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Netflix Is Putting Fortune Feimster In Everything, Including Headlining A Show In Its Massive LA Comedy Festival

Curly blonde-haired comedian Fortune Feimster in a pink jacket over a black shirt smiles at the camera, in front of a gray background with several partial black logos on it.
Fortune Feimster visits Build Studio on Jan. 21, 2020 in New York City.
(Theo Wargo
Getty Images)
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Comedian Fortune Feimster made a name for herself in the early days of reality television, appearing on NBC’sLast Comic Standing. She’s continued to bring her gentle North Carolina personality to the masses while also getting attention as one of the most high-profile LGBTQ+ comedians today. Now she headlined a show at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Saturday night.

It’s part of the Netflix Is A Joke Festival, with more than 250 shows across dozens of venues over nearly two weeks. Feimster had plans to start touring after she released her first hourlong Netflix special,Sweet and Salty, back in January 2020. The pandemic squashed those plans, but the comedian considers the timing of her special’s release to be lucky, in a way.

“For a year, people were trying to find any and everything to watch on television,” Feimster said. “My special was just there, and so a lot of people discovered it during that time.”

She’s excited to get back on the road, as having a career that relies on in-person interaction hasn’t been the easiest these past couple of years.

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“I think every comic in the world, when everything shut down, [thought], Oh my gosh, this is the one business we thought was foolproof. You’ve always had stand-up whenever there’s been wars, recession, any kind of tragedy — you go to stand-up to find that levity,” Feimster said.

Headlining in-person shows marks a big step up from the ways comics have had to make do during the pandemic.

“We all tried to be crafty, doing Zoom shows — which was never quite the same. Sometimes we did it outside. I did a couple shows at baseball fields, you did them in parking lots — we were doing everything that we could,” Feimster said. “I was trying to continue to do it, just because you get out of practice of talking when it’s just you — it was me and my wife for so long.”

Getting back on the road has given Feimster a renewed passion for stand-up, she said. The audiences have come back, too, with big crowds welcoming her return.

“It’s blowing my mind, the numbers at these theaters, and I’m just so grateful for that,” Feimster said. “Sweet and Salty really opened the doors even wider for making that leap from the comedy club to theaters … It was weird to finally go out a year-and-a-half later and be hearing all these references to my special in the audience — they’re yelling stuff out, they’re wearing shirts from my special … You don’t usually have that big of a gap, so it’s been really trippy.”

The Next Step In Her Stand-up

Fortune Feimster in a black suit with her wife, in a black blouse, at a party with several people in the background.
Fortune Feimster and now-wife Jacquelyn Smith attend the after party for the premiere of Showtime's "The L Word: Generation Q" at Hotel Figueroa on Dec. 2, 2019 in Los Angeles.
(Amy Sussman
Getty Images)

The pandemic was an eventful time for Feimster. She enjoyed professional highs, such as bigger acting opportunities, and personal ones — she married her wife in the fall of 2020.

“We never thought we would be in a pandemic and Zooming our families [for the ceremony], but we just got to that point of, What are we waiting on? We’ve been engaged for so long, why postpone this?” Feimster said. “There was no pressure from anyone because we were in a pandemic, so people were just like, Yeah, can’t fly, can’t be there. So there was no hurt feelings for not being invited. And it really just got to be about my wife and I.”

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Feimster’s been thankful that changes in society have given her new windows of opportunity.

“I was the person when I was coming up that everyone said was ‘different,’ but that was not a good thing back then,” Feimster said. “They were like, We don’t know what to do with you. … You’re so different that we just don’t know where to put you.”

Being different has gone from being a roadblock to being embraced.

“To be entering into this time where being different is good is like, Oh, thank goodness, because I don’t really know how to be anyone else,” Feimster said. “I look different, I sound different. I just [am] who I am. And I couldn’t change that if I tried.”

In her Sweet and Salty Netflix special, Feimster explored growing up and figuring out who she was. Proposing and getting married are among the topics she’s starting to talk about in her stand-up as she develops a new hour routine, talking about her adult life — being what she perceives as a late bloomer, coming from a small town, and not coming out until she had grown up.

