Straight-talking stand-up comedian, actress and author Heather McDonald has made a career out of being inappropriate, tackling everything from what it’s really like to be a mom to Twitter musings about the Real Housewives. We got the former Chelsea Lately co-star on the line for some real talk before her sets at Laugh Boston on March 10-12.
Brutally honest—I mean, I am a wife and mother so I think I’m brutally honest about that, and about how it is to stay married. In one sentence, that’s a good assignment, I should probably figure it out. People always say, “Heather says what you think, but would never say.” That’s what my good friends say. It has caused problems in my life, but it’s really good for stand-up. It’s good that I went into this profession. My whole act is derived from things that, at the time, weren’t that great.
No, I think what’s great about comedy is that it’s so subjective, and everybody is so unique—unlike acting. I mean, there are types, obviously, but their stand-up is never going to be exactly like yours. And the people who are successful are just totally genuine. What’s interesting is that when I first started doing stand-up people would love that my family would come. There are so many stand-ups whose parents didn’t approve of what they were doing and weren’t that supportive. I kind of had the opposite. Even as a young child, my parents were like “oh my God, you should be a stand-up.” And also, I didn’t come from, like, a family of doctors. I came from creative people who were self-made, so me being a stand-up wasn’t a tragedy at all. They loved it; they encouraged it. I think I actually am a pretty happy person. So, no, I don’t think you have to be a miserable asshole. But what is great—and I think most comics will say this—is that they can make something positive. If they’re getting a story out of something bad that happened, then it was productive.
I’m very inappropriate, I think, as a mother. The way I got the whole book, and the story behind it, was that I was called “inappropriate” in my own home, like numerous times, by this woman. It just kind of stuck and I was like, you know what, that’s right. I am inappropriate. Who cares? What’s appropriate and inappropriate anyway? She was another mother, and we ended up stopping being friends. But I got another chapter out of it, so it was worth it. I wrote about this recently on Twitter and got a diverse reaction. I said how my son wanted a candy and I said “OK, but you have to tell me three great things about myself. What’s unique about me and not other mothers?” So he said that “you’re funny, you’re nice and you take me to the Kardashian Christmas party.” And I just thought that was so funny. So I tweeted that, and a lot of people liked it. But then people started to say “That’s so wrong that you would put your son in that position, to have to compliment you.” And I’m like, why is that a mother doesn’t need a compliment? We praise our kids all the time. I would like some praise! That’s where my honesty comes in. I want a card that tells me five fabulous things. I do ask them “who’s the prettiest mom at the school?” And they tell me. I just think it’s funny. And I think my sons’ future wives will thank me for that.
Yeah, my one son is just a quirky kid. He’s not special needs or anything like that, but he’s just more difficult. And I hate it when I’m with people and they’re trying to tell me [what to do], and I’m like, “You observed him for 10 minutes. I know the mood he’s in; I know how to get us out of this.” I actually came up with this bit about that. Where I’m like, “God, I wouldn’t be getting this kind of disapproval that I’m a bad parent, or my kid is bad, if he was special needs.” So then I wrote this bit, which really did happen, but I basically just said my kid isn’t right just so that they’d leave me alone. Because I would rather have somebody think my kid isn’t totally right, than that I’m just a shitty parent. [Laughs]
“Is it hard to be a woman in comedy?” And I say no. I really think it’s the best time, and I want to commend, like, men under 30 for embracing female comics, and not seeing them as just female comics. Even in the last five years of me doing stand-up, I’ve noticed how many men come to my shows. I’ve had straight bachelor parties come to my show as part of their evening plans. So I think that’s really cool, but of course there’s always going to be some of that [stereotype], but I also think that I stand out being a female too, so I appreciate that. And I think that in this sort of gender-less world that we now live in, I’m really proud to say I’m a woman—or a cis female. I guess that’s what I’m supposed to call myself. I think people should just embrace what they are—whatever that is.
I really love Louis C.K. I love how prolific he is. One of the things I really got from an interview with him is that he was asked, “How do you come up with a new hour every year?” And he said, “Well, I start my new hour with my last joke.” And I think that’s such a great lesson, and I actually started doing that a couple years ago. I started using my closer as my opener, which then makes the bar that much higher. I think that’s a great thing to strive for. And I think he’s just really honest and relatable, which is what I strive to be. You just really know who he is; you know his point of view.
Well, I just posted this, but on OK magazine, on the corner of the front page, it said “Unemployed at 40!” And it was a picture of Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz. And I was like, “This is just so ridiculous. It’s just like, ugh, they’re done! They’re done in Hollywood!” This is just a little dramatic. I think all those headlines are really funny. In all those cheesy magazines—which I totally buy and totally adore, and I talk about in my podcast all the time—they’ll have a picture of, like, Vicki Gunvalson from The Real Housewives of Orange County, and she’ll be smiling ear-to-ear, and the headline is like “I WAS ABUSED IN MY FIRST MARRIAGE.” And it’s like, is this really the picture you chose? Is nobody looking at how weird this is?
You know, I made a joke yesterday on Twitter, and I was like, “Heather, don’t remove it, don’t be a pussy.” And I ultimately did remove it, because I don’t like to hurt people. But, OK, I watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and there’s Yolanda [Hadid] with her Lyme Disease. The whole season has been about her Lyme disease, and it’s just really getting old. I don’t question that she’s sick, I’m just like, “OK, what is it really?” Because now she’s saying it’s from her old silicon boobs—and very few people on the West Coast even get Lyme disease—and now she says her kids have it. So I’m watching them all fight about it, and I tweeted, because it’s such a game of telephone in the show, “I heard that Lisa Rinna told Lisa Vanderpump that Yolanda’s daughter gave the Weeknd Lyme disease.” And it got a lot of “Oh, hilarious, hilarious, hilarious” [replies] but then I started to get all the hate from the “Lymies.” They’re this group of troll people who are for Lyme disease, or love Yolanda. So they’re coming after me. And it’s a lot when you get these people saying, “You don’t know what it’s like to hold your 4-year-old daughter whose shaking from Lyme disease.” So I did delete it. I tweeted “I deleted my tweet, but I still think OJ is guilty.” So, I know I sometimes hurt people. You can’t not hurt anyone—jokes are about stereotypes. But I don’t know; Twitter is not where I really love to share my true thoughts. That’s why I love doing stand-up; I can say that and even if somebody had Lyme disease in the audience, I don’t think they’d come up to me after the show. Because after they heard my entire hour, they’d know the kind of person I really am. But when you have something in 140 characters, or one line that can be taken out of context, it can really screw you in this day and age.