Divas of Diversity
by Marene Gustin
It’s tough being a woman in the stand-up comic’s world that is dominated by funny men.
It’s even tougher being a lesbian in that world.
“You have a niche and that’s it,” says funny lady Mona Cooper. “But there are funny women out there, and we want to introduce them to the nation.”
That’s why hometown gal Cooper has put together the Divas of Diversity Tour, which just happens to be kicking off right here in Houston, June 19, at the Houston Club.
“We chose the venue because it was originally a men’s club, but now it’s open to such diversity.”
The evening is an official Pride Houston event with a VIP pre-party and after-bash where you can hang with the divas. It’s billed as the biggest lesbian comedy event ever and features Cooper, Vickie Shaw (another H-Town local fave), Dana Goldberg, and Jessica Kirson—gals who are some of the biggest and hottest names in lesbian comedy. A portion of ticket sales will go to Pride Houston for youth coming-out kits.
“We’re going to take this tour, with different comics, to 18 cities this year,” says Cooper. “And then 40 cities next year. In each city we’ll dedicate a portion of the ticket price to LGBT nonprofits. But since I consider Houston my hometown, I couldn’t think of a better place to kick off this historic tour.”
Women stand-up comediennes, particularly lesbians, have almost disappeared from the tour circuit since the early days of Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres, who went on to TV fame. And those who remain are often relegated to local comedy clubs and small venues. But Cooper promises this tour will expose the funny ladies to larger venues.
“A lot of people are watching this,” she says. “They don’t think we can pull it off, but I do. There are so many places that don’t get women comics. So I wanted to hit cities like Chicago, Boston, and Dallas—places that don’t really have entertainment for the LGBT community.”
Cooper is expecting about 1,000 folks to attend the Divas for Diversity kickoff in Houston, which will make it one of the biggest local events for Pride. And she’s hinting that a major celebrity will make an endorsement. Ellen, maybe? Rosie? She wasn’t saying at press time, but stay tuned.
Cooper lives in New York City these days, but says she misses the warm southern hospitality and sweetness of Texans, despite the fact she often pokes fun at her Texas roots in her routines—like this line from a YouTube clip: “My sister is a lesbian, too. And yes, we’re from the south, but we never dated.”
Cooper says she was always funny, being voted class clown in high school. “I always had a joke,” she says. And she loved seeing comics. She actually saw Vickie Shaw at a comedy club here back in 1996. “I wasn’t even doing comedy then,” she says. “But I was amazed at how she was so funny and so out.”
Cooper later moved to New York City and started doing stand-up. After a while she also came out on stage, citing Shaw as her inspiration.
“It was hard, but it was also easier in a way for me. I just got to be me onstage. My whole routine isn’t all about being gay, but I like being able to say what I want. And it’s great afterwards when people give you their phone numbers!”
The 44-year-old comic is single, but admits to being the “ultimate dater.” She likes romance and flirting. And she’s funny.
“Hobbies?” she muses over the phone. “My favorite is popping a top on a beer. And of course I read and write poetry—all those lesbian things we’re supposed to do.” [Pause] “But I don’t knit!”
Cooper doesn’t need to knit, and Houston doesn’t need to miss the kickoff to the Divas of Diversity Tour. It’s going to be one funny event with four funny ladies.
What: Divas of Diversity Tour Kickoff (an official Pride Houston event)
When: June 19, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Houston Club
Tickets/more info: www.divasofdiversity.com.
Marene Gustin is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.