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The post Fortune Feimster on Incorporating Her Dog Into Her Standup and Becoming an Action Star With Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared first on Consequence.

When I sit down to speak with the radiant Fortune Feimster at a recent Netflix junket, the only potential obstacle I face is that there’s another star in the room, one who shines so brightly that he threatens to blind us all. But to my credit, I manage to wait at least 10 minutes before mentioning the presence of Biggie, the tiny fluffy rescue Pomeranian that Feimster and her wife Jacquelyn Smith (a.k.a. Jax) adopted about five years ago.

Feimster agrees with my assessment of his stardom, though. “He is amazing. So cute,” she says. “We’re both obsessed with him. As you can probably tell.”

Smith is also present (she’s the one holding Biggie as Femister and I talk), which feels fitting, as the occasion for this conversation is Feimster’s new hour-long special Good Fortune. Her second Netflix special features both Smith and Biggie in a brief cameo at the end, as the pair pop up on stage after an occasionally intense story about Biggie experiencing some medical issues — a choice Feimster says evolved out of her time touring with this material.

Originally, she says, Good Fortune ended on a different story, but “we started thinking about it and some friends watched it and felt like [Biggie] was the end, the full circle moment. So that’s why we switched that. And then we started having him pop on stage about halfway through the tour, and people would just go so nuts for him that we were like, ‘Well, we’ve got to do that when we tape’ — because I’m telling the story of this really traumatic thing that he went through, and you want that victory of seeing him okay.”

While Biggie’s presence was commonplace, Smith’s appearance on stage (and on-screen) “was kind of a last-minute decision. We didn’t decide to do that until the night before. She’s very shy, she’s not trying to be on camera, and so we had to kind of coax her into coming out. But that felt like another full circle moment too, where I told you a lot about our relationship and getting engaged, and so it seemed like fun to be like, ‘Here’s the person who I’ve been talking about a lot this last hour.’ To be on stage with my little family that we’ve created felt like a nice special moment to have, as part of this.”

It’s a lovely touch that matches with everything Feimster brings to the screen — if you’ve seen her, you know how easy it is to feel embraced by her warm friendly style of comedy, whether it be as a standup or as a supporting player in shows like The Mindy Project, Life in Pieces, and Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens.

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune (Netflix)

Her next big project, though, is pretty different from those shows: She’s acting alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in his as-yet-untitled new Netflix series, a “global spy adventure” per the press releases. “I never in a million years thought anyone would ask me to be in an action show, and I’m really, really proud of all the stuff we did the last five months,” she says. “It was so out of my wheelhouse, and I loved it, and I’m really, really excited for when it comes out.”

Does she get to shoot a gun? “I do it all, yeah. I’m the weapons expert and the mathematician — neither are things I have skills in, in real life, but that was the fun of it. I was jumping into a completely new situation.”

How new a situation? “I was like in a barn one night, with just Arnold and I till like four in the morning, shooting these prop guns and dodging explosions and crawling across the floor. And he turned and looked at me and he’s like, ‘Now you know what I’ve been doing for four decades.’ And I thought, this is insane, I have grown up watching this guy do all of this stuff and I am now doing this with him. In no universe would I have ever believed that that would happen. So it was a real pinch-me moment. I can’t wait to show people a whole different side.”

Coming from the world of sitcoms, Feimster says, “I didn’t know how I would do in this world, with long nights — I mean, I’ve never filmed as many hours as this, and so many lines and all that technical jargon that I don’t know about… I didn’t know how I would handle it. You just kind of hope that your training in these other areas carries you through. But I was really proud of it. I felt like I treated it as a big opportunity and I made the most of the opportunity, I feel like. We’ll see when it comes out.”

Feimster says that rather than auditioning for the role, she was approached directly for it, “which was not expected either. They had this character who was part of the CIA, but also fun and silly, and they wanted that mix of someone who could do action, but also carry funny lines. And somehow the creator just reached out, Nick Centaura — he was like, ‘Yeah, I totally see you doing this.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I’m glad you see that.’”

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While she didn’t get to jump off any buildings, “we got to be in a helicopter, grounded, and that day with all the explosions was pretty trippy. Like, you know, diving and having stuff fall on you while the whole back of the room is getting blown up. That was pretty cool.”

It was all unexpected because, Feimster says, “I thought I’d be like the person in the van, behind the computer, giving coordinates. But no, I got to be out there doing it. And I loved it — I grew up playing three sports a year my whole life, and even played competitively in college and in LA, but not a lot of people knew that more sporty side of me. I feel like I got to incorporate a lot of that, like being quick with your hands. I didn’t do my own stunts, but there were times I didn’t need the stunt double. Just being more active and physical — I was glad to get to bring that back into my life.”

