Liz Feldman is really f*cking funny, right? Like, who doesn’t like Liz Feldman? After winning an Emmy for her work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (not to mention having been invited to write material for the Academy Awards hosted by Ellen herself), she went on to create her own extraordinarily gay online talk show, This Just Out with Liz Feldman. The show filmed in her kitchen and garnered an impressive guest roster, including nearly half The L Word cast: Kate Moennig, Leisha Hailey, Erin Daniels, Rose Rollins, Clementine Ford, plus Auto-faves Tegan & Sara, Erin Foley and Nicol Paone. She’s SO close with those girls that Leisha Hailey and Uh Huh Her band mate Camila Grey even recorded an original theme song for This Just Out! She was recently featured as a correspondent on The Jay Leno Show, seen teaching the elderly how to Tweet and training to be “America’s Next Average Model.” Her fearless, self-deprecating style of humor has shades of Ellen but pushed to the way-gay extreme.
Jess chats with Liz about the lack of gay material on The Jay Leno Show, how she became tight with The L Word crew, her own coming out story, auditioning for Saturday Night Live, what she learned from working with Ellen, and all the dirty details on that fabulous blue blazer.
Liz: Noooo. Not at all! My persona that I was on that show was up to me and I wouldn’t have done the job if anybody asked me to be anybody other than myself. Obviously I wasn’t as overtly lesbionic on the show, but that’s because I’m a comedian and I like to entertain my audience and you have to know who your audience is, and my goal was to appeal to as many people as possible. If people wanted to see me be super gay they could watch me online [laughs]. But I really wanted to do the job which was to entertain the Leno audience.
Jess: What about at other end of the spectrum with others encouraging you to be more out on mainstream television?
Liz: All of the ideas were mine, everything came from me. The Twitter piece, the modeling thing… honestly it was refreshing to not have to be super gay! Because I am more than just a “gay comedian.” I’m also just a comedian and a writer and a creative person so it’s actually really challenging to have to think outside of “my box,” so to speak. Maybe people expected me to bring that sort of uber-gayness to the Leno show, but I had to do the job of entertaining middle America. I got like two comments on Twitter asking me to be more gay on Leno, but I wasn’t NOT gay, you know! I wasn’t out there wearing dresses and high heels! [laughing] It wore the same…. blue blazer… every single time I was on the show.
Jess: Which brings me to my next question. We have to talk about the blue blazer.
Liz: Of course!
Jess: Where did you get it, how long have you had it and what does it mean to you?
Liz: Well, the blue blazer was clearly the best purchase I ever made. I had no budget for This Just Out but I knew I wanted to get a couple of new items so I went shopping with my friend Alexis who’s a stylist. We were at a second-hand store and she plucked out that blue blazer and I was like, “ooo, I don’t know… that’s really bright!” and she goes, “It’s amazing. Put it on.” It fit me like a glove, and I was like alright… let’s do this! And it became my whole thing, and it carried over to the Leno show, meaning — I’m not a fashion plate. I think I kinda have a look that works for me, whether or not it’s fashion forward I don’t really care.
I started wearing the blue blazer every show because that way I didn’t have to think about what I was going to wear. And, the more I wore it the more people commented about it and went a little crazy about it, and it was hilarious to me that people were picking up on the fact that I kept wearing this stupid blue blazer every week. Now, it’s obviously taken on a life of its own…. Honestly, what it means to me is that I don’t really have to worry about what my next look is going to be, because I pretty much know it’s going to be me in some kind of blazer, and I’m so happy it takes the pressure off. Ironically, I was also fortunate enough to go to a prep school and we had to wear blazers as part of our uniform so it’s always been my go-to thing as a natural extension of what I had to wear growing up.
Jess: You had amazing guest stars on This Just Out, including a ton of L Word actresses: Kate Moennig, Leisha Hailey [with Uh Huh Her bandmate Camila Grey], Erin Daniels, Clementine Ford, Rose Rollins, etc. How did you become tight with the L Word crew?
Liz: Camila and I have been friends for many, many years and she started Uh Huh Her with Leisha and began hanging out with Leisha’s crew and I was lucky enough to get the residuals of that. I actually met some of them at Dinah Shore in 2008, where I was doing stand up. So, when I was approached to do my own vlog, I thought how fun it would be to interview some of these people who have become icons to young lesbians everywhere. So, I owe it all to Camila…. I really do.
Jess: That’s a great little lesbian phone tree you have there.
