Stand-up comic Suzanne Westenhoefer is known for being one of the only openly gay comics in the country and for a long history of gay advocacy and supporting gay causes and charities. This Sunday (Jan. 16), she take the reigns as the host of the Miss’d America Pageant at Boardwalk Hall, the city’s drag queen ode to the Miss America Pageant. We asked her about hosting a drag show, what the audience can expect from one of the city’s wildest nights and her thoughts on the show’s future.
What were your first thoughts when you knew you’d be hosting the Miss’d America Pageant?
Honestly, I was very excited. I started stand-up in the 90s and I’ve been in theater my whole life. I love drag, love drag queens. I haven’t been around it that much in the last couple of years, just a little bit, and I love it and I miss it so I’m all excited. But honestly, as a lesbian, I just have to recognize that I’m not going to be the prettiest person on stage no matter what I put on. Nothing I can do is going to out do the boys. I can put on false eyelashes, doesn’t matter. Not going to beat them. So I have to be humble. If I remember that, and stay humble, I’ll have a great time.
Have you ever worked with Bob Hitchen, aka Sandy Beach, the writer and producer of the pageant and also, your co-host?
I have worked with him at an event the last time I was in Atlantic City (the Taj Mahal’s Fun and “Gay” mes Weekend in March). What happened was I kind of came out and helped call bingo for awhile. And I got to meet everybody like, hello, hello, hello, and then we were on stage. But there were like 10 drag queens and I met everybody for like four seconds. So I didn’t really get to know them, but everybody was great.
You’re performing in Seattle Friday and the pageant is Sunday, so you’ve had little rehearsal time. Do you know what to expect for the show?
I’m going to say this. I’ve been queer a long time. I know the gay boys; love them. I think I have an idea. But I actually hope that I don’t know, because obviously I want to be entertained too. I want to have fun. But I’ve seen a lot of drag. Still, I have heard that this is a great show — very fun, very professional, very wild. It’s kind of typical for our community. We always up it a notch.
Considering your career and your openness about being gay, do you think you’re becoming sort of a “go-to” host for gay events?
Maybe. I’m good at it. I like to do it. I really like hosting. I mean there are a lot of comics that don’t like to host — straight or gay, it’s not about that. It’s just kind of your persona and whether you’re comfortable doing it. I have always liked it. And when I started stand-up, I started in New York and I hosted a lot of events. Pride events and others. I wouldn’t say that’s how I got started, but it’s definitely how I got a lot of experience.
But it’s not about my stand-up. I’ll be doing whatever they need. The show is about the drag queens. It’s about the performers. The best hosts know when to get out there and do good work, and when to pull it down and when to amp it up because of what’s going on. I’m not there to take the spotlight from any one. … There’s nothing worse than watching the Academy Awards or something and then after the host does their opening monologue, it becomes more about them then the show. It’s about the stars. So you just got to know how to be an asset to the show, not try and take it over.
This is the second year for the event, and its organizers have very high hopes for the show becoming a nationally recognized event. Can you see that happening?
“Oh yes. Atlantic City deserves that. I’ll be honest with you. I like the gay community there and there are a lot of gay people there. And I think the city deserves to be a spot where gays come every year for this event from all over. It does. It’s a great city and there’s like a zillion things to do. So why not? I think that would be awesome. And I’m expecting to have a blast. I think it’s going to be a great show.
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Suzanne Westenhoefer, the first openly lesbian comic ever to appear on television, has been presenting gay material in mainstream clubs and proudly performing within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community since entering the world of comedy on a dare in 1990. She went on to become the first openly gay comic to host her own HBO comedy special in 1994, which earned her a Cable Ace Award nomination, and is now beginning her 20th year of hysterical gaiety while enjoying her well-earned status at the forefront of the lesbian comedy scene. Along with starring in Comedy Central specials throughout the years, Westenhoefer has had a starring role in the Web series We Have To Stop Now. Her numerous DVDs include Nothing in My Closet But My Clothes,...
Being a lesbian was no laughing matter until Suzanne Westenhoefer came along. Suddenly, out was very in. A former bartender at Houlihan's restaurant in Seacaucus, Westenhoefer has been comedy's fir...
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