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Interview with Kate Clinton

Political Activist, Comedienne and Author

August 29th, 2011

The lights dim in the Cabaret Room of the Crown and Anchor. In the spotlight, Kate Clinton comes on stage with a great smile for a welcoming audience. People laugh and clap to her hysterical take on Bear Week in Provincetown (locals tie their food up in trees), President Obama (How cute is Michelle?) and impersonations of right wingers like Mitt Romney. A master of comedic timing, she greeted everyone at the end of her show like an old friend.

''LADY HAHA was recorded live in front of 600 screaming people pounding the table and eating fried food. Never record a live show on taco night. The crunching!''

We chatted it up, talking about her life and love for Provincetown.

Laura: How did you first discover Provincetown?

Kate: I’m fascinated with maps and I always wanted to go to the little part of Massachusetts.

Before GPS, our family was on a vacation. I’m not related to Bill Clinton, but I do have a brother Bill and a sister Monica. None of us had a sense of direction. Somehow, we went to Plymouth and drove all the way to Herring Cove Beach where my parents opened the car door and set us free.

1984 was the first time I had a show in Provincetown, at the Pilgrim House [now Vixen]. I would perform every year for five days, which grew to two weeks. One day, I was packing to go back to upstate New York and said “Why?” I moved here full-time in 1988.

Laura: Tell us about your partner.

Kate: Urvashi Vaid is a nice Indian girl who loves football. When she was at Northeastern University’s Law School, Urvashi would come every summer to Provincetown with bunches of her friends. We met in 1988 at a conference in Washington, D.C. It was a fast and furious courtship, doing the long distance thing for a while. I think I’m instrumental in building Cape Air from all the traveling I did. She moved here a few years later.

Laura: You’ve been together for twenty-three years. What makes it work?

Kate: We talk with each other. I like that because I come from a family of ‘non-talkers’. Urvashi and I have similar political passions. We call ourselves a marriage of comedy and tragedy. I’m not saying who’s who.

Laura: You take difficult subjects and make people laugh.

Kate: The communal experience of laughter bonds us together.

Laura: With all the world’s problems, what do you think we can do about it?

Kate: The “powers that be” would prefer that we think of ourselves as powerless. Fear of the economy and the debt ceiling make us hide in chat rooms. People must remember that we have the ability, as individuals and communities, to create change.

Years ago, when I first met Lily Tomlin, she gave me a great piece of advice. Do different things, but bring everybody along. I am an agent of change through comedy, essays, books and blogs.

Laura: You have a new CD and a recently released book. [How does she do this?]

Kate: LADY HAHA was recorded live in front of 600 screaming people pounding the table and eating fried food. Never record a live show on taco night. The crunching!

“I Told You So” is a compilation of old and new essays about the election of Barack Obama and gay marriage.
You can buy it on my website or from your favorite online retailer.

Laura: What changes have you seen in Provincetown?

Kate: I’m very excited about what’s happening at Outer Cape Health. The new administration has brought great renewal to the facility. In the larger picture, it’s wonderful for the community.

What hasn’t changed is the year rounder’s commitment to keeping Provincetown a place that is livable through small town democracy. And the natural beauty here is staggering.

Laura: What advice do you have for people with a passion?

Kate: Do it. When I wanted to try stand up comedy, I was talking about it way too much. A friend booked me in a club and said I had a month to get ready. Encourage your people to do what they’ve been talking about. The Mews Coffeehouse is wonderful for performers to try out what they’ve been working on.

Or, volunteer your time. Giving is part of being in a community.

Laura: Your current show has rave reviews. When and where?

Kate: The “Glee Party Tour” is at The Crown and Anchor, Thursday-Sunday, September 1st to the 4th at 7:00p.m. Women’s Week, my show is on Thursday, October 13 at 7p.m. On Friday and Saturday, October 14th and 15th, times are 2:30p.m and 6:15p.m.

I love performing in the Cabaret Room. When I’m in the dressing room, the drag queens playing in the Paramount come in with fishing tackle boxes of makeup. All I have is lipstick.

For more information and tickets, go to www.onlyatthecrown.com or www.kateclinton.com

Columnist [Notes from Land’s End] Laura Shabott loves to write about the people that she admires in her beloved Provincetown. She recently completed a course of study at the Fine Arts Work Center with author Robin Hemley.

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