Comedian Leslie Jordan has made us laugh for decades. Whether you remember him for his role as Beverley Leslie in the sitcom Will & Grace, as Brother Boy in Sordid Lives, or as the newspaper editor Mr. Blackly in the film The Help, chances are his humor has brought a smile to your face and great memories along with it. He’s bringing his stand-up comedy to Florida for three nights: the first night, Friday, June 19, he will be performing at the Polk Theatre in Lakeland at 8 p.m. Then, on Saturday and Sunday night, June 20 and 21, he will be performing his comedy at The Cabaret South Beach in Miami Beach, also at 8 p.m each night.
Ticket prices start at $32.50 per person for the Lakeland performance and $40 for the Miami Beach performances. You can buy your tickets in advance by going to polkpridefl.com (Lakeland) or tickets.reactionshows.com (Miami Beach).
I spoke to Leslie Jordan about his upcoming appearances in Florida in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
Welcome back to Florida! What’s your favorite thing about the Sunshine State?
As a kid growing up in Tennessee, the big event was our yearly vacation to Panama City. My daddy would put a mattress in the back of the station wagon and my sisters and I would pile in there and we’d drive, drive, drive down there. Florida was just a mecca, you know? It was a world outside of my bleak, Southern Baptist life. It was so glamorous! Then we would vacation in Daytona Beach. I’d walk the boardwalk, thinking, “Oh, I’m gonna live here one day!” I never did end up living there, but I love it just the same…there’s just nothing like Florida. My sisters lived for ten years in The Villages. I love everything about Florida.
What qualities do you think the gay community in Florida has that gays anywhere else don’t have?
A real good sense of community. We used to have that in every city across the country. The little city where I come from, Chattanooga, Tennessee, it only had one gay bar so you’d see lawyers, college students, black people, white people, all of these people from different racial or socioeconomic backgrounds thrown together in one club.
I noticed living out in Los Angeles that there’s a lot of diversity but there are divisions. There’s West Hollywood, where the cha-cha queens live, and then there’s Silver Lake, where there’s artists and leather queens, and so on. You won’t find a city like Wilton Manors anywhere else in the world besides Florida, and I love that.
Tell us about your show coming up at The Cabaret South Beach. What can audiences expect?
If you saw my show at Sunshine Cathedral, it’s going to be wildly different from that. That was more of a theater piece and these shows will be just me and a microphone. I love those kinds of shows best. My new material will cover Celebrity Big Brother UK, which was one of the most frightening experiences I had in my life. I behaved quite horribly…I spit on Gary Busey!
So I talk a little bit about that, and I have new material about working on American Horror Story and The Help. I always, always talk about Will & Grace and Sordid Lives too. These shows are unscripted and have no restrictions. When it’s me and my mic, it’s like a dog-and-pony show. I’ve haven’t had any complaints yet, because Lord knows I can talk!
You will also be performing in Lakeland for Polk Pride. Are you excited about going?
Oh, yes. I love performing pride events, especially more intimate ones.
How did the people in Lakeland express interest in having you take your show to them?
They went to my booking website and just called, and when I was contacted and asked if I wanted to do it, I said “Absolutely.” It’s going to work out perfectly, because my mother is turning 80 and I will get to visit her in Chattanooga right after I finish my shows in Lakeland and Miami.
Do you prefer performing your comedy routines for gay audiences over mixed gay-and-straight audiences, or does that not matter to you?
You can’t beat gay audiences, because they’re with me from the moment I walk out. They’re my tribe. But I noticed that there’s a special kind of enjoyment in performing to a crossover audience because…it’s a new audience. With that said, nothing beats a room full of old queers laughing on the floor and tearing it up.
Out of all the roles you’ve played that are easily recognizable in the gay community, which one was your favorite and why?
My favorite will probably always be Brother Boy. Del Shores originally wrote a short story called “The Homosexualization of Brother Boy,” and I read it and thought it was hilarious. He called me up and then he told me he was putting the character in his play Sordid Lives. Then he wrote three smaller plays and edited it all together to become Sordid Lives. This was 20 years ago now…and we did a reading of it and I met Del at the dog park the next day…we both had dogs then…and I told him, “Honey, it’s a mess. You need to shelve it!” In my defense, he didn’t write the funeral scene yet, because it pulled everything together. Thank God he didn’t listen to me!
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’ll be appearing in an independent film called Finding Albie Finch and we’ll be taping that in San Antonio all this summer. I’m doing a web series, produced by Nathan Fillion from Castle, called Con Man, and that will air on Vimeo. Sordid Wedding of course will begin shooting in September. There’s lots and lots of things going on for me!
For more information on Leslie Jordan, visit thelesliejordan.com.