You see her everywhere—in films, including Office Christmas Party, Social Animals, and Father of the Year. And you hear her everywhere—on television, including, voicing Evelyn on The Simpsons, Brenda on Bless the Harts for Fox, and Ava on Summer Camp Island for the Cartoon Network.
Fortune Feimster is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actor. She first gained notoriety as a writer and panelist on E!’s hit show Chelsea Lately. She then starred as a series regular on The Mindy Project for Hulu, and Champions for NBC. After that was a slew of guest appearances on television shows including Claws, 2 Broke Girls, Workaholics, Glee, Dear White People, and Tales of the City, plus recurring roles on Showtime’s The L Word: Generation Q and CBS’s Life in Pieces.
If Feimster is not acting, she’s doing stand-up touring all across the world. She’s also released specials on Netflix (Sweet & Salty) and Comedy Central. She appears in Season 1 of Netflix’s The Standups, and she created and starred in Family Fortune for ABC, which Tina Fey produced. And Amblin, Steven Spielberg’s production company, recently acquired Bad Cop, Bad Cop and Field Trip—two features that Feimster is attached to star in.
You can tune in to hear her every morning on Sirius XM’s channel 93 for Netflix with Tom Papa, and she hosts a weekly podcast with her wife, Jax, called Sincerely Fortune. You can also catch her regularly on David Spade’s nightly Comedy Central show Lights Out, and she even guest-judges on RuPaul’s Drag Race now and again.
Houstonians have the opportunity to watch Feimster in all her glory in person this month. The out comedy queen answered some questions for OutSmart ahead of her 2 Sweet 2 Salty tour stop at Cullen Performance Hall on January 21.
Jenny Block: Were you that kid who was just always cracking people up, or did the funny come later?
Fortune Feimster: It happened later. I definitely was a late bloomer in all ways, and that was certainly one of them. I think I would have spurts of confidence that would take people by surprise, because I was fairly quiet and shy.
And then all of the sudden, I would get up on stage at an event where I’d start dancing or do a funny little “bit.” So I would pick and choose my moments where people were like, “Oh, we didn’t expect that,” and I would make people laugh. It was neat to see people’s reactions, but then I would go back to being more of the observer and the class clown. So I had it in me, but it took me just getting older for it to really come through on a regular basis.
So when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I had a more academic path in mind. I was very studious, and I had perfect attendance in school for seven years. So I really enjoyed being in school. I thought maybe I’d be a lawyer or something like that. It just seemed like the studious thing to do, but it was never like I had a passion for that. I thought when I graduated college, maybe I would go to grad school and figure it out then. But then my life took a turn and I ended up in Los Angeles. And for years my mom was like, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to grad school?”
If you could go back and tell your 10-year-old self, “Hey, guess what we’re going to be doing in 2021,” what would she think?
I don’t know that I would’ve believed it. It seemed impossible that someone like me, and from where I was from, could do this. So I think I would’ve been like, “You’re losing it!” But it certainly would have saved me some stressful years knowing that I’d figure out a lot of this stuff one day.
But you know, I would not have been as strong to survive this business and all the rejections had I not had those hard times growing up. I think that stuff all contributed to my thicker skin.
So is there a moment when you knew that you really could make a go of it?
Once I discovered comedy. At least half the battle was that I found comedy and knew right away that it was for me. So I could at least have a clear path of what I was working toward, instead of aimlessly just putting in a bunch of work.
There was something inside of me that was like, “You know what? You’re going to figure it out. If you have to take on a couple extra jobs, if you have to do this or that, you’re going to figure it out.” And that’s because I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do, and I think that helped me overcome harder times.
Is there anything that still surprises you about your work?
It’s pretty crazy when I think that I get to make a living making people laugh. I mean, that’s incredible when I think, “God, my profession is I get to try to make people happy.” I pinch myself every day, and this tour is no exception. After a year and a half of not being able to go on the road and do my job, now we’re back on the tour. It started in July, and people have been coming out—and, I think, with a different mindset than before. That people are choosing to come out and see me means a lot. People [have always] liked to laugh, but now you can tell they need to laugh.
You can see the stress and the anxiety of the [past two years] fall off of people’s shoulders for a little bit. It gives people just a little bit of a break to let their faces smile. And it’s really cool to look out and watch that, because we were all experiencing this truly terrible thing together. And so now, to laugh together means that much more.
Do you have something on your “If I could wave a magic wand” wish list?
My next big goal is to be a bigger part of a movie. I’ve written a couple of scripts that have been in the development stages, and I wrote them with the intent of playing one of the main parts. So my big vision-board dream goal would be to make one of those movies that we’ve written, where I get to be one of the main ensemble characters. I know that I could show a side of my acting in a way that people haven’t gotten to see.
I’m very lucky. I get to do a lot of funny things where I come in and have a funny part in a movie. So it would be really great to be able to do that for a whole movie. I’m working hard on rewriting one of the scripts right now, really trying to get that going. So, fingers crossed.
If you could speak to queer kids who are feeling lost, is there something you would want to say to them?
The biggest thing is finding your people so you don’t feel as alone, or like you’re different. You’ll see that there are people just like you, and I think that’s pretty powerful. The good news is there is a lot more representation than there used to be, and I think that certainly helps.
I like to perform in places where people haven’t had as much representation. If I can have one person see my story and be inspired by that in some way—be it a parent or a kid, or someone who’s confused about their sexuality—I can help open their minds or be an example of a gay person. I take that responsibility seriously. It means a lot to me to try to be a voice for people.
What can audiences expect from your current tour?
Well, my last special left off with a story about me growing up and my journey—trying to figure out who I am. I pick up sort of where that left off. Now I talk about myself as a full adult, and what that looks like and how people can look at me and think that I’m one certain way. And I tell a lot of stories about how I’m not quite what they might think, based on my appearance.
I got to perform in Houston at a club maybe six months before the pandemic, so I’m excited to get back there and do this beautiful theater. And yeah, I just hope people will come out. I think it’s a really fun show. It’s a whole new hour of material that no one’s seen, so if people can make it, I think they’ll have a great time.
What: Fortune Feimster’s 2 Sweet 2 Salty Tour
When: January 21 at 7 p.m.
Where: UH’s Cullen Performance Hall, 4300 University Dr.
This article appears in the January 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.