Arguably known best from her regular appearances on Chelsea Lately, Los Angeles-based Heather McDonald is a bestselling author, mother of three, stand-up comic and the co-host of the TLC series All About Sex. On her popular podcast Juicy Scoop, she dishes up celebrity gossip alongside an array of “controversial topics that are in the Zeitgeist.” We caught up with McDonald over the phone in anticipation of her performance at the Tobin Center on Friday, February 3.
You are known for your sharp tongue and critique of pop culture. What are some of the events this past year that have inspired your current comedy tour?
Brad and Angelina breaking up. I truly believe stars are just like us, so me being married for 16 years, I believe that children make a marriage more difficult. That’s something not a lot of people talk about, but when I bring it up in my comedy act the audience cheers. It’s so true. I loved that everyone cared about Jennifer Aniston’s reaction. I like getting into celebrity breakups — you know, with stars dating the nanny. I mean how lazy can you be? Like Gavin Rossdale and same with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the maid. I mean, come on dude, you’re that fucking lazy that you just have to fuck the girl down the hall from your child?
Do you resist talking about politics?
The way I feel about it now ... I feel like everyone keeps misunderstanding each other. Hollywood thinks that Middle America hates them and Middle America thinks that Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about them. Everybody is just misunderstanding each other. It’s a new year and let’s hope the world gets better and let’s just stop perpetuating it. It’s interesting what’s happened; it’s kind of crazy. She’s not going to be president! It’s over! I don’t care how many people march or talk about it. Hillary didn’t win so let’s just see if something good can come out of it. I don’t get super political because there is only one way to think without it not affecting your career. If you think any other way that isn’t completely to the left, you can hurt your career. And everyone else is talking about it and they can do it better than me, so why talk about it? I’m over it. My show is just funny and edgy but I don’t want to piss off anyone on either side because I don’t care. I’m not going to run for senator. I don’t ever want to. I just pay my taxes and try to be entertaining.
As a performer have you received any negative backlash?
I tried to be really good and not be political throughout the whole thing. After the election I wrote, “No matter what, I’ll always be grateful to be an American and I don’t plan on moving anywhere.” I totally got attacked on Twitter for that. [The response was:] “That’s because you’re a white woman and you’ve had a good life and blah, blah, blah.” Then I started to get pissed and said “Fuck it.” I deleted it all like a pussy and just stuck to comedy. It’s just not worth it.
Do you have a Melania impersonation?
A little bit. I actually like doing Ivanka more ... to me it’s more exciting than doing an accent of Melania. We’ve never had a president-daughter where I feel like the daughter is going to be like running the country. She’s our only hope to speak sanity to him, so let’s just be nice to Ivanka.
You do an excellent Jennifer Aniston and Drew Barrymore. What’s the secret to a good impersonation?
I think the secret is being a good writer, because a lot of people can do an impersonation or a good accent ... but it’s knowing their point of view and knowing what they might think about a certain subject. That’s what makes it kind of fun.
You were enrolled in the Groundlings School of improv. How much of that would you attribute to your success?
I started Groundlings and stand-up at the same time and I think that they are two great comedic art forms. It is great if you can do both because in one you’re totally dependent on yourself, and the other is working well with others. So I’m glad I’ve been able to master both because I do enjoy them so much. When I wrote on Chelsea Lately, it was a collaborative effort but it’s also good to know you can have a career and not depend on anyone else to sell out a show or put on a podcast. With my podcast, I don’t want to depend on anyone else. I love Wendy Williams because she does “hot topics’’ and all this stuff just by herself. I kind of took from her a little bit. I thought, “Okay, I can be interesting just talking by myself and not depend on anyone else.”
When you were starting out, was there a specific performer you aspired to be like?
