After all these years, the hilarious and charming gay comedian and actor, Jason Stuart, is still searching for Mr. Right.
Stuart, along with Judy Tenuta and Alec Mapa, will take a break from the manhunt to come to town for Human Right Campaign's 6th Annual Laughing Out Loud. Stuart is currently on tour with his 'Looking for Mr. Right' Comedy Tour.'
This funny guy is probably best known for playing the gay shrink on ABC's My Wife & Kids, but has appeared in countless films and television shows, including HBO's Fat Actress and Will & Grace.
Windy City Times: So are you really excited about this event?
Jason Stuart: Oh, sure. I love doing things for the Human Rights Campaign. It's just the most important gay and lesbian organization in the country for gay people. It's the biggest one. It's the one that's done the most for us. It's our only presence in Washington.
WCT: So, when did you first start doing stand up? I know you started as an actor.
JS: Oh, God. In the '80s—1983.
WCT: And how did you make that transition?
JS: Oh, fear! [ Laughs. ] It's all about fear.
WCT: So, you used fear as a tool to help you when it came to stand up? When did you start doing stand up?
JS: I thought I wasn't probably good-looking enough to be an extra for Robert De Niro. And at the time, I thought I'd either do stand up or I'd do musical theater.
WCT: In terms of stand up and acting, do you prefer one over the other?
JS: Well, at this point in my life, I prefer to work with really terrific people, and that's what I'm out doing. In terms of stand up, I've done it and I've been able to be really, really creative and now I'm able to be really, really creative as an actor. So now I'm ready to do both together. I'm in the process of maybe doing a one-person show, so I'm taking it to the next level. We'll see, but that's a very long, arduous process.
WCT: You've gotten to work alongside veterans like Faye Dunaway [ Ghosts Never Sleep. ]
JS: Oh my God, that was an incredible experience.
WCT: When did you first realize that you're a natural performer?
JS: I think I was in the eighth grade. I was doing a play called Santa Claus for President. They had me wear a fat suit, and I pretended that I was Lucy [ Lucille Ball ] pregnant on stage. I thought that was so funny and the audience laughed and I thought, 'I'm good at this.'
WCT: You came out to Geraldo in 1993.
JS: I came out to Geraldo in '93 and he kissed me at the end of the show.
WCT: How many people can say that?
JS: Very few!
WCT: What kind of reaction did you get? I know your family already knew.
JS: It completely changed my entire career, and it was absolutely frightening.
WCT: But in the long run, it ended up being a great thing for you.
JS: Yes, but at the time it was really frightening. But what's funny is I got sick when I was doing the Geraldo Show, which is really sort of interesting because I was so vulnerable.
WCT: Where did you first get the idea for your tour?
JS: Are you kidding me? It's been in my head forever! I've been trying to find a husband for the last 10 years. So, it's not something that wasn't on my mind. And then my film 10 Attitudes, which I produced and starred in, that I probably filmed five years ago, is the same subject matter.
WCT: It's a very important thing in your life.
JS: It is funny because I am dating someone now. A guy named Claudio. He's Portuguese, and whenever he takes my picture he has to 'fuckus' it! He has to 'fuckus!' I have to fuckus, I want to take your picture! … Please, let me fuckus!' [ Laughs. ]
WCT: When did you meet Claudio?
JS: We just started dating about a week ago.
WCT: Have you had any recent, really bad dating experiences?
JS: Are you kidding me? I dated a guy last year a number of times. And one time he shows up an hour and a half late, and I said, 'What's going on? Why are you so late?' And he keeps calling, saying, 'People are chasing me!' What are you talking about? Finally, he got here and I said to my friend David, 'What do you think is wrong with him?' He said, 'Honey, crystal meth.' I had no idea. This is how completely naïve I am to this kind of thing. And I said to him, 'Do you do crystal meth?' 'Oh, only on the weekends.'
WCT: Oh, right. That is such a turn off.
JS: Oh, that was it. It was over. But this guy Claudio is a real estate guy. He has a job, and a car and he doesn't live in the car.
WCT: Very important qualities. What other qualities are you looking for in Mr. Right?
JS: Smart, sexy, good sense of humor, out, talks to his parents.
WCT: And for you, marriage is the ultimate goal.
JS: Oh, yeah. C'mon straight people, if you let us marry each other, we'll stop marrying you.
WCT: And what other goals do you have in life?
JS: Well, I want to do a partner film. Independent film is my fantasy. That I get paid absolutely nothing for and it turns out a big hit creatively and commercially. It changes my life and then for 10 years I play the same part in big studio pictures where I make tons of money and it's not as good. Then I do another part where I play a straight guy in a film 10 years later and get nominated for an Oscar again and this time I win.
WCT: And are films like Brokeback Mountain making things easier?
JS: Oh God. … People keep saying, 'You know, do you think it's risking your career if you are a straight guy to play a gay character? What do you think the implications will be?' All you have to worry about is what to wear to the Oscars. Because 85 percent of gay roles are played by straight people.
WCT: Off the stage, what are you really like?
JS: Quiet. You know, private.
WCT: What do you like to do for fun?
JS: I like to hike. I like to read. I'm a big movie person. I love the movies. I'm very romantic.
WCT: What's your favorite movie this year?
JS: Capote, Brokeback Mountain and Crash. There's been a lot of them. I have five movies coming out. Easier, Softer Way with Mekhi Phifer—which was a great experience—where I play the manager of a rehab center; Coffee Date, where I play the wisecracking manager of an office who thinks everyone is gay; Gone Postal, where I play the assistant manager; and Monkey Man, where I play an alcoholic who's the manager of a vitamin store. Then on March 8 I'll be on the George Lopez Show playing the sales manager of a clothes store.
WCT: What's with all these manager roles?
JS: I'm in charge of something, yet I have no power.
WCT: Do you feel like that in real life?
JS: Yes. I'm in charge of my life, but I have no power.
WCT: What do you feel that you have no power over?
JS: My career, my life.
WCT: When you are on tour, you have a lot of Q&A sessions.
JS: I love interacting with people in the audience.
WCT: What are some of the weirdest questions you get asked?
JS: The question I get asked all the time is 'When did you know you were gay?' Thursday. It happens on Thursdays. We all have this big meeting at Elton John's house and last week they picked me. They also ask, 'Are you a top or a bottom?' and I say, 'That's a little too specific.' And then I say, 'I'm an actor, I play both parts.'
WCT: You have a very diverse audience.
JS: Always! Because gay men, other than gay events like HRC or AIDS events, most gay men go to see Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin and drag queens. So my audience I usually get 25 percent gay men, 10 percent lesbians, 15 percent whatever and then 50 percent straight people. I've never had a complete gay audience. It would be nice, but men still are not at that point yet in their lives where they want to support big-time gay men. That's what my comedy CD is called 'Gay Comedy Without a Dress.'
WCT: I know you like to distinguish yourself as an 'openly gay comedian,' as opposed to labeling yourself as a 'gay comedian.'
JS: I think it's more descriptive of what I really am. But it doesn't matter what people call me. It doesn't matter to me that much.
Laughing Out Loud takes place at Park West on March 3-4. See www.hrc.org or www.boxofficetickets.com .