Suzanne Westenhoefer paved the way for the latest generation of female comics to be fully out in their careers
By Connor J. Hogan
“Audiences right now don’t want to hear about politics!” wails Suzanne Westenhoefer. “If you’re on stage and you say ‘Donald Trump,’ everyone boos. They’ve had enough of politics!” Still, that doesn’t mean she’s not political in performance. “There’s a sneaky way you do it. You’re talking about your cat or your girlfriend and then you just sneak a little ‘Vote for Hillary’ in there somewhere.”
The popular (and hilarious) comic is presently enamoured with Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night Live. “I’ve known Kate since she was on Logo,” says Westenhoefer, who brings her act to The Birchmere on Nov. 7. “She has always been openly gay and has achieved this level of success. Just talking about Kate makes me rub my nipples.”
As the first female comic to come out of the closet (yes, even before Ellen), Westenhoefer paved the way for a new generation to flourish. Comics like McKinnon and Amy Schumer represent what she’s been fighting for since her career began.
“When I started in the early ’90s, it was hard for me to get on stage because I wasn’t a big name, but also because I was a lesbian. It was a different time then.” She understands the double-edged sword that comes with having a public platform.
“Oddly enough, I agree a bit with Matt Damon,” she says. “We shouldn’t know all about actor’s personal lives. I think with actors, it’s better when we don’t know everything about them, because then, when we see them, we buy into them.”
But, unlike Damon, she doesn’t think actors should hide in the closet. “People need to be out because there is so much work still to be done. Things change when celebrities come out.”
Unsurprisingly, Westenhoefer is extremely vocal about women’s issues. “One of the things I care a lot about is the safety of women. I don’t want to lose Planned Parenthood. We go over to these other countries, and bitch and moan about how they’re treating women. It doesn’t look good if we’re treating them just as shitty back here.”
Suzanne Westenhoefer appears Saturday, Nov. 7th at 7:30 p.m. at The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria. Tickets are $45. Visit birchmere.com.