On the night of March 21, 1981, on a challenge from my best friend, I did my first show in my hometown Syracuse, New York at a woman's club called Ms. Adventure. When my friend, Rita, started heckling me about five minutes in, I stopped. “Rita, what are you doing?” She was older, a photographer, always in black turtlenecks because she fancied herself a beatnik. “It's comedy; we’re supposed to heckle.” Though I was three semesters retired from my teaching gig, I still had my study hall monitor mojo and shut her down expertly. “Cut it out.” She slumped.
Many years and dry heaves later, I marvel at my career. It certainly was not one of the options on the jobs checklist on sixth grade career day. Other: lesbian comic.
The same year I began my career, Pope John Paul and President Ronald Reagan began their careers. Together they were Forgive and Forget. It was also the year that gay men started dying from AIDS. Then it was called “the gay cancer.” Those three events and the thematic variations on them have been intertwined touchstones in my routines for 28 years.