Lea DeLaria uses comedy as a tool for change 

click to enlarge ‘New Year’s Eve Spectacular’: LGBT icon Lea DeLaria appears in a Theatre Rhino presentation Saturday at the Victoria Theatre in The City. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • ‘New Year’s Eve Spectacular’: LGBT icon Lea DeLaria appears in a Theatre Rhino presentation Saturday at the Victoria Theatre in The City.

It’s better to be the last “butch” standing than somebody sitting around lost in a trance, sipping on mass media’s curious take on queer identity.

At least Lea DeLaria seems to think so.

The gutsy comic-singer expounds upon that notion — and more — in her distinctly original music and comedy act, onstage Saturday in Theatre Rhino’s “New Year’s Eve Spectacular.”

With a show dubbed “The Last Butch Standing,” DeLaria won’t be holding back. An LGBT icon, DeLaria was the first openly gay comic to appear on national television in the U.S. — on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in 1993. But her commentary on the queer community and the “trials and tribulations of a butch in a post-Ellen modern queer world” also happens to be a refreshing, fearless examination of culture in general.

“[The comedy] is not so much about what’s happened to us in the past year, but what’s happened to us over a course of time,” she says. “I mean, I was reading an article on hip and trendy gay men, and they were talking about Stonewall and they said, ‘Oh, we don’t care about Stonewall — it’s not important. Gay pride is not important.’

“It’s kind of scary to me when I see that,” she adds. “I feel that a lot has been really glorified by mass media and there are images [out there] that other people have created [about us]. And people have fallen for it, especially young queers.”

DeLaria’s passion to explore —make that expose — some of these issues is one reason her celebrity keeps rising on the comedy scene. And her guns-loaded bravura is a one-of-kind experience.

Still, underneath the laughs, the matters are serious.

“We don’t know who we are any more — we have lost our own identity,” she notes of the queer community. “And as a butch I feel completely left out.  … There’s more acceptance of trans men than butch d---- and nellie f---. And I am all over that [in the show].”

She also sings. Her jazz renditions — of rock and pop songs by Green Day, Blondie, the Doors and Patti Smith — are a big part of the show.

“I love music,” she says. “I used to sing with my dad when I was a child. It fills my soul.”

DeLaria’s act doesn’t only represent a career choice, either. She says, “Doing comedy has saved me a lot of money on therapy bills. Everybody wants to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on their psychiatrist and therapist — not me, honey!”

She pauses before adding: “To me, comedy is a very beautiful tool for change.”

IF YOU GO

Lea DeLaria

Presented by Theatre Rhino

Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco

When: 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $30 to $35

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.TheRhino.org

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Greg Archer

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