In the quarter century since English teacher-turned-comedy legend Kate
Clinton first took the stage – after her best friend booked her into a
nightclub not for one night, but for an entire month – Clinton has been
nothing less than an inspiring pioneer.
Last week, after 25 years entertaining the masses and blazing the comedy
trail for everybody from Rosie O’Donnell to Ellen DeGeneres, Kate hit
the road for her year-long “It’s Come to This!” anniversary
I caught up with the NYC-based Kate a couple mornings before the tour began
to ask her what she thought of the growth of Gay America and gay liberation
since she first took the stage as an openly-lesbian stand-up comic way back
Our conversation ran the gamut from presidents and gay conservatives to
purple haircuts and fabulous queers on television.
“When I started out we had Lily Tomlin [on TV] and she was wearing
purple and we could discuss that for five years,” Kate cracks.
“Now we have actual gay characters and it would be fun to see them
actually portrayed by gay people. I hope the new gay [cable] channels
haven’t siphoned off the need for gay people on the
As for her own cameo on the current season of Showtime’s The L Word
(which can be seen on Showcase in Canada), Kate says, “Some people come
up to me and say ‘I saw you on TV. How come I don’t know about
you?’ That’s the nice thing about being on TV – you can be
in a lot of places without actually going there.”
And over that time span, who have been Clinton’s worst and favourite
“My least favourite is the current president because he’s a liar.
Bill Clinton [no relation] was my favourite because despite Don’t Ask,
Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, he had gay friends, he knew
about gay people and that little opening made a lot more gay people come
That includes gay Republicans who, in my book, are an oxymoron (as opposed to
straight Republicans, who are just plain morons).
As for gay youth, Kate says, “They have an annoying sense of
entitlement [but] I’m really impressed that they’re out and have
straight friends and allies. They’re like, ‘And your point is?
There is a language about gay people where there was no language [when I grew
up] that gets more and more refined every six months – LGBTquestioning!
Pretty soon they’ll be calling us by our name.”
Kate also remembers 25 years of bad haircuts (she is, like myself,
currently a bottle blonde). “I went through a Cruella de Vil phase. My
hair was purple when my mother died. People would come up to me at her
funeral and say, ‘I’m sorry about your…’”And they
would look at Kate’s hair.
While haircuts and shoes remain a cornerstone of gay liberation, one of
Clinton’s most poignant moments over the last quarter-century was the
million-strong March on Washington in 1993. “I’ll never forget
coming around a corner in DC and seeing the AIDS Quilt spread out. Oh my God.
At that moment it was a march, not a parade.”
I adore Kate Clinton so much I blush when she actually tells me, “One
of the loveliest things in 25 years is you.”
But the best compliment I’ve ever heard was actually given to Kate
Recalls Kate, “I did a show in Lexington, Kentucky, and afterwards I
went out and this young woman came up to me in a restaurant, clapped me on
the back and said, ‘Kate Clinton, you made me want to fuck
again!’ That was the best compliment I ever got.”
Happy anniversary, Kate. V
KATE CLINTON CANADIAN DATES
Victoria, March 25 • Vancouver, March 26 • Toronto,