Lesbian comedian Dana Goldberg took some time out of her day to talk with Crystal Gamon of The Seattle Lesbian about her famous name, how tragedy led her to take the plunge into comedy, and what happens when a lesbian, a gay and a trans walk in a bar.
You share a name with a very famous Hollywood producer. Do you ever use that as leverage to try to get reservations at coveted restaurants or anything?
No, I haven’t, but you know what’s funny is that I regularly will get a script sent to me through my website. I have friends that will text me sometimes and be like, “Wait a minute – I just saw such and such and there was a cred…were you involved in that movie?” I’m like, “If only! God, I only wish.” It’s Hollywood – there’s like a billion Jews in Hollywood. We’re bound to share the same name. I just wonder if she gets emails like, “You totally killed at your show last night” and she’s like, “Who the hell is this person?”
Tell us about your Brooklyn roots.
My parents are from Brooklyn, but I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl. My mother has been out of Brooklyn for 35-plus years and you can still hear her accent, and I think somehow I’ve picked that up in my vernacular because every once in a while when I’m on stage, people do think I’m from New York.
You’re coming to Seattle, and I’ve heard you’ve been here before. How do you like Seattle?
Seattle is a fantastic city…with the market and the restaurants, even the weather. People say it’s gloomy and it rains all the time, but I’ve gotten some rocking weather in Seattle. The people there, there’s a community there, especially the LGBT community that’s so supportive. Lucky enough this year I’m performing with Jason Dudey and Ian Harvie who are two phenomenal comedians. Jason’s gay and Ian happens to be trans and we decided to put together a powerhouse tour of a lesbian, a gay and a trans comic. So, a lesbian, a gay and a trans comic walk into a bar…
Putting me on the spot! I don’t know [if] I can….
Okay how about this: finish it at your show.
Deal! What I say with the tour is [that] we couldn’t get a bisexual because we couldn’t get anyone to commit. So it’s just LGT.
How did you get into comedy? Were you always funny?
I was the kid that used humor to get myself through tough situations. I was always very funny and my mother had a conversation with my kindergarten teacher. My teacher told my mother [that] I was the funniest five-year-old she’d ever met. I’m not sure who my competition was…what do you do? You’re eating pasta at five years old.
So, what happened through the years is [that] I used to listen to a lot of comedians on tape like Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Steven Wright…As I got older, I guess I didn’t realize I was studying and literally taking it all in. When I was a senior in high school, I did a 10-minute set in front of my student body and the first thing I said was, “Give it up for the MC!”
I told 10 minutes of jokes about the teachers and my boyfriends and why things weren’t working out so well. I found the tape of that [recently] and put it in and I’m wearing a pair of jeans, a button down, and a tie with polar bears on it. The guy that digitized it looks at me and says, “I don’t think you could have been more gay if you had a softball glove and a visor on.” I looked like Paula Poundstone.
After that I didn’t touch a stage for about eight years. There was a show called Funny Lesbians for Change where I saw Susan Hoffer and I thought, “Oh my god, I want to do that.” I auditioned for the show and made it five minutes before cut-off and didn’t get to audition and had to wait another year.
During that time I was dating someone who was a pilot in the military she was killed in a plane crash. It was one of those moments in your life where you’re like, “What the fuck am I doing?” So I went and auditioned and they were like, “Alright, we will give you a seven minute set.”
So I’m going to do my set and my first set is in front of 650 people in a sold-out show in Albuquerque New Mexico. When I hit my first big joke I remember hearing the most deafening laughter I’d ever heard in my life and I just went into a zone. I felt like I could fly. Seven minutes and I killed.
That was 10 years ago. I have my degree in physical education – I’m a lesbian, it’s the law. I bartended at Applebee’s for 11 years – if you can imagine. I was afraid of trusting that my gift was enough and that I would be okay. I finally quit bartending and have been doing full time comedy [for the last five years.]
You can catch Dana, Jason and Ian in the Come Out Laughing Tour in Seattle March 29 and 30 at the Theater off Jackson. For more information or tickets go to www.comeoutlaughing.com.