Margaret Cho, Trixie Mattel and More Netflix Comics Share the Jokes That Inspired Them – PEOPLE
Breanne L. Heldman is the Senior Editor of TV for PEOPLE. In this role, she oversees all television coverage — and coverage of TV stars — across print and digital. Heldman joined PEOPLE in April 2018 after two years as Senior Editor at Entertainment Weekly. Prior to that, she held editorial positions at Yahoo Entertainment, MTV, E!, and the New York Daily News. The Boston University alum and Cincinnati native frequently appears as an entertainment expert on programs such as Good Morning America, Access Hollywood and the People Every Day podcast and has moderated panels at Lincoln Center, 92Y, New York Comic Con and more.
“Joan Rivers had a catchphrase that was ‘Can we talk?’ And that was it,” admits Cho, who starred in Good on Paper. The audience would roar and I wanted to talk just like her. ”
“I remember watching Chris Rock’s special [from 2004], Never Scared. I don’t think there was a particular joke, but I just remember obsessing over it in college. I had it on DVD — back when we had DVDs! — and I used to watch it all the time, over and over and over again. I thought it was just really brilliant how he crafted the entire special.” Bob the Drag Queen is hosting The Drop In event during the festival.
“The first time I saw Margaret Cho on HBO, I remember thinking I had so much in common with her,” says Alonzo, whose Lower Classy special is available on Netflix. “I didn’t think about what we looked like. I thought about what we both lived like. She talked about her immigrant parents and her being first-generation kid, living in the United States. I felt so connected to her — and she was a woman. She wasn’t a white male like the majority of the comics I would see. She felt familiar and taught me that being personal and specific about one’s story could make anyone laugh. Along the path, there have also been names like Laurie Kightlinger, Wendy Liebman, Wanda Sykes among others… but Margaret Cho was one of the first times I distinctly remember feeling represented. It goes to show you that when we all share similar experiences, we are all connected. No matter how different we all may seem to be.”
“We listened to Brian Regan a lot as a family growing up,” says Tomlinson, whose latest Netflix special, Look at You, was released in March. “When I got to work with him as an adult, he was as nice and gracious offstage as he was hilarious onstage.”
The RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars champion tells PEOPLE about Ellen DeGeneres‘ 2003 special Here and Now: “I remember her making some passing joke about being gay, but the overall special wasn’t about her queerness. Her material was relatable and hilarious, her sexual orientation a side note. She taught me that in comedy your sexual orientation is irrelevant. Whether or not you agreed with her queerness, you had to admit she was fierce. I knew from then on I wanted to make people feel the way she made me feel.”
“Phyllis Diller,” declares Christina P, whose new special, Mom Genes, arrives on Netflix on Mother’s Day, May 8. “I watched her with my mother and was completely mesmerized. My favorite joke was about her obese mother-in-law coming to visit: ‘Her idea of a good time is going downtown to burn out all the escalators.’ Amazing.”
“Watching Molly Shannon in Superstar changed my life!! She’s an absolute genius!” cheers Cohen, whose special, The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous, was released earlier this year.
The Comedy Lineup‘s Lane selected the following joke from Ellen DeGeneres‘ 1996 comedy album Taste This: “I was coming home from kindergarten — well they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for 10 years. It’s good for a kid to know how to make gloves.”
"I was 10 years old and it was the first time I ever really understood what a joke was," Lane recalls. "It's such a simple bait and switch, but [DeGeneres'] delivery was so casual and powerful, it stuck with me forever. That was the first time I ever felt like I wanted to make people laugh, with intention and wit — not just being silly. But also it's just a funny visual. I love her."
"I am a total comedy-phile, so I draw inspiration from so many comedians," says Georgio, who was a featured comedian on Conan. "However, as a kid, Eddie Murphy was my idol. I would watch Delirious on repeat. I will never forget when he starts talking about his dad getting drunk and calling his aunt 'Bigfoot.' It was so absurd but so relatable at the same time. It's a perfect story and truly one of the moments that solidified my desire to become a comedian."
“Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be a Redneck album showed me just how funny my childhood was,” says Slay, who did an episode of The Standups. “I was never more happy to live in a trailer park as I did listening to that album. He had me walking around middle school saying ‘yon’t to’ and ‘auight’ like I wasn’t already saying them.”
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