She’s here, she’s queer, so get used to it … or at least that’s what she used to chant back in college. Gay activist and comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer will be in Ann Arbor for one night only, where she plans on watching the snow fall and reruns of “Law and Order: SVU” and possibly going to her favorite “soup place” downtown.
The funny lady started stand-up back in 1990 after she moved to New Jersey in hopes of pursuing an acting career in New York. About working as a bartender there, she said, “I was overly out at the time and would call out to customers, ‘Are you queer, want a beer?’ ”
Though many told Westenhoefer how funny she was and suggested she do stand-up, she remained unconvinced and didn’t believe she could do it because of her sexual orientation. But on a dare, Westenhoefer entered a stand-up contest and won. It wasn’t long before she began working straight clubs all over the city. So, when producers of the “Sally Jessy Raphael Show” went looking for “lesbians who didn’t look like lesbians” to come on the show, she seized the opportunity and became one of the first lesbian comedians to ever appear on television.
Since then, Westenhoefer has appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” as well as on Bravo, GSN and Logo. But her favorite appearance occurred back in 1994 when she performed in the closing ceremony of the Gay Games, or gay Olympics.
“I had just started stand-up, and here I was on second base in Yankee Stadium. You see your face on the big screen and you feel like Lady Gaga, you know?” Westenhoefer recalled.
Now, she’ll return to Ann Arbor for a seventh time to perform her show, “Jilted Gypsy … For Sale or Rent” — a title she claimed “publicists made up, and should be ignored.”
Though Westenhoefer rarely has time to enjoy the college town, she looks forward to her arrival. “The downtown looks like the cutest city; I just want to lick all the doorknobs,” she said.
As for the show itself, she asserted, “I have no clue what it will be about.” But she added, “I recently did six cities in six states in the south, so I have a feeling some of that might slip in.”
Though she had a great time while in the south, Westenhoefer found it disturbing to still hear comments like, “You’re my first queer I’ve met” in this day and age. “What year is it again?” she joked.
In general, Westenhoefer’s material comes from anything that happens in her life or in the world. “If anything happens between now and Cleveland (her show after Ann Arbor), the show will be completely different. It’s sort of a rollercoaster,” she said.
Some of her material even derives from everyday things, like how she didn’t want to change the name of her rescue cat because she was afraid the cat already had that name in his head.
“I stayed with (the name Oliver) out of fear that he would have some identity crisis. Now, I realize that was stupid. That’s what my show sounds like — stupid things like naming your cat because it feels possessive over its names, but then realizing (the cat) doesn’t care.”
After Ann Arbor, Westenhoefer continues her tour in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and the rest of the United States. But her real dream is to combine her activist roots, her stand-up career and her desire to “tell people what to do” in a talk show.
“I would like to have a show that educates people about gayness with songs and sock puppets. When it’s 2013 and you’re still answering question in Dallas like, ‘Which one of you acts like the man?’, you need to educate.
“I want it to be enjoyable to everyone — like you’re learning about gay sex, but you’re laughing. But I want it to be on real TV, not gay TV, where regular people, like my mom, my aunt and my sister are watching it, but they don’t have to be embarrassed.”