There’s No Business Like Funny Business

The reality of Michele Balan

by Nancy Ford

Michele Balan

Following that fine and funny lesbian tradition established by Judy Gold, Rosie O’Donnell, and Joy Behar (well, maybe not Joy Behar…), Michele Balan has made a considerable name for herself as “a brash New York stand-up comedian.”

Delivering lines like “It’s easier to get New Yorkers to stab you than it is to get them to laugh,” the Brooklyn-born comic ended up as one of the four finalists on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2006. She also released her first CD, Neurotic by Nature,in 1999; her most recent DVD, Live … Just Barely, in 2006. In between, she’s brought audiences to their knees on myriad cruises, as well as at golf tournaments and a million fundraisers, finding renown in the gay and lesbian community and beyond.

On February 13, she takes the stage to entertain the 300-or-so women at Lesbian Health Initiative Houston’s Celebration of Love gala.

Before arriving in Houston, fresh from her Olivia gig at Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico, Balan talked to OutSmart about life, love, and what it takes to be “a 20-year overnight success.”

Hi Michele. How are you?
Ahhh, busy. But great. Just trying to get things done.

Thank you for talking to OutSmart. You still live in New York City, right?
Unfortunately, yes.

Trying to get out?
No. I keep saying I’m going to move. That would be nice, if I could live anywhere else where I could have an apartment where I could stretch. I tell people, I can’t pace, I can only pivot.

Well, that’s pretty standard for a New York apartment, I understand. You travel a lot, though, don’t you? Aren’t you gone, practically all the time?
Oh yes. I’m gone a lot. There’s nothing better than coming home and saying, “Shit—I still live here?”

Where did you just come from?
I was recently in Atlanta.

How’d that go?
It was great. Then before that, I was in North Carolina, and then before that, I was in Florida….

Always on the road. Well, you know, they recently elected a woman mayor in Atlanta. Houston just elected a woman as mayor, too, and she’s a lesbian! So, especially in Houston, that’s a huge deal.
Wow, you’re telling me!

What advice would you give to our new mayor to help her maintain her sense of humor as Houston’s first lesbian mayor?
Just use the line that I use: “I’m for all people. I’m bi-comical.” [Both laugh]

That reaches out to the masses! And congratulations on being one of the finalists on Last Comic Standing. That was a couple years ago. Do you have any interest in doing another reality show?
Only if it’s on an island I can smoke on. Other that that, I don’t know. Pretty much, the only way to get a reality show today
is you have to have 12 kids and you’ve got to go up in a balloon. I’m going to stop smoking soon, so I could be on The Biggest Loser. Other than that, I don’t know what else.

But my career has been great since then, anyway. This year I opened for the Smothers Brothers’ 50th anniversary tour. I played St. Lake City for a Jewish arts festival. And I was asked to do The Tonight Show, but I wasn’t available.

Oh, that’s terrible!
Yes, that’s going to be a credit of mine: “She was asked to do The Tonight Show, but wasn’t available.” [Both laugh]

I understand you’re also the “fashion police writer” for Life & Style magazine.
Yes. I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been so busy.

Who do you think are the biggest fashion offenders these days?
Who is that guy who had the blog and now has a show?

Perez Hilton?
Well, yeah. Every time they run pictures of him, he looks like an idiot. But I probably should be up there as one of the fashion offenders. I feel like [saying to myself], “You’ve got your nerve talking about other people.” Sometimes [Life & Style] sends me pictures, and I love what they’re wearing! My comment is, “Where did they buy it?”

The event you’re going to be performing for here in Houston, as we said, is the Celebration of Love for the Lesbian Health Initiative. It’s a big lesbian dinner dance.
Great! Maybe I’ll meet somebody!

The obvious question that follows is, how is your love life?
Oh, I don’t know. It’s a mess. I was with somebody. We’re not together anymore. Then I was dating somebody in LA, but I don’t think we’re together anymore.

You’re not sure? [Both laugh]
I honestly don’t know. If I meet somebody at the dance, I’ll just stay! I’ll live in Houston.

Well, it’s not easy for a comic to maintain a long-term relationship. You’re on the road so much, women are afraid you’ll put them in your act . . .
Yes, they are afraid of that. And I am traveling all the time. You have to be one of those people who don’t have to be [with your partner] constantly. Although, I’ve brought women with me on cruises. There are some perks.

Have you been doing a lot of cruises lately?
Oh yes, I do all kinds of cruises—gay, straight. RSVP with all the gay men. Olivia. They’re great, the cruises. Like I said, I’m bi-comical.

Aside from the obvious, what’s the biggest difference between a gay cruise and a straight cruise?
Children. There are lots of kids on the straight cruises. I like the gay cruises, way better. They’re a lot more fun. But it’s about making a living, you know what I mean?

Absolutely. And you’ve been doing this for quite a while, right?
Yes, for 20 years. I’m a 20-year overnight success! [Both laugh]

That’s a long time to be in any profession, but especially to be in comedy. How do you stay fresh and funny?
You just have to keep writing. Fortunately, I have the ability to write; it just comes naturally to me. The hardest part is when you’re telling jokes that you’ve already told. Making it fresh is hard.

Well, that’s what separates the hacks from the professionals. What else are you working on that you’d like to tell us about?
I have a bunch of different little projects. I’m working on a show called Boomer Humor. I just did a trailer for a film; who knows what’s going to happen with that. Jerry Stiller’s in it. I think it’s called Drip. Just a lot of different things. In this business, you do a lot of different things, and you hope that something hits.

Well, obviously you’re doing something right. Do you have anything else to tell our readers?
I can’t wait to come to Texas and meet them. All the girls in Texas are pretty! Thank God!


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