Interview with Comedian Erin Foley

The funny gal dishes on Philly, "lesbo bars" and the awkward experience she had sitting on the Chelsea Lately roundtable.

Comedian Erin Foley is hot, with a hysterical take on life and spot-on humor and wit to boot. Her résumé touts appearances on Conan, Chelsea Lately, Comedy Central Presents, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and even a supporting role in the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous. This Saturday night, Erin will bring her brand of standup to Philadelphia when she performs two shows at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar, where, full disclosure, I am an employee. I had the chance to kiki with her over the phone, dishing about everything from her take on Philly and Chelsea Handler to lesbo bars.

G Philly: How are you today?
Erin Foley: I am doing well. I thankfully put [this interview] in my alarm clock, because I don’t remember anything. And then I woke up this morning and saw “9 a.m. call” and was like, “Shit balls,” because I completely forgot.

So you live in L.A.?
Yeah. I have lived in L.A. for six years now. I moved from NYC.

Do you like L.A.?
I do. I am kind of surprised how much I like it. No one expected me to, because I am such a New Yorker, but it’s 75-degrees and sunny every single day. People are nice for the most part and you can avoid a lot of the Hollywood BS. I also [live in] a great neighborhood, so yeah, I am really digging it.

What are some differences between the East Coast and West Coast?
Well, I am a huge sports fan and in NYC I talked about sports every 10 seconds, but here in L.A. no one really cares. I think it’s a West-Coast thing. People just don’t get as crazy as Philly, NYC and Boston. You just don’t ever hear people talk about sports here. I’m like, “Do you watch the Dodgers?” And they respond, “Oh, has the season started?” It’s June!

How is the lesbian scene?
I think it’s good. There is no lesbian bar. There are like lesbo nights at gay bars … but I found them very depressing. … So yeah, there is no full-on lesbo bar and I don’t know why. I guess no one came out? It’s kind of weird not to have [one].

Living in New York, you must have come to Philly often. What are some of your favorite things about our town?
I am going to be totally honest, I wasn’t a huge Philly fan until … about two years ago when I opened for my friend Tom Papa at Helium. I realized I hadn’t been there in 10 years and I was staying downtown in this artsy fun district … and then I was like this “city is awesome.” I had the best time.

You’ve been on Chelsea Lately, right?

What is your opinion of Miss Handler?
Here is what I will say about Chelsea Handler: She couldn’t have been nicer to me. I had a good experience with her. I didn’t really have a good experience on the show, but that really wasn’t her fault. I was stuck between these two male comedians that screamed over me the entire time and it was really intimidating. But, [Chelsea] was great. I know everyone has a different story on her but for me, my one-on-one interaction with her was totally fine. Her standup is not my type of thing, but I think she does it really well. And she does that show really well. It’s super popular and that is the good thing about comedy: There is something for everyone.

Who were of some your female comedian inspirations when you first got started?
When I started out it was different because I didn’t really know standup at all. So the great thing was that I was in New York City [where] you could see the world’s best standup. I was following Judy Gold and Jim Gaffigen, and every time Brian Regan would come to Caroline’s. I kind of saturated myself on them. I still love them …  and now it’s really fun that I am getting to work with them. Also, Sandra Bernhard and Margaret Cho. I used to see everything they did.

What do you think of the “females in comedy” conversation?
It is talked about so much. … It’s annoying because it’s just like the gay stuff: It shouldn’t be talked about. It should be, “I’m a comic. I happen to be gay. I happen to be a lady.” But everyone gets pigeonholed. … I’m just so sick of talking about it and hearing it, but the reality is … it’s happening. There are a gazillion funny women and they are just not getting the opportunity — the same opportunity as men. It’s frustrating, you know? But do I think about it all the time? No. You just keep going and you try to do your thing and make some inroads and recommend other females. Whenever I am at major comedy clubs, I recommend as many as I can and just try to keep going and hope.

Did you start comedy as an out performer?
Not the first six years. But that was because I had no idea I was gay. Well I knew I was gay, but when you are starting to do standup it is so overwhelming. I was so young.

How old?
I was around 25. [Since then, I’ve taken] some breaks, but it has been pretty consistent for the past 12, going on 13 years. When I moved to NYC, I was 21 and I was like, “Am I gay?” And I was drinking cause that’s what you do. So during all that time I was trying to figure it out and I was dating women. … But there was no way I could bring up that business on stage. So for the first six or seven years of my career, I didn’t talk about being gay at all. I was just trying to get on stage without throwing up. And then you get more life confidence and you realize, “OK, I am gay.” There was this wonderful bar called the Starlight Lounge in the East Village. They had comedy every Wednesday and that’s when I first started talking about being gay. It was the safest most comfortable space and no one cared. I think that was one of the best times of my life — figuring it out up on stage in NYC.

What about places where it is tougher to talk about it?
I have never — knock on wood — had something horrible happen to me on stage when I say that I am gay. Now, for the last three or four years I have been touring these major comedy clubs across the country, where, except for the South, no one cares. It’s like the greatest thing ever. … But yeah, you definitely have to be careful, and I am not going to these major comedy clubs across the county talking about being gay the whole time. I am talking about it for five minutes. But they are still totally fine and that is really exciting.

Do you have a girlfriend?
I do. She lives in San Fran so it’s long distance.

How did you meet?
I was performing in Vegas and I met her on [the dancefloor at a gay bar called Kitty Bar], where I had enough to drink for a small village. And I pulled her shirt like a complete asshole. Then I don’t remember what I said, and then it just worked out. … It is so ridiculous.

So you have been dating someone for two years? How much about your relationship is fair game when it comes to material for your comedy?
Oh, I don’t reveal a lot. But there are funny moments we have that make me laugh really hard. I have a joke about how she owns a beauty school and I have a hair brush from 1992. You know what I mean? There’s stuff like that. But it’s never insanely personal at all. I would never do that.

Are you a lipstick lesbian?
Well, I mean … sometimes I wear lip gloss.

A Chapstick lesbian, then?
I probably look more femme, but I watch sports 24 hours a day, so I don’t really feel like one.

Erin Foley performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sat., June 8 at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar with host Chris Blondell and special guest Jess Carpenter. Tickets are $19 in advance, and $22 at the door.

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