Fortune Feimster’s bags were packed for her first major theater tour, when the country went into lockdown three years ago this March.
So, like everybody else, the North Carolina-reared comic/actress pivoted. She spent time writing, readying new material and getting married to her now wife, Jax. The latter now fuels her second Netflix special, aptly titled Good Fortune, which is set to drop on Oct. 25. But first, Feimster took her hour-long set on the road, where she says audiences didn’t just want to laugh, they needed to.
On a busy day in mid-September, Feimster, 42, carved out time to discuss the new special, which is executive produced by her along with Adam Ginivisian and Judi Marmel and directed by Manny Rodriguez, the pains of trying to get a movie made and her evolving place in the Hollywood firmament.
This is your second special for Netflix. What did you want to say with the hour?
I’d done a couple of half-hours before, but Sweet & Salty was my first hour and I learned so much. And with this one, I really wanted to pick up where that special left off. I felt like I’d found my voice with Sweet & Salty, and I’d leaned into a type of storytelling that I really enjoyed and I wanted to continue that, where I’m telling stories that are a little longer and about the journey of my life. I’d say Sweet & Salty was very much about finding myself and figuring out who I was; this one is about me trying to figure out how to be an adult, be a partner, settling into marriage and how I’m not quite how I appear. I’m different than what meets the eye. That’s what I wanted to convey in this one because that’s where I’m at.
You filmed this one at the Shakespeare Theater in Chicago. I’m curious how you came to that decision?
For Sweet & Salty, I chose North Carolina because a lot of those stories were about growing up and I thought, “What a perfect audience to do that for, the people who were there for those stories.” With this one, as I was putting it together and the narrative was starting to [form], I realized a good chunk of the special involved meeting my now wife, Jax, and getting married and us figuring out our lives together, so Chicago felt like the perfect place because I met her in Chicago. I like having that personal tie to it, and there were people in the audience who were there the night we met.
You note in your special that you were supposed to set out on your first theater tour in mid-March 2020, and then the world shut down. How do you feel that period impacted your comedy and what you wanted to say when the world ultimately opened back up?
Everyone was affected by that time in different ways. For me, my tour was supposed to start. Our bags were packed and we were ready to set out on this big tour, and then it was like, “You’re not going anywhere.” So, there was that deflation. But, like everybody, you had to pivot and be grateful that you had your health. And for me, it ended up being an important time to let my brain have a minute to think about what I wanted to say. It was the first time that I wasn’t worried about getting to this meeting or that meeting, and creatively it was such a gift to have that time to be home and write and come up with new material. And then when the world opened back up, I was ready.
When you started to go back out again, did you feel the audience had been changed by the experience? And if so, in what ways?
The biggest difference was that people were no longer laughing because they wanted to laugh, it felt like they were laughing because they needed to laugh. It was like a cathartic release. You could feel the energy in the room in a way that I’d never felt before. Everything had been so heavy in the world and there was so much loss, it’s like people needed that levity and the release and it felt really good to be able to provide that.
At the same time, you’re touring an increasingly polarized country. Do you find your material being received differently as you travel, and is that something you think about as you are crafting material?
I go into it with the perspective of, “I’m going to tell you a story.” Obviously, you hope that people from different walks of life can still find something in your story that’s relatable. But I want to say I did 100 cities on this tour, and I was hitting a lot of markets that I’d never been to and there were places that, as a gay woman, you do think in your head, “How’s this going to go? How’s this material going to be received?” Places blew me away, from Mobile, Alabama, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’d look out at the audience and there were all kinds of people and they were all laughing at a common thing, which you find less and less of today. It reminded me of how awesome laughing was, and it can bridge those gaps to a certain degree.
The special explores this theme of, “I’m not who, at first glance, you think I’m going to be,” and I’m curious how that’s played out in your Hollywood career?
I think the odds of someone like me making it in a place like L.A. and this business [are slim]. I mean, I’m from this tiny town, I don’t look like a lot of people on television, I have this accent, I have this crazy hair, I’m not your typical “Hollywood person,” so already I’m defying those odds. But I feel like it’s been cool to be able to have this stand-up platform because it allows you to cut through that thing where you don’t have to be this person that fits the Hollywood mold. You can just be yourself and hope that people connect with that in whatever way. So, I’m really grateful that stand-up has allowed me to share who I am. With Sweet & Salty, I feel like I got to tell people who I was growing up and the mistakes that I made, and now, with this one, I’m getting to tell you who I am as an adult. I may look tough and I might have these broad shoulders and whatnot, but I’m a bit more delicate than that and I love that stand-up allows me to cut through that Hollywood filter and be like, “This is me.”
I talked to Jo Koy as he was readying his latest special a month or two back, and he was very open about the fact that Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him for some time. I’m curious if you felt Hollywood has known what to do with you and your talent?
I would say that I had a very similar experience. I’ve been in L.A. for almost 20 years and it took the industry a long time to get on board with me and figure out what to do with me because when I was coming up, being different wasn’t considered a feather in your cap, per se. It was more like, “You don’t fit this mold that we’ve had in this industry for all of these years.” So, I was told no all the time, but you just had to hope that you’d do the work and at some point it would pay off. And now I feel like we’re entering a time in this industry where being different is considered a good thing and I love that because there’s room for so many different voices and you want to hear different voices and different perspectives. So, I’m really, really grateful that 20 years in, I’m getting these cool opportunities and I’m able to be on a platform like Netflix that’s putting my story out there, worldwide, and now I just hope people watch this special.
What’s left on your professional bucket list? You’ve already sold movies to Steven Spielberg…
We sold two movies to Amblin, and that was certainly nothing I ever expected and what a cool guy. I mean, there are so many things I want to do….
Well, let’s manifest some things.
I know! I’ve written a few movies, and now I’d really like to get one of them made. I love the process of creating and writing because you know your own voice better than anybody, so to actually get to make one of those things would be really special. I’m crossing my fingers that we figure that out eventually. And then I’m really excited about this project I’ve been filming in Toronto for the last five months with Arnold Schwarzenegger for Netflix. It’s a big, crazy action series, and I’m excited for people to see it because they’ll definitely be seeing me in a light that they’ve not seen before. I mean, I’ve never done anything like this, and that whole action world is so big and crazy and I loved it. So, yeah, I want to continue to do stand-up and act, but also get more into that space of creating and hopefully getting a project made. That’s the hardest part, getting a movie made. We’re going on four or five years now. But I remain hopeful!