Kate Willett is a San Francisco based comedian who recently moved to New York, toured with Margaret Cho and came out with a new comedy album, Glass Gutter, where she talks about sex and dating issues like bisexuality and polyamory. We caught up with Kate over email to talk about the above and more.
FLURT: You recently moved to New York from San Francisco. Are there any key differences you’ve noticed living there so far as a woman?
Kate: In New York it seems much more okay to be in whatever mood you’re in. I think this is true for men and women. I’ve lived here for about 3 months now and no one has told me to chill out. In California there’s a huge emphasis on being relaxed and positive. In New York you can do that, but it’s also fine to be mad, anxious or cry on the train. Everyone is in it together.
F: You and Margaret Cho are both from San Francisco. You’re also both bisexual. Does touring with other comedians you can relate to help in this industry?
K: Completely. Meeting and touring with Margaret was the first time I realized I could be exactly who I was and still do comedy. When I started in San Francisco, many of my well meaning male comedian friends would push me to be more observational, less personal and less sexual. When I met Margaret I realized I could talk about whatever I wanted. Anything can be funny. Margaret is uncompromisingly honest and it’s amazing to have had that example.
F: What has your experience been like coming out as a bisexual woman?
K: It’s been really interesting to see things change over the past 10 years. When I was younger coming out felt terrifying. Now, it feels like no big deal. I can’t tell if that’s because I’m older, because the culture has changed or both. I’ve lived in mostly cities but it feels like even in the more conservative area where I’m from, anyone under 40 pretty much thinks love is love. I know there’s a lot of homophobic jerks out there making life hard for young queer people especially, but I’m just saying that I haven’t personally encountered them in a while.
When I was in high school trying to come out though, it was a different story. I felt extremely isolated. I watched the film “But I’m A Cheerleader” on repeat and chose the college where I thought I’d have the best chance of meeting other girls who liked girls (UC Berkeley, and my plan worked). Me and a friend tried to start a Gay Straight Alliance in our high school, and it wasn’t allowed. Several people in my friend group stopped talking to me after I told them I was bisexual. When I got a girlfriend in college it became a lot more fun to come out because then it felt like we were in it together. Now I have a boyfriend so people don’t generally assume I’m queer unless I tell them. It’s important for me to be out, even if I’m dating a guy. It’s a huge part of who I am.
F: Dating is a common theme in your comedy. Why did you decide to touch on polyamory in your new album?
K: I think polyamory is a huge part of living in San Francisco. I spent a ton of time after college trying to figure out if I was monogamous or poly or something in between. I don’t think I’ve found a definitive answer to that question and I’m really glad I got to see people living out a lot of options. I know happy couples in long term, functional poly relationships and monogamous relationships. They both work. That being said, dating one person is hilarious. Dating more than one person can be even more hilarious which is why polyamory is on this album.
F: What advice would you give young people who might get backlash for being queer or poly?
K: Find community. Find people who think you are awesome and stick with them, because no one else’s opinion matters. If you can’t find community where you live, find some other queer or poly young people online until you can move to a place where there is community. And then move. There is nothing wrong with you, the people who are being mean to you are scared and hurting inside, and it’s 100% their problem. You’re great and you’re going to find lots of people who also think so.
F: Why do you think talking about sexuality and dating is so important as a woman in comedy?
K: Usually images of female sexuality in art focus on a woman as an object. She’s a thing being desired. Comedy flips that narrative on its head. Female comics can talk about our experience of sexuality as the protagonists of our own stories. At it’s best, comedy is a window into the full humanity of another person. When our culture can see women as sexual and as full human beings at the same time, I think a lot of things will get a lot better.
F: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
K: Wanted to give a little plug for supporting independent comedy shows in your city. Developing this album would not have been possible without The Mission Position, a weekly show I did in San Francisco at Lost Weekend Video, a video store with a comedy club in the basement. Gentrification and video streaming put Lost Weekend Video out of business, and San Francisco lost one of the best places for young comics to perform and for audiences to see really great underground comedy. New venues will spring up and you should go support them. You’re keeping your city interesting and helping the next generation of artists develop.
Kate Willett’s new comedy album, Glass Gutter, is out now on Spotify.