Liz: I’m completely aware of the fact that people only watched my show at the beginning so that they could see Kate and Leisha and Erin and all these amazing people that I got to have on the show. Luckily the first show that I did with Kate went really well and I think was pretty funny and so her friends were more willing to do it because they saw that she had a good time doing it.
Jess: Wanna share your coming out story?
Liz: I would say my mother dragged me out of the closet when I was 17. She claims that she’s psychic but I think she read a journal of mine… I mean, she is a very intuitive person and I think she always knew on some level. But I wasn’t like a totally typical gay kid – I always had boyfriends, I played with barbies, I definitely was a tomboy and I always will be, but… she just kind of figured it out. I’m grateful to her now because I really don’t know how that would have changed my process if it were left entirely up to me. I was not ready to come out. I didn’t really know the full scope of who I was yet cause I was really young and that was a very different time than now. That was many moons ago, long before Ellen came out, so it was still a pretty taboo thing. There was no one out in my high school and…. I simply wasn’t going to be the first person! As much as I’m definitely an activist now, I was not a martyr back then.
Jess: I know you’ve worked with Ellen DeGeneres a bit. You worked on her talk show and were invited by her to write jokes for the 2008 Oscars. What did you learn from working with Ellen?
Liz: Oh my gosh… I learned so much that it’s really hard to sum it up. I learned things on professional, personal and comedic levels… I think the most important thing I learned from working with Ellen was that I had to be my authentic self. I wasn’t doing stand up at the time that I worked for her, I had been taking many years off from it because I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be on stage, so to speak. And, when, I started working for her it sort of re-energized that part of me to want to get back on stage and really be myself because I got to see her be herself and being applauded for it and it was very inspiring.
From working on the show in general I learned that I love the talk show format, that it’s a really difficult job to do because you’re doing a show every day and it requires a tremendous amount of focus, energy and creative ideas. I also learned from being behind the camera that I might want to try being in front of the camera. Like, hmmm, that looks like fun, I would really like to be doing that! This Just Out is just the super, super gay version of my talk show. I get to be super gay, really inappropriate, and never have to leave my kitchen.
Jess: Aside from Ellen, who are your other comedic influences?
Liz: I’ve always loved Betty White. She’s not a comic in the sense of writing her own stuff, but I think she’s been so amazingly funny for so long and she was always someone I was really inspired by, which might sound funny but it’s true. Growing up I always loved Paula Poundstone and…. I mean, Ellen really was in the top spot for me in terms of my idol, but I also loved Chris Rock. In terms of writing, Norman Lear is a really big hero of mine. He’s the creator of shows like All in the Family and The Jeffersons… really socially responsible television programming at a time when it wasn’t the coolest thing to do and I would very much like to be able to do that for our generation.
Jess: Do you have a career highlight so far?
Liz: I’m so blessed because I realize I’ve had so many… Definitely writing for Ellen for the Oscars was a huge career highlight. Something that I don’t think I would’ve dared to dream cause it seemed like such an odd specific to dream about, but, just to be backstage at the Oscars with her was incredibly powerful. Also, working with Betty White on the Ellen show and as far as the Jay Leno Show, every time I got to be on was amazing, but if I could pick a moment I would say getting Janice Dickinson to eat a Snickers bar on national television was definitely a career highlight.
Jess: Was Saturday Night Live ever something you dreamed of doing?
Liz: Oh, yea, totally.
Jess: Did you audition?
Liz: Yes, I did actually, about 2 years ago. Saturday Night Live was always a big dream of mine… I did a lot of sketch comedy and character stuff when I was in my 20s. Kristen Wiig is a good friend of mine from The Groundlings. I actually did audition. I submitted a video and actually got flown to New York and got to audition for Mr. [Lorne] Michaels. That was also sort of a career highlight in a way, just because I got so close. Flying on the plane and going to New York and knowing that I was being flown out to [audition at 30 Rock for Lorne Michaels] was a really cool moment. It almost made up for not getting cast!
Jess: What’s next for you?
Liz: Well, I actually just got a job… I get to write jokes for Betty White! I’m going to be a writer/producer on Hot in Cleveland which is a new show on TV Land with an incredible cast: Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick from Just Shoot Me, Jane Leeves from Frasier and Betty White. I’m very excited… it’s my first job writing for a sitcom. I found out I got the job just a few days ago and I start next week…. and it premieres June 16th on TV Land. In this business you really feel like you just won the lottery anytime you get any job.