Fortune Feimster will bring her unique brand of comedic charm to Philadelphia when she performs at Helium Comedy Club Sept. 25-27.
The out comedian and actor has had quite a journey to get to where she is in the world of comedy. She graduated summa cum laude from Peace College in North Carolina and taught English in Sevilla, Spain, before moving to Los Angeles in 2003. By 2005, she was learning improv and sketch comedy under the tutelage of legendary comedy troupe The Groundlings, eventually making it into the group’s prestigious Sunday Company, which helped launch the careers of Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig.
Feimster soon made the jump to standup comedy and television on shows like “Last Comic Standing” and “Chelsea Lately,” the latter on which she’s been a regular and is probably her most high-profile vehicle.
“Chelsea Lately,” which ended production earlier this year, has been known as a springboard for performers like Ross Mathews to get their own talk shows. But Feimster said she’s more interested in getting back into writing and performing on scripted TV series.
“I’m more of an actress so I’m looking to get more into acting again,” she said. “Now that the show is ending, I’m looking to write another sitcom and see if I can go that route. I’m a performer first and a writer second. The nice thing about being a writer is, for someone like me who is different, it comes in handy to be able to act and write things for myself.”
Many “Chelsea Lately” alum have cashed in on their heightened profiles by writing books. While Feimster said she could go that route, she isn’t quite ready.
“I feel like I have some life to live and stories to happen so I don’t think it’s the right time,” she said. “Plus, I don’t know that there are thousands of people willing to run out and buy a book about my life yet — hopefully one day, but not yet. And also there have been so many books that have come out from people on the show. I just felt like it wasn’t time to add one more book to that list. I really want to do it when it’s the right time.”
In the meantime, Feimster said she hopes to get a sitcom up and running, written by and starring herself. Whether it will be on regular television or the edgier outlets like Netflix or cable remains to be seen, but Feimster is aiming to get the widest audience possible.
“I always go for the network first,” she said. “If there’s no interest there, you can try it out with other resources. I’m not saying major networks are the best, but they have the exposure and you want as many people to see it as possible. But at the end of the day, you want it to get made. However that happens, I would just be happy to be able to write it.”
We’ve crossed paths with a number of comedians from “Chelsea Lately” in our travels and they are, for the most part, down to earth. Feimster is no different.
She said the show seems to attract comics who have their priorities in order.
“I think [Chelsea Handler] does hire people that have come up from the middle class and have worked hard to be at that level,” she said. “We’re all more appreciative. There’s a humbleness that comes with that. It’s a place where no one has an ego. We all pick on each other so no one can take themselves too seriously.”
When we recently spoke to pioneering lesbian comic Suzanne Westenhoefer, she said she was flattered that Feimster would sing her praises as an influence. Feimster said she always acknowledges those who blazed a trail for her as a performer.
“I always appreciate anybody who has paved the way for me and for people that are coming up. “I’m not going to pretend that I’m all of a sudden so high in the air in this business because I’m not. There are so many people who came before me. I definitely respect what they did and the doors that they opened. I just respect comedy in general. I grew up watching ‘Saturday Night Live’ and reruns of the ‘The Carol Burnett Show.’ I admire what they do and it influenced a lot of what my comedy is today.”
Speaking of “Saturday Night Live,” Feimster was called on to audition for the legendary late-night show twice in her career. She didn’t make the cut but said even being asked to audition puts her in good company in the industry.
“I went out to New York and tried out for the show,” she said. “It was before I got on ‘Chelsea.’ It was a dream come true because that is a show everybody grew up on. Even though I didn’t get it, it’s still a special small club of people who have auditioned for the show. It’s an honor in itself. I definitely got nervous. When you do standup, it’s not that bad. But something like that, where the room is super-quiet and everyone is staring at you, I was definitely nervous. You go up on stage and you are shot out of a cannon. All of a sudden it’s over and you’re like, ‘What did I just do?’ And you hope it works. But it’s also one of those shows that has had so many funny comedians and actors audition for it who haven’t gotten it. I never saw it as a letdown that I didn’t get it. It’s one of those places where you fit or they see something they want from you that season and I just wasn’t the right fit.”
Feimster has made it onto some of the largest stages in standup comedy, though. She recently performed as part of the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival, which saw some massive names in standup join forces to perform for thousands of fans in amphitheaters across the country.
“I normally average 300 seats when I do clubs,” Feimster said. “All of a sudden there’s 14,000 people and it’s like, ‘Oh my God!’ It’s so intense. There’s definitely a different level of intimacy. In a club you can see who you are talking to and you can interact. There’s just a different timing that you have to practice more and more. I wish I had opportunities to do shows like that more, but the fact that I got to do it even one time is amazing.”
Fortune Feimster performs Sept. 25-27 at Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St. For more information call, 215-496-9001 or visit www.fortunefeimster.com.