“As you evolve as a person, your stand-up naturally evolves with it,” Feimster said. “Every time I have these big milestones, I think you probably see shifts in my stand-up.”

She’s eased into her voice and who she is as a comic, now finding herself more comfortable telling a story and not relying on quick setups and punchlines, saying she can now "let it breathe a little bit.”

Balancing Comedy, Acting, Hosting, And More

Feimster has developed a relationship with Netflix over the past few years, ranging from specials to co-hosting a daily interview show on a Netflix satellite radio channel. Her multi-hyphenate status seems a natural for a comedian who studied communications in school and first worked as an entertainment journalist.

“You have all these stories you want to tell, but you need to do it in a way that grabs their attention," Feimster said. "I mean, it’s just you and a microphone for an entire hour, and you have to be able to communicate well.”

Starting out, she studied improv and began doing shows with her improv group around Los Angeles, where she’s lived for the past 19 years. She would also perform stand-up shows back in her hometown, where she’d charge people $5 to come see her.

Working as a journalist in those early days, Feimster said, “I got to be adjacent to the acting world and talk to actors, talk to directors, talk to writers, and learn about that side of it before I got to dip my toe in it myself.”

Four people sit on tall stools in front of SiriusXM background, holding microphones.
(L-R) Jessica McKenna, Tom Papa, Fortune Feimster, and Zach Reino perform at "What A Joke With Papa And Fortune's" Holiday Spectacular on SiriusXM's "Netflix Is A Joke Radio" Channel at SiriusXM Studios on Dec. 11, 2019 in Los Angeles.
(Jesse Grant
Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Feimster's combination of comedy and journalism helped her in one of her first big gigs, writing and performing on Chelsea Lately. Now she’s balancing her work as a comic with acting, a regular on sitcoms including The Mindy Project, Bless the Harts, and currently Kenan. She also recently appeared in the cult pandemic-era movie hit, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.

“It’s the best of both worlds — I get to act when there’s a lull in stand-up, and I get to do stand-up when there’s a lull in acting,” Feimster said.

Her elevated profile has been reflected in those stand-up audiences. They’ve shifted from being around 90% women, Feimster said, to including a lot more men, as well as people from different age groups and backgrounds. She attributes that to the varied projects she’s been seen in, all drawing a different audience.

Next, Feimster is set to appear as a series regular on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s upcoming Netflix series, playing a CIA officer who looks up to Schwarzenegger’s character as a father figure. But she also makes time to appear as a celebrity reality show judge, from RuPaul’s Drag Race to Netflix’s recent Is It Cake? She likens it to the days of Hollywood Squares, where you get to show a different side of yourself through these appearances.

“I just like entertaining, so I’m always open to, What is a fun show that entertains people?” Feimster said. “All these different random food shows keep popping up, and I love food, so I’m not gonna turn that down. I get to eat and make people laugh? It’s perfect.”

She also has her own scripts that she’s trying to get made. The pandemic got in the way of some of those projects because of COVID-era budget restraints, but she’s hopeful for what’s next.

Feimster has had plenty of experience with shows nearly making it to the finish line but not quite getting there, including one based around her life that she starred in: Family Fortune. The show was produced by the 30 Rock team of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, but didn’t make it past the pilot stage.

“Their jokes are so solid,” Feimster said. “I was really surprised it didn’t get at least a shot … You [think], What else does this industry need? … But that just goes to show you how difficult it is to get anything made, so it was a lesson of this business [being] brutal. And if you think something’s a shoe-in, it’s not.”

As Feimster reaches new heights in her career, she reminds herself to make time to keep having new life experiences that can be put into the work.

“You cannot just be a workaholic and just work constantly — you have to live, you have to have things to talk about,” Feimster said. “Being a communicator also involves communicating actual experiences. So you have to find a balance, which is a challenge for someone like me, who’s just constantly wanting to work.”

The workaholic’s L.A. show this week is the only Los Angeles show on her tour. You can find Feimster at The Theatre at Ace Hotel this Saturday night, April 30.

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Updated May 1, 2022 at 4:15 PM PDT
Story updated to note the Saturday show was no longer upcoming.