Don’t tell Jason Stuart there are no good gay films out there — he’s been in them.
Openly gay funny man Jason Stuart is a prolific stand-up comedian, has appeared on over 40 television series, and cofounded the LGBT Actors Committee of the actor’s union SAG-AFTRA. We caught up with him while he was on the festival circuit in support of this year’s highly anticipated film Tangerine.
What has the reaction been to Tangerine so far?
Variety said: If you’re going to see one film at Sundance, Tangerine is the film to see. The reviews are like our mother wrote them! … It’s sort of a day in the life of these two transgender working girls. It’s funny, accessible, and as the film goes on, it unravels and you see how difficult it is for them. The whole film was shot on three different iPhones, but it looks beautiful.
Who do you play?
I play the doorman/manager of Hamburger Mary’s, where the girls do their show. I’m sort of the been-there-done-that kind of guy.
Have you spent much time at the Hamburger Mary’s in Los Angeles?
I do like Hamburger Mary’s. You know, I don’t eat red meat very often but when I get a hankering, I go there.
You were at Sundance last year for Love Is Strange.
Yes. How lucky is that?
What a gorgeous film!
I played the guy who married [the couple played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina]. When I got there, I thought to myself, my God, I have to remember three pages of dialogue in front of an Oscar winner, a Tony winner, and an Emmy winner. And here I am — with my Glitter Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
I feel like the film showed a different side of the gay community. So often we get stuck with a bunch of stereotypical characters.
I have all these friends who say, “There are no good gay movies out there.” And I say, “Did you see Love Is Strange? Did you see Weekend?” There are really wonderful films out there; it’s just frustrating.
Jason, you’re really daring because you came out of the closet in the early ‘90s when it was very taboo.
I came to a point where I was in the business for 10 years, and I wasn’t able to move to any place. I was getting depressed in my career because I didn’t know who I was onstage. … I was doing crazy outfits and crazy clothes, but it wasn’t really me. I honestly thought I was going to just go to New York and become a completely different person, you know? … I remember opening up the World Book Encyclopedia and looking at the word homosexual and it said “mentally ill.” … I [came out] because I finally thought it was more important to be who I am instead of just being in show business.
Let’s talk about your comedy. Do you have a pre-show ritual before you go on?
Well, I try to take a shower. [Laughs] I always try to do something new in the show. I do a lot of short sets in [LA], but for my hour show on the road, I try to make people feel like the show is just for them, and I always try to be in the moment. … No show I do is ever going to be exactly the same; I’m not that kind of comic. I’m somewhere between Don Rickles and Joan Rivers. Those are my two icons. … Hey, what issue is this for?
This will be our April/May issue.
Oh good — April 24th is Barbra Streisand’s birthday. And my mother’s.
Does anybody share a birthday with you?
I looked it up the other day: Rip Taylor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Orlando Bloom and Robert Stack. Who do you share a birthday with?
Joan Crawford and Chaka Khan.[Laughs] That is so perfect.
How did you get into comedy?
In the 80’s (when I was a kid) I had a manager named Jane. I was broke but funny — and probably funny because I was so scared of everybody — but she said, “You should do comedy.” I was a shy kid on the inside but funny on the outside — sort of like Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl (when I saw that film as a kid it made a big impression on me.) Anyways, Jane said, “You should do comedy.” And I said, “I can’t do comedy; I don’t know how to repeat myself.” So, she got me a gig at the Comedy Store, and I went on right before Damon Wayans — which was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me because years later, he called me and said: “Hey, do you want to play Dr. Steven Michael Thomas on My Wife and Kids?”I thought he was calling me to audition, but he wasn’t; they were offering me the role. That was one of the things that changed my career: when I played the shrink on that show for a year.
Who has inspired you in comedy recently?
I love what Louie C.K. is doing. He’s putting his comedy into a comedy/drama. He broke the mold with what comedians are supposed to do, and that’s why I created my show, Mentor. I’d watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, where everyone is playing themselves and how funny it was. Then I saw Girls and loved the intimacy of it and how it was shot. I ended up creating Mentor when my dad passed away and I didn’t know where my life was going. I felt like all of a sudden I was at a certain age, and I wasn’t where I thought I should be, and I felt like I’m so lucky my dad came to this country after the Holocaust and created this environment, so I could be an artist. Then I met this kid who was a straight Middle Eastern kid who wanted me to mentor him; so I did. What I realized after a while was: He was mentoring me. If you want to check out [Mentor], go to jastonstuart.com and click on the link to go to a new gay network called GayDirect, owned by a company in Canada.
You have a few other movies coming out this year. What should we keep an eye out for?
I just did this film called Hush Up Sweet Charlotte, and the gay boys are going to go nuts for it. I play a British journalist called Mr. Wills; … I don’t know if you saw Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, the Bette Davis/Olivia de Havilland film. Billy Clift — who did a parody film of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? called Baby Jane?/ — came up to me at the premiere of a film I did … and he said, “I’d love to work with you.” … Fast-forward, and we’re talking about deciding which part I wanted to play. He thought I should play the Southern husband, but I told him I really want to play the journalist. I think it’s a more interesting part. I grew my hair out, and I got a handlebar mustache, and I had them put white makeup on me. so I would look really pale. I got these tweed suits, and when I looked at myself in the pictures I thought: “Who the f**k is this?” I don’t see me anywhere! I don’t even know where this character came from! Let me tell you who it’s starring: Matthew Martin, who made a career out of playing Bette Davis in San Francisco; Varla Jean is in it; and Mink Stole from all the John Waters films plays the Agnes Moorehead role — and let me tell you: I just adore her. We really hit it off. She’s someone who is so much more talented than people realize. We had a blast working on this film. It was done all in black and white — with a little pop of color. A large percentage of the film was done on green screen. It’s going to be really fun, campy and kitschy. I can’t wait!
What was it like working with Mink Stole and Varla Jean?
Mink Stole is amazing. And Varla Jean was just a joy. He has this musical rhythm when he speaks, and you have to keep up with him. Mink Stole is a little more my style, more realistic. I love them both for different reasons. I have never been in a parody movie with drag queens; so I just went for it.
You were also in Bear City 2, weren’t you?
I was. I played one of those guys you see who’s dying to be in show business but has no ability or talent whatsoever. I [had a line]: “Why do we have to use anybody that’s fat or unattractive?!” I thought, when I said that, the bears would hate me and that I would never get hired by bears again, but they all loved it because they have such a good sense of humor.
Since this is for our Travel Issue, what are some places that are on your bucket list?
Italy, Greece, Spain — in that order. My husband is going to be there, and that is where George Clooney lives part time. I intend on meeting him and getting rid of that terrible mannequin he’s married to. … You know, I did a series with George called Sunset Beach 20 years ago, and every time he is nominated for an Oscar, they show a clip from this one scene where they show the back of my head. I was at a screening once at one of his movies, and I stood up and asked him: “Why do they always show the back of my head in your clips?” And without skipping a beat he said, “I am fixing it. It’s fixed.” He knew what I was talking about and even knew my name! So he has obviously fantasized about me as much as I have fantasized about him.
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Last modified: April 12, 2019