When Jackie Hoffman gets angry, we get happy.
The hilarious actor/comic/singer specializes in wonderfully sour observations which spin humor out of gloom, plus she’s a Broadway veteran thanks to shows like Hairspray, Xanadu, The Addams Family, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which is closing next week).
What’s more, Jackie was Emmy nominated for playing Joan Crawford’s housekeeper in Feud, bringing a winning, no-bull practicality to the role.
As she prepared for performances in Fort Lauderdale (on January 20) and Lincoln Center (on January 25), Jackie managed to eke out some kvetchy truths for me.
Hi, Jackie. Tell me about your Fort Lauderdale gig.
It’s part of the Outlandish Festival, because everything there has to have “Out” in it. It’s a church because when you think Jackie Hoffman, you think church. It’s called the Sunshine Cathedral.
Because when you think Sunshine, you think Jackie Hoffman.
Maybe it’s where Anita Bryant stops by to pray.
Is it going to be a lot of old people?
No, it’s gonna be a lot of gay people.
Or old gay people.
I hope so.
The title refers to your Emmy nomination?
It’s titled What Ever Happened to Jackie’s Emmy?
And what did happen to it?
Laura Dern took it.
She stole it?
No, I think she deserved it. But I’m not arguing against gays who say it was stolen.
Well, Hattie McDaniel won for playing a maid.
And so did Octavia Spencer.
It’s my Esther role.
Did getting the Emmy change your career, or just doing the show did?
I didn’t get the Emmy.
I know, I mean the nomination.
It’s given me material. But I mean my phone ain’t ringing off the walls. Tomorrow is another day…of silence.
Not a single other offer to do TV?
That would be a no.
Yikes, what good is this fucking nomination?
I know. [A producer of] Feud had a bit part in a film for me, but it was Tony-voting season and for some reason, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory thought they would be swarmed with Tony voters [so they wouldn’t let her out to do the film]. They wanted me to play a drug counselor with Steve Carrell.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [in which Jackie plays Mrs. Teavee] closes January 14. Are you sad? Relieved?
My hip is relieved, my heart is sad.
Are you in pain?
It’s not that physical a part.
There’s like 10 flights of stairs to get to the dressing room and there’s a lot of climbing, running, and jumping. It’s the most physical show I’ve ever done.
Not to rub it in, but you’ve never gotten a Tony nomination.
No, I have not.
Does that have an effect?
On what—my general misery persona or my career?
I don’t know. They say if you go to L.A., a Tony nomination means nothing, but the good thing is everyone in L.A. thinks I’ve been nominated for a Tony. “Oh, you’ve been on Broadway? You’ve been nominated.”
You’d think at least a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Oh, God. I’m not that old. A picture at Sardi’s would be nice.
Is your misery a shtick or is it genuine?
Sometimes it’s genuine. The darkness is genuine.
Have you ever said jokes that horrified the audience?
All the time.
Is it a badge of honor?
It’s a badge of terror. Judy Gold had me do a benefit for a school of hers, and it was right around when that nanny slit the kid’s throat. They said they went to fancy schools and were good at communication. I said, “If they were that good at communication, they should have said, ’I think they shouldn’t slit our throats right now.'” It was amazing. I got an actual “Ahh.”
It’s good to get a response. Would you say you have a cult following? Like a Jim Jones?
Yes, I’ll call them a cult—or a sect or a gaggle—a flock.
Where do you see your career going in the future?
Oh, god, talk about getting depressed. Performing at gay nursing homes.
You already do that—Fort Lauderdale.
Do you incorporate Trump jokes into your material or is it too obvious?
I wrote a new opening number for Lincoln Center and I think I’m going to do it in Fort Lauderdale. I sing about how I’m not going to talk about it.
Will your Lincoln Center show be similar to your Florida one?
It has to have a lot more music because it is the American Songbook. But we do have a joke on top, that we’re making it the American Talkbook.
You don’t do Cole Porter.
I could, but I won’t.
Would you ever do like a serious Christine Ebersole-type act, where you show off your vocal skills?
I don’t think I’m good enough to do something without being funny. My director thought of me doing a [late bawdy entertainer] Belle Barth act.
Like Leslie Kritzer doing Patti LuPone?
But Belle can’t stop it. Are you happier onstage?
I feel like what I got from Nathan Lane is there always seems to be a pall of misery, but there’s a special kind reserved for the stage.
It’s still misery onstage?
Misery is stasis. There are moments of fun and sometimes it’s a joy. I need the yin and yang of having a place to go and coming home from it.