Comedian Fortune Feimster talks career and why she’s excited for her first Knoxville visit
We all have those moments when we realize we’re turning into our parents. For comedian Fortune Feimster – who's performing in Knoxville in February – that realization came when she had to defend having one of those decorative “live, laugh, love” signs hanging on her wall.
“People think they're cheesy … (but) I just love seeing them,” Feimster told Knox News. “They put the biggest smile on my face.”
Fresh off the release of her second critically acclaimed Netflix special “Good Fortune,” the North Carolina native is hitting stages across the country for her “Live Laugh Love!” tour. She’s stopping in Knoxville Feb. 4 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.
Known for TV appearances on “Chelsea Lately,” “The Mindy Project” and “Kenan” and films such as “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” the comedian is using her confessional and storytelling comedy style to talk about being a newlywed, adulting, and yes, all the ways she’s becoming her mom.
Feimster chatted with Knox News about her excitement over her Knoxville visit and how she hopes to bring people together with humor.
This Q&A has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Knox News: Thanks so much for taking a little a bit of time to chat with us. How are you doing today?
Fortune Feimster: I'm doing good. It's kind of a crazy day. My wife, Jax, just had elbow surgery. It's kind of a crazy way to start off our year. Everything was very promising. We went to the Critics Choice Awards because my special “Good Fortune” got nominated. So, it was very celebratory and then at the end of the night, we're headed home. It started raining, some high heels and some cobblestones – and she fell and broke that dang elbow. She had surgery today, but it went well. I was just getting her situated. But she’s in the healing process now.
KNS: Oh wow! Glad to hear she's healing now. That's definitely a wild way to start the year, especially now that you're preparing to go on tour. I know you're from North Carolina; have you ever been to Knoxville before?
Feimster: This is my first time Knoxville. I cannot believe it because, being from North Carolina, I’m not that far away from it. And then having toured for so long, I can't believe I haven't been there, but, for some reason, never got to Knoxville. So I'm so excited that this is the show that's kicking off my first time there. One of my best friends is from Knoxville. So I've heard about it for years and I'm excited that I finally get to go.
KNS: It’s a tight tour schedule, but is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing or doing while you’re here?
Feimster: Every time I’m in the South, I definitely like to ask people where are the places to eat. Where's the good southern food? Where are the good biscuits, fried chicken? Because I don't get it good, that kind of food out where I am here and I'm always looking for that. But yeah, once I’m like about a week out, I usually start reaching out and asking people where the places to go (are).
KNS: Does coming to the Tennessee area or touring in the South in general give you a little a taste of home?
Feimster: Oh, yeah, for sure. I feel like Tennessee and North Carolina aren't too different. They certainly have distinct qualities, but there's a similar sentiment there. And just being around people with southern accents like mine, no one asks me to repeat myself. They immediately understand what I'm saying. And I feel like everybody in Tennessee always gets my references. I never have to explain, like, what Shoney's is, you know, just like random things. Other people will be like “huh?” and so, I love that. And I think, too, southerners are used to storytelling because they have a lot of people in their life who are storytellers. So they just seem to relate to my standup in that way because it's sort of speaking the same language as them.
KNS: So there’s a special connection with the audience in the South?
Feimster: Yeah! I love the southern manners and people say “Hi” and wave and hold the door open for you. I love going back to the South and experiencing things like that, too.
KNS: Because you just mentioned southern accents – and you’ve become known for yours – did it take long for Los Angeles to embrace your accent? Was there an adjustment?
Feimster: Well, I've been out here now for, gosh, almost 20 years. I think when I first got here that was more prevalent. I think people were more mystified by me in the beginning like, “What?” “Who are you?” And my voice was probably a lot thicker too. There was this kind of like – just people trying to figure me out at first. But I think at this point with my standup, people are so used to hearing my voice that it just kind of comes with the territory now. I would say if anything, it was disarming for people out here on the West Coast. They weren’t used to someone being nice and smiling at them. I think at first it was kind of jarring, but then they're like, “Oh, actually yes, Fortune’s nice and I like that politeness.” I think now people know it's just who I am.
KNS: I read that the realization that you may be turning into your mom inspired the “Live, Laugh, Love” tour. Can you talk a little about that?
Feimster: Everybody's been asking because this tour’s starting so soon after “Good Fortune” came out. They're like, is this the same material? And it’s all new material. I might throw in a joke or two from “Sweet and Salty” just because I haven't done it in so long and every show I do, people yell out jokes from that show. But this is all new stuff and I'm picking up where “Good Fortune” left off where I talk about my relationship with my wife, going on a honeymoon, us settling in living together, how we handled being adults together, what her relationship’s like with my mom – juggling that kind of thing. And then I am talking a lot more about my mom. So, I started thinking about those "live, laugh, love" (decoration) signs and how so many women, especially in the South and the Midwest, have those signs and the sentiment is so true. Who doesn't want to live and laugh and love? I'm all for those sentiments. But, for some reason, when you see them on the wall, people think they're cheesy.
I think it's so funny and when Jax moved in, I had a live, laugh, love sign up and she asked, “Why do you have this?” And I go “Because I like to live and laugh and love." And she's like, “You're just like your mother.” So, I thought that was sort of a good way to describe me at this point in my life. I am my own person, but there are parts of me that are emulating my mom and then other parts that are nothing like her at all. I just thought that name really encapsulated all of that as far as where I'm at in life. But also, I want people to take pictures of their live, laugh, love signs, and send them to me. I just love seeing them. They put the biggest smile on my face.
