Seize Today: Q+A With Erin Foley

We interviewed out stand-up comic Erin Foley. She began her career in New York and currently lives in LA. In the wake of her killer set on Conan, we discussed comedy, being out, and a good set of jazz hands.

CherryGRRL (CG): Congrats on your Conan set! Did you know you definitely wanted to come out to such a broad audience? How did that feel?

Erin Foley (EF): Well, I always want to come out to broads. Just kidding! I was already out when I did my half-hour Comedy Central Special. When I originally did the set for Conan and was trying to figure out what jokes to include, I didn’t talk about being gay because it’s four and a half minutes, and it just felt too forced, unless I was talking about something specifically gay. There’s this stress of the whole “gay thing” and I thought “well, it’s only four and a half minutes, I’m just going to do regular jokes and not worry about it.” But it wasn’t like “Should I be gay? Should I not?” That was not an issue. It was more about the structure. When you say you’re gay to a straight audience, you have to plan accordingly. I thought in a five-minute set it’s just going be too hard. Also there’s so much pressure; it’s my first late night show. I already do plenty of gay jokes so I didn’t need to do a “gay set” on Conan.  But I sent in the set and my agent and manager said, “We think a couple of these jokes are a lot funnier if you know you’re gay.” So the set changed. The only way to come out in a set like that is to do it right away. It was kind of difficult…the one joke where I did agree it was probably funnier if you know I’m gay then got cut out of the set! [Laughs]. So it was a process! But at the end of the day I thought, “Well, it is pretty cool that I am on a national network and gay,” because anything positive and gay, we need desperately. You just hear such horrible stories, so if someone can see me and think “Oh, she’s gay and on a national network – nothing’s wrong with me,” that’s really cool. It makes it feel more meaningful. It’s a win/win. I really enjoyed the experience. Everyone was so nice! Conan was so lovely and Kathy Griffin came up to me…it couldn’t have gone any better, for sure!

CG: How would you describe your sense of humor?

EF: I would describe my sense of humor as pretty random. I have to say, most things make me laugh. If someone walks into a wall, I will laugh so hard. You have to laugh because the news is so bad. Everything I look at I try and spin into a joke to help me get through the day. I’m a big nerd, so I like political stuff, news stuff. I find a lot of humor in things I read. My family always makes me laugh, but it’s hard to write about them because it’s almost too close to home. I guess if I were to stick my sense of humor in a category, which is hard to do, I would say observational.

CG: Is your standup persona a character or is it exactly you? If a character, what kind of character have you created on stage?

EF: My stage persona has to be heightened for the performance but it’s all me, no character needed. There’s stuff that I exaggerate a little bit but I also feel like there’s a large part of my performance that’s super dry and sarcastic. You have to amp it up; it’s a show, but I feel if someone who really knows me saw me perform they would feel like we were just having a conversation. I don’t think it’s “Jazz Hands” at all, even though I love a good set of jazz hands.

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