Among comedian Judy Gold’s list of stellar accomplishments is the 2011 one-woman play, “The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom,” a tribute to the classic shows from her childhood that helped inspire her to become one of stand-up’s fiercest voices. But ironically, the 57-year-old comic has never headlined her own TV series, relying instead on guest appearances, writing for others and keeping up a hectic performance schedule that includes a stop Monday at the Mall of America’s House of Comedy. Gold had some thoughts about why she missed out on the shot at the big time, as well other topics, during a lively phone conversation last week.
Being a female road comic in the ’80s and ’90s: “I remember traveling when there was no computers and no cellphones. You couldn’t use the phone in the hotel room because it was so expensive. It would eat up your whole salary. One of my suitcases was like a junk drawer with a clarinet and a two-cup coffeemaker. It was so isolating and so lonely, all so you could get on stage for more than 20 minutes. You were always the only woman. If there was three women on a show, it was a special event called Her-sterical. The guys were usually with their buddies. They could get on stage in disgusting sweatpants and then when they got off, the girls would be all over them. Meanwhile, I’m at the bar trying to get a ride back to the condo.”
Her time as an Emmy-winning writer and producer on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”: “I had so much fun. What was so great about it was that Rosie was a genuine fan that would get excited when stars came on. It was very campy when you think about it. I remember saying to musical director John McDaniel once, ‘Does Middle America know how gay this show is?’ Rosie changed after Columbine. That event had a major effect on her.”
Selling her own show: “All my friends in those days were getting holding deals, which meant a network would pay you a large sum of money to not audition for anyone else. My real life seemed like a perfect recipe: Me and my divorced partner living in the same apartment building with two kids and a crazy mother-in-law living down the hall. I pitched, and pitched and pitched but was always told, ‘Sorry, they’re not telling stories in the way you want to tell them.’ I’ve often wondered: Was it because I’m Jewish? Is it because I’m a lesbian? I was a cast member on ‘All-American Girl,’ which turned out to be this whitewashed version of some crazy Korean-American. In real life, Margaret Cho was so much more layered and interesting than that character.”
The current TV climate: There’s so much more freedom. You don’t have to sit in a room with a guy like Les Moonves and wait to decide whether he wants to go into business with you. People are independently producing things and getting them out elsewhere until they get picked up by a major network. But that’s also a bad thing. You go to comedy clubs now and they’ve hired some YouTube person that can fill a room because they had a stupid video that got 2 million hits. But they don’t have an act.”
Her book, “Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians We’re All in Trouble,” to be published this summer: “What prompted the idea was this piece I did for ‘Vice News Tonight.’ It was about how students booking shows at colleges are telling comics what they can and can’t do. Who are they to tell me that? They have no life experience at all. Comics are the ones who are speaking truth to power. We’ll be telling jokes until we get in the grave.”
Njustin@startribune.com Twitter: @nealjustin