KNS: One of your breakout appearances was being a regular on Chelsea Handler’s former late-night talk show, “Chelsea Lately.” You’ve gone on to star in many TV shows and movies, two Netflix specials and more. Did the little girl from North Carolina ever imagine this?
Feimster: Not in a million years. I don't think I even knew in that small town of 10,000 people that you could have that kind of dream. That seemed like a dream of a dream. It seemed so far from reality. I would watch people on TV, but I didn't think that was a world that I could get anywhere near and so it wasn't like I grew up thinking I'm gonna go to Hollywood one day. It just kind of happened. I had an opportunity to move to Los Angeles and I think it was probably a tiny part of me that was like, well I grew up on (watching "Saturday Night Live"). I always loved making people laugh. I was like, I don't know, maybe. Maybe there's something out there for me and I kind of just came out here on a whim, let's see. This will be a fun life experience and maybe that's it. And then I didn't have many friends at first because L.A. is, like I said, not as personable in that way. It’s not as easy to meet people and then I’m like how am I gonna meet friends? So, I started taking improv classes at The Groundlings, (a comedy troupe and school), and quickly learned how much I loved comedy. I was like, oh my gosh, I have to do this for the rest of my life. I found my thing and then the dream started becoming a reality as I kept being out here longer and longer, working harder and harder. These things started to happened where I go, “I can't believe this is happening.” I still have those moments.
KNS: Do those moments happen more or less now? Like at the Critics’ Choice Awards, what are those moments like?
Feimster: I just filmed a series with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I've been watching him since I was a kid. He was like the ambassador to the president for physical fitness for kids (when I was) in elementary school. We used to exercise to those videos when I was like 8. And now, all of a sudden, I'm filming something with him and chatting with him. It's like what? That stuff is so surreal. When I go to like a Critics’ Choice Awards and Angela Bassett is telling me I'm funny and I’m like, this does not feel real. You're suddenly in the room with these people that you’ve admired and loved for so long and to feel like you're somewhat – not the same level – but we're all in this business now and admiring each other's work. It’s really cool.
KNS: What about comedy initially stood out to you after you moved to Los Angeles? What made you say, “I want to tell stories, make people laugh.”
Feimster: I think the thing that stood out about it for me at first was that it made me so happy just doing it. I liked how it made me feel and I was like, “Oh, what if I got to do this thing that makes me feel so good, but for a living? Can that even be real?” When I first started taking improv, I just noticed how good I felt after I was done with the class and how much joy it brought me. There's that old adage where you never feel like you're working if you're doing something that you love, and it really is true. And then the hope is that what you're putting out makes other people feel good. It doesn't get much better than that. That's the cherry on top of doing what you love, but if you can also make people feel a little bit better than they were before they saw your video, before they came to your show. I just really love that part of our job.
KNS: Through your comedy and work, you try to bring people together. Drag shows and drag performers have recently become a hot-button issue is Tennessee and even the country. As a comedian and someone who’s part of the LGBTQ community, do you have any thoughts on that issue or how humor can mend that divide or help people understand?
Feimster: It’s such a weird twist that all of a sudden, it’s this hot button topic. “(RuPaul’s) Drag Race” is such a beloved show and drag queens have been so celebrated by pop culture and seeing the talent that has come through that show has been incredible. To suddenly have this shift and this negativity around it and controversy around it is like what is happening? I have always loved drag shows, and see it to be such a fun, positive thing. So, I don't understand (the backlash), personally. From my perspective of what I do, I'm always trying to bring people together and put out positivity and when you see people reacting this way to other forms of art that are trying to do the same thing, it doesn't make any sense to me.
KNS: Though the tour is probably the biggest thing on your plate at the moment, are there any other projects coming up that you’re excited about?
Feimster: That show I mentioned with Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's going to be a big action series on Netflix. We don't have an air date yet, maybe in the summer. I'm really excited for people to see that because they'll be seeing me in a whole different light and in a way they've never seen me before, so that's a big thing on the horizon. And you just doing guest spots on shows and movies. And I'm always writing, I’m developing a few projects right now. So that keeps me pretty busy. And I do my radio show with Tom Papa on SirusXM four days a week. So that's a big part of my time as well. And then kicking off this tour; I’m gonna be adding more dates. This one I will probably let go a little bit longer than the last (tour). I want to hit up a lot of cities and a lot of places that I haven't been to before, so that's gonna be a big part of my life the next two years.
KNS: It's an exciting time. A lot of fans started watching you on “Chelsea Lately,” so it's really cool to see all the things that you get to do now.
Feimster: Oh, thank you. I'm lucky I get to do it. I've been working so hard, just trying to get to this point. I'm really grateful. When anybody buys a ticket to my show or wants to come see me perform, I don't take that for granted. I'm very, very grateful for that support. And I’m excited to get to Knoxville! I can't believe this will be my first time. It’s going to be so fun. I just talked to Leanne Morgan the other day – Knoxville’s own comedy star – and she was telling me all that about it. So, I'm excited.
KNS: Thanks again for chatting with Knox News. We’re excited to welcome you to Knoxville. Is there anything else that you'd like to share?
Feimster: I hope people will come check out the show. It’s going to be such a fun night and I think they're gonna really enjoy the new material. We're gonna have a good time! If you got kids, get a babysitter. If you got friends, invite them. Come by yourself, tell everyone. I hope people will come.
Devarrick Turner is a trending news reporter for Knox News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Devarrick on Twitter @dturner1208. Enjoy exclusive content and premium perks while supporting strong local journalism by subscribing at knoxnews.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Comedian Fortune Feimster bringing tour to Knoxville