. Where are all our lesbian role models?
I really don’t know. The Millennials are really changing the definition of being gay. It’s not so black-and-white anymore, and often when I’m on stage I’ll say, “Are you gay?” and they’ll say, “No, I’m queer,” and I’ll say, “No, you’re a lesbian—and you’re welcome.”
Do you believe in Pride?
Yes, and we used to go and watch. I’ve been in it as well. And although it’s fun to watch the parade, it really kind of depends on the weather and the mood I’m in [laughs]. Although I do celebrate, and I’m proud, I feel like I fight for LGBT rights and marriage equality every single day of my life.
What did you think of the Catholic League wanting to march in the NYC Pride parade under the banner “Straight Is Great”?
The head of that Catholic League decided he was going to boycott Guinness because Guinness would not march in the St. Paddy’s Day Parade because the LGBT community is not allowed to march in that parade…And now, of course, [Pride] has said, “Fine.” And that’s fine. I think it shows how secure we are with who we are, how we don’t feel threatened by straight people. We are a very diverse and aware, very culturally sensitive community. The best way to make that point is to let everyone else march in our parade.
How did you feel about the death of Fred Phelps? Did you feel that he actually helped galvanize us?
He was so beyond ridiculous and over the top, standing at the funeral of a veteran saying, “God hates fags.” He is sort of the poster child for what a lot of America thinks. It really gave us a visual of what we have to deal with constantly.
As a comic you’ve had to literally stand up for your beliefs. Have you ever said things you wish you could take back?
I was doing a benefit years ago for Howard Dean, 2003 or 2004, he was in the lead at the time and I was not a fan of George W. Bush—so I did this benefit and I was doing a set, which was great, and at the end I said, “We’ve gotta get that living, breathing piece of shit out of office,” which wasn’t any big secret until I said it. Of course my choice of words was really bad. I had no idea all the press was in that room and I was vilified. And rightly so. I learned a lot from that experience.
Would you back Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
I love Hillary Clinton…I am 100 percent behind her. Forget that she’s a woman for a minute. Look at what she’s done. She was an incredible Secretary of State, she’s full of knowledge, full of confidence. She is incredibly classy and she has a thick skin, which is exactly what you need. There’s no one more qualified and ready to be president than her.
But women are still the targets of discrimination, and are still stereotyped. It’s often said that women, and lesbians, aren’t funny.
I just did an Olivia cruise and I can’t tell you how wonderful those audiences were. There are humorless lesbians, there are humorless straight women, there are humorless straight men, and there are humorless gay men. It’s called a sense of humor. It’s a sense, like taste. You either like pizza or you don’t like pizza. You either like a joke or you don’t like a joke. The lesbian crowds I know—for example, Women’s Week in Provincetown—I think they have a great sense of humor, despite the fact that women are pretty much attacked on a daily basis. The attacks on Hillary…Rush Limbaugh saying, “We really want to see a woman age in office…” Look at the fat, disgusting, drug-addicted hypocrite. You’re against gay marriage and you’ve been married four times!
What do you say to LGBTs who think we shouldn’t be fighting for marriage equality?
That’s fine, you don’t have to fight for it. But when you have two children and a partner and you want to be able to have equal rights as a parent, as a spouse, to the point of being able to visit someone in the ER or the ICU, to be able to pick your child up from school, to be able to receive your spouse’s pension or social security and not lose your home. For those people who don’t support marriage equality—don’t get married. But to live in this world as a gay parent or a gay spouse and to lose everything when your partner dies and to have no right to your partner’s children—I’m sorry, we deserve marriage equality and it’s a fight, and until our families are equal and people realize they all know and love a gay person, this country’s not going to change.
What are your plans for the summer?
I’ll be doing stand-up. The kids will be in summer camp. So maybe it’s time to take care of myself.
I hear you’re also on Celebrity Wife Swap! WTF?
I knew that we would be the first same-sex couple ever to appear on the show, and I wanted to show America that we are just like every other family. We have the same issues, stresses, problems and joy. My wish is that people will watch us, and after a few minutes, will forget they are watching a same-sex family and realize that are watching just a family. And how fitting that it will be airing during Pride Week!