Before Fortune Feimster became a rising late night star as part of Chelsea Handler’s motley troupe on “Chelsea Lately“… before she taped her June 27 midnight “Half Hour” special for Comedy Central…before Fortune hosted the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards in NY… before she became a hot ticket on the comedy club circuit…before Tina Fey hand-picked her for a starring role in the highly-buzzed mid season comedy for Fox, “Cabot College” — before all that, she was part of another veritable carnival of fun, the Beck/Smith Hollywood Exclusive team, a.k.a., a “Beck-ette.”
Yes, for more than five years, Emily Fortune Feimster toiled as an entertainment journalist, even as she was sharpening her comedy skills in off hours, doing stand-up at the L.A. Comedy Store and improv with The Groundlings. That’s why I can tell you a couple of things about Fortune that other people don’t know. For instance, there’s even more talent there than viewers have had a chance to see as yet. I have witnessed her pull off hilarious musical improv (yes, she has a voice) and pitch-perfect drama onstage. And don’t let that Mayberry accent, the generous integumental upholstery and stubbornly untamed hairdo fool you. The North Carolina native is a world-wise sophisticate, and super smart. She has a great big heart. Viewers will learn more by watching her stand-up special come the 27th. In the meantime, here’s what went down when the tables were turned on this former interviewer:
Q: You’re a woman who is not afraid to put on a too-small Hooters outfit and wear it with pride. What pops into your head when you think of your gutsiest moment as a performer so far?
A: On ‘Chelsea Lately,’ I started doing this ribbon dance, where they put me in a leotard and whenever we didn’t really have a topic and we were really busy, they’d be like, ‘Hey, Fortune. Go do a ribbon dance.’ And I would throw on this tiny, tiny leotard and run out on stage and dance for like 30 seconds in this ridiculous outfit. I would have to say that is probably my ballsiest move, because, as we know, my body is not built for leotards.
Q: Have you always been so fearless?
A: I’ve had moments of it. I was really shy growing up. It’s like, every now and then I would really surprise my friends and family. There was like this band playing at the beach when I was about 10, and all of a sudden I just got onstage and started dancing. And my family is like, ‘What?!’
Q: Three of your most memorable characters on “Chelsea Lately” have been Rachel Zoe, Honey Boo Boo and her mom. Have you met any of them?
A: No. I actually really like Rachel Zoe. I really liked that show a lot. I thought it was hysterical how she abbreviated everything and was so dramatic. We invited Honey Boo Boo and her mom to come on ‘Chelsea,’ and they had seen my impression and didn’t care for it, so they said, ‘No, thank you.’
Q: You mean, the thing about selling her neck gravy did not go over?
A: She did not care for the neck gravy.
Q: Who is the best celebrity to make fun of?
A: Chelsea is the one who makes fun of everybody. I like to think I’m a little bit nicer, because I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We used to make fun of Lindsay Lohan and then she hosted the show and was really cool, so now I’m like, ‘She’s nice. I don’t want to make fun of her.’
Q: What is your favorite item in your wardrobe right now and why?
A: I have a denim shirt, a button-up shirt that I’ve been wearing a lot lately, and I usually wear it with denim jeans because I’m just really into the Canadian tuxedo look at the moment.
Q: You’re moving on from “Chelsea Lately” — which is now marked for an August 26 finale show — to take on this new Tina Fey series at Fox. What is the status of “Cabot College”? Will we see it in midseason?
A: They’re still negotiating, and I don’t quite know what the holdup is, but hopefully we’ll know something by the end of the month.
Q: Your character is very sunny and outgoing — and an out lesbian. Out and outgoing, and it’s all good. Tell me about her.
A: My character is very boisterous and kind of the party girl and she makes no apologies for who she is. It’s a nice role because it’s not too far of a stretch for myself, and I get to pop up in scenes and do something ridiculous and get a laugh and leave. It’s pretty great.
Q: Would you like to marry one day?
A: I think so. It’s not something that I’ve really put a lot of stock into up to this point because I’ve been so busy trying to get my career off the ground. But I’m finally getting to the point where I think that would be nice, because you can have all the success in the world but if you don’t have someone to share it with, well, I just think it would be better to have that kind of partner and that support.
Q: Have you had any encounters with fans, younger people who look up to you perhaps, who you were able to give a little encouragement?
A: I’ve had a number of people coming up to me, younger people telling me that. One girl told me that she was gay and she’d never told anyone before. The fact that she chose me to tell was like such an honor because I’ll be part of her coming out story for the rest of her life. That’s a big moment. I’ve had people tell me they appreciate what I do because it makes it okay to be gay. I’ve had parents come up to me and tell me they lost a child, and they came to my show and it was the first time they had laughed in months. It’s pretty amazing, but that’s the power of laughter. Sometimes my job seems so silly — Oh, I’m putting on this ridiculous outfit and running around like a moron — sometimes you just forget it can have that effect on people.
Note: After publication of this story, Fortune Feimster was named to Variety’s list of 10 Comics to Watch in 2014. As the trade publication reports: