Standing Up and Standing Out with Suzanne Westenhoefer


By Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

Out comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer returns to her old stomping grounds when she hits Pittsburgh on Friday, February 17. Westenhoefer said, “My first time in Pittsburgh was during college. Back then I went quite often; because I attended Clarion University, and we would drive down to the gay bars.”

The lesbian comedian knows the lingo. She added, “Pittsburgh is where I learned about pop, gum bands, and I started calling people ‘jagoffs.’”

Westenhoefer has done many shows in Pittsburgh. She joked, “I like everything about the city EXCEPT downtown has been under construction for decades.”

P.S. It’s funny cause it’s true.

The comedian is from Pennsylvania. Westenhoefer grew up in Columbia, PA (Amish Country). She started doing comedy in the 90s. She was the first openly lesbian comedian to star in an HBO Special, and the first openly lesbian comedian on “Late Night with David Letterman.”

She’s been breaking barriers and splitting sides for more than twenty-five years. Transgender comedian and actor Ian Harvie, and star of his own comedy special on SEESO, “May the Best Cock Win,” said, “If it weren’t for tenacious queer comics like Suzanne, there wouldn’t be room for comics like me. She’s awesome. I love her.”

Westenhoefer tours all over the country, and plays a lot of Pride events. She said, “Obviously the best Prides are the huge ones in NYC, Toronto and San Francisco, but my favorite is Jersey Pride. I got to host the very first one and they adopted me as if I’d grown up there.”

She added, “Going to the teeny ones can be awe-inspiring. Last year I did Spencer, Indiana. It’s just a tiny festival in front of city hall, but the entire town comes out and supports it. It was very moving.”

Westenhoefer does have some indelible memories of her life on stage. She noted, “One of my favorite moments on stage was seeing myself on the Jumbotron in Yankee stadium back during the Gay Games closing ceremonies. I had only been doing stand-up about a year.  I felt like Madonna.”

She said, “Anytime someone tells me how seeing my show helped or changed their coming out. I’m honored. Sometimes I cry a little later at the hotel.”

The veteran comedian had some good advice to share with newcomers. She said, “For new comics I always say, find your unique voice. Don’t be like any other comic. Stand up is standing out. And make your own work. Waiting around to get on stage at the local comedy club is wasted time, offer to host or Emcee other shows in your town.  Host a contest or introduce musicians etc. Go. Find. Work. It’s the only way to learn and get better.”

She offered advice for LGBT comedians, “Let me take this moment to tell your audience to see ANY open LGBT stand-ups you can. We live and die by a live audience. Comics cannot get discovered on the internet. We need live people laughing. Go to live shows. Then tell people about it. Then go to another. Whatever you can afford whenever you can. Take people!”

Heed her advice, and catch her live at Cattivo, 145 44th Street, Lawrenceville, PA 15201 on Friday, February 17, 2017. For more information, click here.





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