Growing up I loved Joan Rivers. I would stay up late and I would only watch The Tonight Show when she was the guest host. I would hide in my dad’s office and pretend I had homework to do and watch his little TV ... I loved Ray Romano and all these comedians growing up. I was obviously more intrigued by the female comics but also, you know, I didn’t really see anyone like me. It seems everyone was self-deprecating. They had to be unattractive like Roseanne. Even Joan Rivers talked about how ugly she was all the time and I’m like, “but you’re not.” So I never knew if people would accept someone who was decently attractive. When I started, it was the grunge era, so I wondered, “Do I have to dress down? Do I have to not be myself?” It took a while for me to realize what comedy is: It’s really being your authentic self, whoever that may be. As long as you stick to that, the humor will come and that’s how you stay successful. You have to talk about what’s unique to you — and that’s my advice to younger comics too. I’m dirty and R-rated, but sometimes I see younger comics and all they talk about is being an alcoholic slut. There’s got to be something more interesting like: Are your parents immigrants? Do you have a weird day job? What else besides just dating and boning? There’s got to be more to your life. I like Jim Gaffigan, who is clean and got to perform for the pope. It’s unique that he can make just talking about his kids so funny and likable. I’m a little bit like that, but I’m dirtier than him.
What’s next on your podcast Juicy Scoop?
I have Lisa Rinna, who is on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but obviously has a long career. Even if I have a reality star like that, I make sure that the interview is juicy even if you’ve never watched their current show. What’s great is that I have people who say, “Oh my god, I listen to your podcast but I never watch any of the shows you seem so obsessed with.” I’ve also got Lance Bass coming on. I’ve got a lot of people coming up — I do twice a week now. Sometimes people send me their juicy stories and I share those. My show is about whatever is juicy. It can be funny; it can be intriguing; it can be a little 48 Hours mystery-ish. I didn’t want it to only be pop culture.
I know you answer a lot of fan questions on your show. What’s the most offensive question you have ever been asked?
I haven’t been asked anything offensive. I’ve been told a few things I didn’t appreciate. I’ve asked my listeners to spread the word. The podcast is free and I don’t charge them anything so I said, “Spread the word as you would Jesus Christ.” Being that I was raised Catholic, it just means to tell somebody. It caught on and everyone loved it. But, of course, I got this one woman who said, “I will stop listening if you continue to say that.” So I’m like, “Just stop listening.” I’m not going to change my show for one angry email that I get. Those types of things piss me off — when they don’t like a particular thing that I’m doing. Another woman wrote that she loves my podcast but was upset because I was talking about Scientology. I wrote her back and asked if she was a scientologist, and I’m meeting her today to talk about Scientology.
Yeah, because I said I’ve been watching the Leah Remini show, and I would like to talk to someone who is a devout Scientologist — someone who owns their own home, has their own business but just, you know, enjoys the principals of Scientology and nothing bad has happened to them. I want to hear what they think. My husband said to take my assistant but I’m like, “I’m not going to be captured!” I’m Catholic and people find it hard to believe that anyone would remain Catholic after all the horrible things that they’ve done as far as molesting children. But I’ve never been molested and no one in my particular parish has ever been touched. I don’t like everything about my church but I like that I was introduced to Jesus and I have a relationship with God and that comes from my education. That’s sort of what I want to ask about because I can imagine being a Scientologist and constantly being attacked for what you believe in when it’s kind of a positive force in your life. So that’s what I want to ask her about.
I like your message that we should try to understand each other and meet somewhere in the middle.
Yeah, I feel like there is just so much misunderstanding. And with social media everyone just thinks we all hate each other, but I don’t really think we do. Everyone has taken it as a personal affront by the way you voted and I think that just not right. There was a reason why, when voting first started, you were surrounded by curtains. Not everyone has to know the way you voted. I’ve had people yelling at me on Facebook, “How are you voting!?” I’m like, “I don’t have to tell you. I didn’t even tell my own children. Why do I have to tell you?” It’s just too much. Everyone thinks they are a political commentator for CNN.
Heather McDonald $29.75, 8pm Fri, Feb. 3, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle, (210) 223-8624, tobincenter.org.