JFL40: Fortune Feimster focuses on being funny

Pop Goes The News – If you haven’t seen or heard Fortune Feimster lately, you haven’t been paying attention.

The comedian hosts the Sincerely Fortune podcast, stars in her own Netflix special Sweet & Salty, appears in the Netflix special Stand Out and is currently on tour with a brand new stand-up show, Hey Y’all, that comes to Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival this month.

Famously humble Feimster, who celebrated her 42nd birthday on Canada Day, admitted “it’s a pretty cool time.”

She told Pop Goes The News: “I’m just so grateful that I’m working. I’m very happy to be busy.”

This summer Feimster has been in Toronto shooting a new still-untitled series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It seems crazy when I’m filming these late nights with someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” she admitted. “I’m like, I watched him when I was in elementary school and now I’m filming this scene with him. It’s pretty trippy.”

But what feels really good right now, she said, is being able to stand in front of live audiences again.

“I love it. Especially after sitting at home like everyone else for a year-and-a-half,” said Feimster. “Not being able to go out and make people laugh made me appreciate touring in a way that I had… you know, it made me not want to take it for granted.

“So when I got to go back on this tour, it did not feel like work at all. It felt so good and like such a cool thing to do. Just hearing all that laughter in a room again was a pretty amazing feeling.”

Feimster said following the pandemic lockdowns, the response from crowds was “like nothing I had ever experienced before.”

She explained: “There was such a release almost. It felt like people were just like, ‘Finally! I feel normal, I’m doing something fun, I’m laughing.’ It was almost like this collective sigh in the room. You could just feel an energy there that I had never felt before.”

Feimster said the tour “will be one of the things that I will remember forever.”

Audiences are more divided (and more sensitive) than ever but Feimster said she isn’t worried about offending anyone because her show isn’t political.

“Where I’ve sort of settled in my comedy right now is I’m really leaning in to storytelling more and more as I get older, as I evolve, as I find my voice more,” she explained. “Sweet & Salty really helped me find what my voice is and my way of telling comedy.

“It’s all like, these are my stories, this is what happened to me, and I hope to make it funny and relatable to people. I try to focus on what’s the most interesting way to tell the story that makes people want to listen for an hour.”

Sharing stories about her life means talking about her wife of nearly two years, teacher Jacquelyn Smith. Feimster knows she is seen by many LGBTQ+ people as a role model. “To represent your community is certainly important and you hope to do them proud,” she said, “and I think any of us that get to the point that we’re able to tell our story on a worldwide platform… I don’t take that lightly because that is something that I do think is important for people to see themselves represented in your stories.”

Feimster said seeing a show like Sweet & Salty when she was growing up would have meant a lot to her.

“So I do take that responsibility seriously,” she said. “I’m trying to live my life in a way that is good and fulfilling for me but if it can also be a good example to other people, I think that’s a pretty awesome thing as well.”

Feimster is returning to Montreal’s Just For Laughs on July 30 with her new show, which she said picks up where Sweet & Salty left off.

“It’s a really fun hour where I tell a lot of stories about myself, where I reveal things about myself – where people think I might be one way but I’m actually another way – and I think audiences have really enjoyed getting to know a different side of me,” explained Feimster. “And then really talking more about my relationship and where that’s at and how that’s evolved, so that’s been cool to share that part of my life with people.”

She said the show “feels very celebratory” at the end.

“I try to make these hours feel a little bit like you’re on a journey. There’s a middle, beginning an end. There’s a through-line, callbacks… and so It doesn’t feel like a bunch of random stories thrown together. I like for it to feel like a narrative.

“That’s what I sort of started with with Sweet & Salty and I’m trying to continue that here with this show so I’m excited to perform it for everybody in Montreal.” (Feimster also takes Hey Y’all to Winnipeg’s Club Regent on Aug. 6.) 

Feimster has appeared at least half a dozen times at JFL since making her debut in 2010 as part of the New Faces showcase.

“That was the first time I really felt like, ‘Oh I’m doing it, I’m a comedian and I’m on a good path.’ I got to meet so many comics for the first time and everybody was so nice,” she recalled. “It was just a really special summer for me.”

What keeps her coming back to the city?

“That smoked meat and those bagels are definitely high on that list,” Feimster joked. “I love Montreal. It’s one of my favourite cities that we go to … I love the city so much and the people are so great.”

Feimster said JFL is a staple of her summer. “It was so weird in the last two years not to have it. It was like, July’s coming around and we’re not going to Montreal. I felt like something was missing from our summer so we were so excited when we heard that they were coming back and that I was going to get to go.”

The festival provides Feimster with the opportunity to hang out with kindred spirits. “It’s such a rare opportunity to get to be around all these other comics because we’re all on the road and all busy and don’t get to see each other very often,” she said.

“You don’t get much sleep – but it’s worth it.”

Fortune Feimster performs July 30 at Club Soda. Click here for tickets. JFL runs July 13-31 in Montreal. Follow @JRK_Media on Twitter for more coverage of the festival.