The pairing is far from typical, but then typical isn’t what you would expect from either Suzanne Westenhoefer or Steff Mahan. Westenhoefer was the first openly gay comedian ever to appear on television and is a staple on the comedy circuit. Mahan has firmly established herself as a popular singer/songwriter with a loyal Atlanta following. Together, they plan to be the first music/comedy pairing ever to perform at the new Red Clay Theatre in Duluth.
The March 8 show is put on by Eddie Owen Presents, the new venture from the founder and former owner of Eddie’s Attic, which put many acoustic musicians on the map.
“Atlanta is becoming quite a music scene. It’s amazing what’s coming out of there,” says Mahan, who hails from Nashville but is an Atlanta mainstay. “I am so excited to play at Eddie’s new place (The Red Clay Theatre). He’s excited. He’s never had a comedian in his club.”
Mahan says her gig opening for Westenhoefer started as a lark. “My manager thought she would try something weird and said she would pitch the idea to her. I laughed and said, ‘Have fun with that.’ Then, she came to me and said, ‘Guess who you’re opening for?’ and I was just shocked. We must have caught [Westenhoefer] in a drunk moment.”
Although both women are lesbians, Westenhoefer notes that the show “isn’t a lesbian-only performance. It is for straight people, couples, gay guys and anyone else who wants to laugh.”
Adds Mahan, “I’m funny between my songs but when I sing, the songs will make you want to cut your wrists. The whole night will be an emotional roller coaster.”
Westenhoefer went through a highly publicized divorce last year and is using that experience for her show.
“Break-ups happen to everyone,” she says, “and my divorce made for extraordinary comedy. When it happens, you should cry and grieve and then you should mock it.
That’s my philosophy of life.”
No longer single, she has decided to start dating again.
“I’m involved with a gal. We’re rolling the dice and going slowly. I’m 51 years old and I’ve never been single. I’ve been in committed relationships since I was 14 years old,” Westenhoefer says. “I’ve never lived alone, never been on a date – I needed to make sure that I don’t fuck up again.”
Mahan, also in a relationship, is an out musician in Nashville.
“It couldn’t have been a shock when I came out. You’ll have to see me walk. I’m a hundred-footer. People can tell I’m gay from a hundred feet away.”
Pick your passion
Westenhoefer has done very well in her career as an entertainer in the gay tourism industry. She expresses her love for sharing her comedy on gay cruises, festivals and at the resorts: “We’re all there for a reason,” she says. “We’re all gay and we’re there still snorkeling and doing all of the other stuff and the camaraderie is great. There is something amazing about being on a trip with all women that just fills you with this special energy.”
Asked why lesbians sometimes have the perception that they don’t treat each other well, she thoughtfully responds, “I think one of the biggest problems in the gay community is that our major meeting places are bars with the alcohol and that drama gets exacerbated.
“Lesbians need other places to meet,” she continues. “I regularly meet with eight other lesbians for a book club and we have the best time ever. We read everything from Russian literature to Stephen King.”
Mahan has also felt the love from the gay community when fans helped to raise $4,000 to fund the recording of her fourth CD.
“It was $10 here, $20 there. It was overwhelming the love that I felt from them. I’m so happy to get this music out of my head and onto a record. Music is my passion,” she says.
As music is to Mahan, comedy is to Westenhoefer.
“Comedy is my passion,” she says. “I want to tour like Phyllis Diller until I’m in my 90s and then just die quietly after a show. My show is fresh and funny and I can’t wait to see everyone in Atlanta.”
Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.