Fortune Feimster is on the rise.
Despite her name, it's not just luck that's landed her at the forefront of up-and-coming comics in Hollywood. Just ask late night host Chelsea Handler, who snatched up the North Carolina comedian as a full-time writer and roundtable contributor for her hit E! Network show, Chelsea Lately; or maybe try longtime comedy giant, Tina Fey, who selected Feimster as a reoccurring character on her much anticipated Fox sitcom, Calbot College.
Since her early days at Groundlings Theatre and her national television debut as a semi-finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing, Feimster has been grabbing the attention of industry professionals and stand-up audiences alike.
Before her making her debut performance at Stand Up Live on Friday, May 23, Jackalope Ranch caught up with Feimster by phone to discuss Fey, Handler, and what doesn't define her as a comic.
You just finished shooting the pilot for your potential sitcom with Tina Fey. What's it like working on a new project with such a comedy legend? I don't think I had a normal conversation with her until like four days into the process because I was so dumbfounded and in awe of her presence.
Does it have a set title yet? Right now it's called Cabot College. I'm currently, as we speak, waiting to hear if it gets a pick-up, so pretty much the last few days I've been useless because I've been sitting by the computer, phone waiting to see if we get picked up.
Right. There seems to be a lot of confusion surround the fate of new and ongoing shows these days. It's that whole TV lingo that I never understood either. Until you've done it, it's like, "what?" It's confusing with our show because it's like a series commitment so it's like, "Oh we're definitely going to see it." But that just means that if they don't pick it up, they have to pay a penalty.
So needless to say, you're a not a fan of this aspect of the job. Oh god no. It's the worst! But I love the job. I love the work . The work is fun because it's very rewarding. You just can't ask for a more fun job. But the business side of the job is very difficult and very stressful.
But you just sort of have to adapt to it and learn to be patient and learn that logic is not always behind decisions and there are so many things out of your control and you just sort of have to learn to ride the wave.
So which are you more passionate about these days? Television or stand-up? I'm pretty passionate about both of them. They're very rewarding for very different reasons. With stand-up you get such an immediate response. That high of making people laugh, meeting people that appreciate what you do. . . There's nothing better.
TV's really great because it's the reason people want to come to see you perform live in the first place. I like TV because it reaches a broader audience. You just don't get that immediate feedback but they both feed into each other
What made you want to be a comedian? Were you a bit of a class clown growing up? No, I don't know if people would have assumed that I would have become a professional comedian. I was kind of shy growing up and then when I got to late high school/early college, I finally started to come out of my shell.
And I came to L.A. not knowing what I wanted to do but just knowing that I wanted to do something bigger than living in my small town in North Carolina. So I was doing comedy as just kind of a hobby, as a way to make friends, and my teachers kept telling me I was funny and I needed to stick with it.
Which came first, coming out of the closet or coming out as a comedian? I came out of the closet before I started doing stand-up. I think it would be hard to do stand-up and be in the closet because my stand-up in particular is very personal. It's a lot of stories about the way I've lived my life and my observations and I can't imagine hiding that part of myself.
Do you feel that people try to put you into a particular genre of comedy as a gay woman? No, I think that being on Chelsea [Lately] helps a lot. I think that if I had not done that, it might have happened. But she has such a huge following with straight people -- gay people as well -- but I find that so many straight women come to my show and they bring their husbands or boyfriends and those guys always end up at the end being like, "I had no idea who you were and you were so funny!"
And that's always a huge compliment to me because I want to be able to reach a broader spectrum. I don't want to just focus on one group. I mean, I'm proud of the fact that I'm gay and that's certainly a part of who I am and a part of my act but that doesn't define my comedy or me as a comic.
You've spent many years working for Chelsea Handler. Can you give us a little insight as to what that's like? Do you see her as more of a boss, a friend, or a mentor? She's a little bit of everything. She's been very instrumental in helping to launch a bunch of peoples' careers and that's one of the great things about her show is that she opens up the spotlight to a lot of other people and not just herself.
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So she's extremely generous in that way and I'm very grateful that I've had that opportunity to work there. She's just cool. She takes employees on trips and is very generous on holidays, and gives peoples' kids money for college. So she looks out for people.
And that's nice to see because some people get success and they just want to hoard all the fame and money for themselves because they're afraid it will go away, and she's not afraid of that. As she says, she's on the gravy train and she just wants to make sure everyone gets a piece of it.
Fortune Feimster will perform at Stand Up Live on Friday, May 23. Showtimes are 7:30 and 10 p.m. Tickets to this 21-and-over show is $20 with a two-drink minimum. To purchase tickets, visit www.tempeimprov.com or call 480-921-9877.