It’s all potential fuel for future standup as well, as Feimster certainly isn’t done with that aspect of her career. Below, transcribed and edited for clarity, she digs into the development of Good Fortune as a complete special, how she approaches including her personal life — like her recent marriage to Smith — into her material, and when she thinks she might be ready to do another hour in the future.

So this might be a really superficial question, but when you know you’ve got your Netflix special lined up, at what point do you start thinking about things like what you’re going to wear and where you’re going to film it?

I am more of a “The deadline’s coming? Oh my gosh, we got to figure this out” type. So that stuff comes later for me. I’m all focused on the material, making sure it’s as funny as it can be, making sure the stories make sense. I’m focused on the transitions. My wife Jax, she is the one that’s like, “We got to figure out what you’re gonna wear — oh, my God, we gotta go to the store stat.” So that was three weeks before, maybe? I should probably plan further ahead.

And then that’s when you start talking about what the stage is going to look like and the curtains and you forget how much goes into all these specials. I thought I just had to show up and be funny. Now I’m picking color palettes. It’s definitely out of my wheelhouse. But you just want the whole thing to come together and look good. So you try to figure it out.

Of course. I feel like clothes are so interesting in this context, just because it can be a really spectacular-looking outfit, but it can be incredibly uncomfortable. Or it could be an incredibly comfortable outfit, but it doesn’t have the right pop.

Yeah, I mean sometimes too, like you haven’t worn that jacket, or whatever it is, on a show yet. So sometimes, you’re tugging or fixing yourself, you don’t really think about the fact that you’re being filmed. When I’m on tour, I’m usually in something like a button up or something, but I try for the specials. So far, I’ve been doing jackets. That seems to be the signature thing to go with.

A cool jacket gets you a long way.

Yeah, you know, I’m gonna just try to elevate it a little bit — you’re filming a special and you want it to feel special.

Did you take the jacket on a test run first?

No, I didn’t. I probably should have. But you bring it and hold it up on camera and make sure it looks good, because sometimes you can wear something that fades into the background, or whatnot. And you have to just trust that people around you are telling you that it works.

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune (Netflix)

So when it comes to approaching a special as a whole, do you start by wanting to build around one core story, or do you take it more linearly?

I usually start story by story. I don’t go into it like, “Oh, this is gonna be the theme, I need to write jokes that are in this category to fit it all together.” I go into it like, “What are the things that have happened in my life and make me laugh and what would be an interesting story? And I sort of start compiling them, story by story. It’s not until you’re really digging into the tour that you’re thinking about, well, how does this narrative work? How does this all tie together? What makes sense first, next, last? What do you want to end on?

I changed the order of my special like two weeks, three weeks before we filmed it — I changed the ending story, because everything’s a moving puzzle piece up until the end. I, day of, was writing new transitions, and things like that. You’re just trying to figure out what works first, and then the narrative comes later. Right now I am really enjoying that thing of telling a complete story, a beginning, middle, and end, bringing callbacks into it, tying it all together.

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As a comedian, I’m sure you’re used to building in moments where you’re hopefully going to get an applause break. But I wanted to ask very specifically about getting that applause break on the story of your proposal in the special, and what it feels like to get that reaction.

Well, I also tell a story about how there are mixed reactions about two women getting married and there are plenty of people who support us, and then there are people who don’t. What I am trying to show is that we have come a long way, but there are still plenty of obstacles: Some people think, “Oh, you have gay marriage, you’re good,” but no, there’s still plenty of hate out there too. So I wanted to sort of turn that on its head — here was a hateful thing, but what is the positive that can be seen in this.

That’s kind of how I approach life anyway — like, what was the lesson in this? What can you get out of this? So I wanted to share that story just to remind people that nothing is is a given, we don’t know what will happen with in terms of marriage equality. It could that be taken away. We don’t know. I keep my stuff pretty light and fun, but also there are important things that you can talk about to bring to light some of these bigger issues — but while also trying to make people laugh, while also try to try to tell an interesting story.

That’s what that moment in the special was for me, and then telling the story about getting engaged and having that pressure — straight people have it, gay people have it, of proposing to someone and wanting it to go right and it not going right. But in the end, all that matters is that she said yes. So to have people clap for that, and support that, in this big room of love felt really good. That reaction meant a lot to me.

When it comes to incorporating your personal life into your comedy, has that been an easy process?

Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve leaned into the storytelling part of standup instead of, like, set-up/punch line. So that lends itself to more personal stories — I’ve been telling stories about my childhood, and my family, my wife. For me, talking about the personal stuff wasn’t difficult, like, it was just like, “This is who I am, this is my life, these are my stories that I’m going to share with you guys.”

