As an only child living with her parents in a Manhattan barrio, comedian Marga Gómez says for a while she thought her mother and father might be vampires. They were vaudevillians, who “only came out at night” to perform.
This led Gómez to find her own calling in the entertainment industry. Turning to stand-up comedy, she began her career with the Latino comedy troupe Culture Clash before venturing on her own and being dubbed “the Latina Lily Tomlin.”
September 7 and 8, Gómez, who takes pride in being a Latina and a lesbian, returns to the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center to perform her one-woman play, Marga Gómez and the Family Cómica. Via phone, the Current caught up with Gómez in San Francisco as she was checking out at the grocery store.
So, I guess since you’re waiting in line you have a glimpse of the most recent OK! Magazine with Britney Spears on the cover coming out as a lesbian. Is this going to disturb the whole natural order of the lesbian world?
Well, I just don’t want lesbians to become the new chihuahua, you know? There’s just certain people we don’t want to claim. Someone spiraling on their way down is not going to do us right.
Name three things that you just bought that you’re excited to take home.
Well, in the Bay area here we have some great fruit. So, I bought these organic white peaches that taste like nectar of the gods. Then, there is this pluot, which is an apricot and a plum that got together. You know, I’m gay so I like unusual couplings. And then I always love my aguacate.
Tell me about the Family Cómica.
It’s a story about my parents and myself and about trying to make it in the Hollywood culture as Latinos. It’s not stand-up. This is richer than stand-up. It’s a theatrical play. There is some emotional stuff in there about loving our parents and trying to be there for them. This is about a family that uses humor as a survival tool.
Tell me about your parents.
My father was was a comedian and a producer. My mother was a dancer. They put everything into making it to America and getting to Hollywood, which they never did. Part of the story is about spending your whole life trying to achieve something when everything you need is already right there with people that love you.
Does the acerbic stereotype that is sometimes attached with being a female comedian ever bother you? I mean, as a woman talking about social issues, some people would say, “Listen to what that angry female comedian is saying.” But as a male comedian talking about the same things, people would most likely refer to him as a social critic.
Comedy comes from anger and pain. A lot of men and some women in the industry are just not comfortable hearing a woman talk, period, unless she is talking about fashion or children. It’s like this psychological taboo. The only way to change it is for more women to start doing comedy and to be true to themselves. The problem I think women comedians have is that they’re afraid to be tough and afraid to do anything that is unpopular or to have ideas that are controversial. Too many women comics take the safe route and talk about their boyfriends or how they can’t get a boyfriend or blah blah blah.
So, how would you define your style?
I might perform one day and be real soft, like I just escaped from Disneyland, and then another day I can be a real ball-buster. I have a couple of different personalities.
On an entertainment level, is it more freeing for you as a lesbian to see more TV shows and movies portraying lesbians as real people? When you started your career 20 years ago, a lesbian kiss even on cable TV just wasn’t going to happen. Now, it’s everywhere.
When I first started back in the mid-’80s I was in and out of the closet. But now, I always have to put my Latino culture and my queer culture together because they both have not been given a voice in the past. It’s getting the recognition now, but there’s still a lot of adjusting to do. •
Marga Gómez and the Family Cómica
8pm Fri & Sat,
Sep 7 & 8
$7 presale; $10 door
Esperanza Peace & Justice Center
922 San Pedro