Laugh Track: Jessica Kirson
We talk to the comic about her explosive stage presence.
A proud New Jersey native, and veteran of the New York City stand-up scene where she was doing 10 to 20 shows a week, Jessica Kirson has been seen on VH1, Bravo, Showtime, Comedy Central, Celebrity Apprentice and NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Last Call With Carson Daly and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She is larger than life, can belt out a blues tune and is prone to staging public displays of eccentricity like talking to trashcans and laughing uncontrollably in shopping malls. Yes, she is a lesbian but it doesn’t define her, and no, she won’t conform to lesbian standards of political correctness: “Don’t try to suppress me because I will go nuts!” She may make you uncomfortable, but more than likely she will make you laugh uncontrollably as she pokes fun at our hang-ups about sex, food, family and cultural stereotypes. She’s angry, she’s hungry and she’s one not-to-be-missed lesbian comic.
Is there still a lot of discrimination against female comics?
Yes, and the only way to change it is to get better and better as a comic.
Who are the most powerful women in comedy?
Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, Roseanne and Rosie.
They don’t play nice. Is it becoming more acceptable that women can own comedy?
The only way to make it as a comic is own it and be a “bitch” and not worry so much about what everyone thinks. The most successful female comics are the most free. Look at Lisa Lampanelli.
What about Ellen DeGeneres?
I’m surprised that she doesn’t have more female comics on her show. Rosie O’Donnell always supported women that she thought were really talented. She tried to help us.
Joy Behar has been incredibly supportive of you.
I adore her. I’ve been on her show 12 times and she’s been incredible to me. I was leaving Joy’s show the last time and I was walking out of the studio and she yells out, “Jessica, if you weren’t a lesbian I would be with you!” It was hysterical. The last thing I need is a friendship.
You do gay gigs, Jewish gigs, straight gigs. Do you get a buzz out of making men laugh?
Yes, because it’s unbelievably powerful. I have so much control over men on stage it’s amazing. It’s like being a comedy dominatrix. I know the minute I get up there they’re thinking, This is a woman, she’s not going to be funny. I love making men laugh—I have them in the palm of my hand, and then I can destroy them. [Laughs] I have a lot of male energy and I think that helps me.
Where does your onstage power come from?
It comes from inner rage. I’m not an angry person but a lot of things make me angry. My mother is a therapist. She had clients in the house my whole life so I always had to stay quiet. I feel like so many women are so suppressed. I feel like I’m trying to let out what they’re bottling up inside. I had a woman say to me, “I can’t come see you. You scare me.” And I’m the nicest person.
You do controversial material. Like a one night stand where the woman asked you to beat her. Is violence against women funny?
First of all, it’s about sex. I’m not up there saying, “Isn’t it hysterical when men beat the shit out of women!”
So what was going on in that hotel room that night?
It was about sex and status. It was what she was into but it made me uncomfortable.
You push boundaries in other areas, like Jewish and African American culture.
Jewish people can take a joke, and believe it or not, so can black people. I have never once had an African American person say to me they were offended. It’s the white, tight, politically correct people that get so freaked out and I actually feel sorry for them. I am so grateful that I can let go and laugh at things and be free for an hour.
What is taboo to you?
I would never say anything about my family or my child that I would regret. I’m not doing this to make money, believe it or not, or have fame. I’m doing this to hopefully get to a point where I have enough power in my career to make a positive change and help people. (jessicakirson.com)
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