Queer comic Erin Foley makes Atlanta laugh

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Erin Foley is a powerhouse comedian, hilarious actress, skilled writer and gregarious host of the podcast “Sports without Balls.” The lesbian wunderkind brings her act to Atlanta Thursday through Sunday.

Foley hits Laughing Skull for a run of shows that includes two Saturday shows emceed by gay Atlanta’s own Ian Aber. She sat down with him to talk about the upcoming shows, coming out and why she says she’s “super lucky that I’m gay.”

Is this your first time at Laughing Skull?

It is my first time at Laughing Skull, and I am really excited to perform there. I had a date scheduled last fall that I had to cancel, so really been looking forward to performing at Laughing Skull and in Atlanta for a while now.

Who were comedic role models both famous and non famous?

Growing up, I didn’t even realize what stand-up comedy was until I was 22 and had moved to the New York City, so I didn’t have a big stand up comedy background. My mom was obsessed with Woody Allen and my dad was obsessed with Laurel and Hardy and we watched the Carol Burnett Show on a loop, so we were always watching comedies and laughing in my house. I think I was a late bloomer in that it all came together for me later in life.

Lesbian comic Kate Clinton says just being out was once a political act in comedy and that now it’s being female. Are “women the new gay”?

I love her and think that is a really astute observation. It is such an unbelievable uphill struggle for women to get booked at these comedy clubs, it makes no sense to me. I get asked about the gay thing all the time and it is back burner. …

Headlining these clubs over the last few years, the gay stuff, it doesn’t faze the audience at all anymore. They don’t even blink. But if I as a woman mention politics, the air goes out of the room. Just hearing another person’s perspective makes people incredibly uncomfortable these days.

Your site says you’re a comedic actress, comedian and writer. Is that in order of priority?

I would start with stand up comic, comedic actress and writer. Ultimately, it would be fun to do all of it and you need to wear a lot of hats in order to survive in this business. It used to be you could just be a stand up comic, but now you got to act, write and have a podcast.

Do you find it more empowering to speak in your own voice as a stand up comic or is there more freedom in character work?

No doubt about it, stand up. That’s what I still love about stand-up both performing and watching. I love hearing people’s stories or watching people get super angry and animated about something they feel passionate about only to turn it into laughs and making it accessible for the audience.

Do you think there is a shared queer comedic sensibility?
I would say yes. When you take a group that is on the outside looking in, there’s a shared perspective there and as a result we view the world very differently than the majority. I dig that perspective, a lot. I feel super lucky that I am gay.

Anything that surprised you about coming out professionally.

At the time, I had no other goals outside of stand up. I had been at for about six or seven years before I said was gay and that was because I was just recently gay as a human.

I started comedy when I was 24 and I was trying to figure out if I was gay at 22, and it was all a crazy explosive time in my life. Thankfully, it was in Manhattan where no one cared and everyone was doing the same thing.

I never thought about the repercussions professionally because I had a reached a place in my stand up where there was a chunk of my life I wasn’t talking about on stage.

Any advice for up and coming LGBT comedians or actors?

Keep working on it. There is no secret beyond hard work. You got to keep going. I’ve been hit in the head with an onion ring onstage. It is the bad shows that teach the most starting out.

If race, gender, age were not a consideration what role would you want to play and why?

If I could jump back into the movie from “A League Of Their Own.” If I could play baseball with Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie, how fun would that be?!

Or I would do anything with Lily Tomlin or Carol Burnett.

If 13 year old you could see you now, what would she say?

I wish 13-year-old me could see me now and go back to 13 with more confidence knowing that everything was going to turn out alright.

If I had known that things were going to turn out this way, it would have taken the sexuality pressure off back then.

Erin Foley performs at Laughing Skull Lounge March 6-9. Buy tickets.

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