Obviously, you know, there are lines of that. I’m not telling everybody every part of my life. So you kind of know where that line is, of what is appropriate to share, and then the other stuff you keep for yourself because that’s just normal human behavior. But anything where something went wrong, or it didn’t go as planned, or this was a silly thing, or like, looking back at my childhood of how ridiculous this or that is, those are the stories I like to share. Because I think people share the humor of it with you and find that it’s, a lot of times, relatable to their own stories.

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune (Netflix)

Does Jax have veto power over jokes?

Oh, for sure. Because who would want to be married to someone that’s like, “Absolutely not, I don’t care if you don’t like that, I’m doing it anyway”? That’s not a very good partner — I would be a terrible partner if I refused to listen anything that she had to say about the set. I value her opinion and would want her to be comfortable with what I’m talking about.

So anything that made it at least to a special, she has certainly signed off on. But she sees so much of the set on the whole journey. So there might be times that I maybe I tell a story and if I pull it, it’s more because it wasn’t funny or interesting, but less like, it was TMI, or whatever. I feel like I have a good gauge of what would be good to share and not to share.

Was that always the case? Were there instances earlier where you maybe crossed a line you weren’t happy about it? Not necessarily in relation to Jax, just anything related to your life?

I mean, sometimes there are stories where you’re like, because everything’s based on truth, these stories did happen. But you take creative license — sometimes I combine things, like one person is actually three personality traits of three people, you know what I mean? So this thing happened, but I’m embellishing this thing, and some person might think, oh, that’s about me but it’s not really about that one person per se.

But I’m not really talking about other people as much, as usually it all goes back to things that happened to me. So I haven’t had many of those “Oh, should I have said that or not?” moments, I don’t think. If I talk about my mom, she’ll tell me, “Oh, I don’t like this or that,” or “this is okay.” She was a big part of my first special, but she laughed right along with everybody else at her ridiculousness.

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So everybody in my life has a pretty good sense of humor about it all. And I think the difference is I come at it from a place of love. I’m not coming at it from a place of making fun of someone, or painting them in a bad light. It’s like, “Let’s all celebrate how ridiculous this is.”

I feel like what I’ve always heard about comedians is that working your way up to an hour-long special is kind of the ultimate goal. What does it mean to you, to have been able to do it twice now?

Well, I learned so much doing the first one because before that, I had done two half hours. So in your head, you’re like, well, that’s technically an hour. But it’s different, though. A half hour is like you’re just telling jokes, there’s not a story to it, and I really wanted the whole hour to feel like, like I said, a narrative. Like you’re reading a book or something of a story that ties into each other.

I really love that feeling in Sweet and Salty — I was so proud to finally have that hour. It feels like such a feather in a comedian’s cap — you want that hour that shows who you are. But the worry is, “Oh, can I do this again? What am I going to talk about?” You want it to be as good, if not better. So you have this pressure that you put on yourself to try and top it. I was really grateful that this came together and felt like a narrative as well, but about a different part of my life. I’m really proud of how it came out and I’m proud to share it. And that’s the most you can hope for, is to create something that you’re proud to share with people.

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster Interview

Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune (Netflix)

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Is your approach that once you’ve filmed the special, the jokes are dead and you don’t tell them on stage anymore?

So on this tour, I did not do any jokes from Sweet and Salty, but that was because a year and a half had passed due to the pandemic and not being able to tour. There might be on this next tour some like “best of” things because people want to hear it. All the shows I did, people were wearing shirts that they made from Sweet and Salty, they’re yelling out “Hooters!” So I feel like because I didn’t do it on this tour, I might do… not many but a few of the ones that people really enjoy. Maybe a couple, like maybe one or two from Sweet and Salty and one from Good Fortune.

Was Good Fortune always a title that you had kicking around?

It was not. The title part for me always comes last. People had been asking me the whole tour, what do you think you’re gonna call it once it’s a special, and I really had no clue. I like to see the finished product and see what resonates.

The title part for me is definitely the most difficult, but for me Good Fortune was, you know, I’m lucky to be in this position, seeing the best in things, the positivity of things. It had a lot of different connotations to it, but sort of the main thing being you know, trying to make the most of life and, and being lucky, even though things don’t always pan out like you plan it — just being lucky and how things eventually turn out.

So you’ve been having these amazing experiences both in and out of standup — I imagine that there’s some material in there for a new special. Do you feel like it’s another two or three years before you have another one in you?

Yeah, I definitely want to take my time with this next one — I don’t want to just put something out hastily that I don’t feel proud to share with people. I’ll be going back on tour next year, early next year. So that material will already have been built, but I want to make sure I keep adding to it and making it good and taking the time to get it right. But also I will be hopefully, if [the Schwarzenegger project] does well, filming more, so that will cause the tour to stop-start, stop-start. So it might be a minute. But I’ll try to make it worth it.

Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune is streaming now on Netflix.

Fortune Feimster on Incorporating Her Dog Into Her Standup and Becoming an Action Star With Arnold Schwarzenegger
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