• jean and otis 75adc

    Let’s talk about Netflix’s new UK teen dramedy series, Sex Education. Still in the post-binge glow, I’ve been describing it to all my friends as the child of The End of the Fucking World and Please Like Me. Could I give a show higher praise? No, I could not.

    The show is centered on Otis (Asa Butterfield), a 16-year-old living with his divorced mother Jean (Gillian Anderson), who runs her sex therapy practice out of their home. Growing up in such an environment has made Otis oddly knowledgeable about sex and relationships, despite the fact that he is single, a virgin, and extremely uncomfortable with his own sexuality (he cannot stand to masturbate and hates getting erections).

    In the first few days of a new schoolyear at Moordale Secondary School, Otis’ talent for giving sex advice is discovered by Maeve (Emma Mackey), the troubled cool girl who is secretly a genius. Maeve quickly finds a way to monetize this, and so she and Otis team up to run a sex therapy practice for their fellow students. Each of the eight episodes in the first season involves at least one client with varying degrees of serial plot relevance. Otherwise, the plot explores the relationship dynamics between friends, families, and love interests.

    maeve3 9da8bMaeve in Netflix's Sex Education

    Of course, there are some classic teen shenanigans and familiar plotlines along the way, but Sex Education manages to feel entirely fresh, due in large part to its intersectional characters and mature handling of often belittled teenage problems.

    This show has some of the best drawn LGBTQIA+ characters I’ve seen since Please Like Me, which ended in 2016 after four glorious seasons. (Please Like Me is an Australian dramedy created by comedian Josh Thomas, and it can be streamed on Hulu. It’s not the intention of this piece for me to gush about it, but really, you should add it to your must-watch list.) There are several gay and lesbian characters and couples on the show, all of whom are developed outside of their sexuality and accurately reflect different stages of life. Not only does this feel much more representative of the real world, it ensures no LGBTQIA+ character is tokenized.

    Most notably, Otis’ best friend, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), is black, flamboyantly gay, comes from a religious family, and has one of the best, most heart-wrenching character arcs of the season (if you thought Barb deserved better in Stranger Things, prepare yourself to be outraged). Though he fits the “gay best friend” archetype, the stereotypical nature of Eric’s character begins and ends there. Eric gets to explore religion, internalized fear and anger, and the effects of trauma, all while being one of the most pure and funny central characters on the show. As an added bonus, his friendship with a young man (Otis) is never questioned; Otis is never made to wonder if Eric might be interested in him, and we get to see Otis not only willingly, but willfully, participate in queer culture at Eric’s request. Everything about them screams Friendship Goals.

    Eric2 999b7Eric in Netflix's Sex Education

    I can’t talk about Sex Education and Goals without bringing up Ola (Patricia Allison), a supporting character in five of the eight episodes. Ola is everything we should strive to be: hilarious, forward, unapologetic, and self-aware. She makes it clear to Otis that she’s interested in him, then easily counters his opinion on school dances (not a fan) with her own (big fan). She doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to mask her thoughts to appease others, especially the boy she likes, which feels revolutionary in a female teenage character who isn’t made out to be a rebel or “man-hater.”

    Ola goes to said dance in a badass tux, which no one finds odd (no side comments nor side-eye are given), again normalizing something that most teen shows turn into a plot point or an overbearing declaration of inclusivity. In the midst of the dance, she confronts Otis about an issue that poses a threat to their burgeoning relationship, and when he unwittingly insults her by trying to downplay the situation, she recognizes it as bad behavior and doesn’t stand for it. Ola is an instant role model and icon.

    ola3 40b44Ola in Netflix's Sex Education

    The issues Sex Education’s characters face are equally well-crafted and diverse. We’re talking abortion, consent, stalking, sexual blackmail, mental health, classism, homophobia… the list goes on. Each issue is handled with sensitivity and tact, pulling on heartstrings without the feeling of being manipulated into caring. Like The End of the Fucking World (another Netflix Original I highly recommend), the series carries weight because it hits on some of the most contentious social issues of today through the perspective of one of the most vulnerable and impressionable populations: teenagers.

    Sex Education is the kind of aspirational television that shows the best of intersectional feminism. I could go on and on about the other characters and specific meaningful moments, of which there are several poignant things to write about (I haven’t even had a chance to mention that the show is helmed by Laurie Nunn and its writing team is made up almost entirely of women!), but this piece has to end somewhere. Suffice it to say, to not get a second season of Sex Education would be the crime of the century, and so I humbly implore you to go binge-watch it now.

    Top image: Sex Education

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  • amanda1 482a7

    If you have plans this Saturday night—change them. Comedian, actress, and writer Amanda Seales of Insecure and stand-up fame is releasing her first special on HBO, and it’s full of all kinds of humor, truth, singing, and new and necessary vocab (your vagenda, she explains, is the list of people who could get it).

    “I think for any comedian, doing your special is a very seminal moment,” Seales tells BUST. “But for me, it was always like, if I’m gonna do it, I want to do it on my own terms.”

    The special, titled Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin', opens with an homage to one of Seales’ Instagram Stories: She explains that her special is “comedy, so it’s really for everybody. Well, maybe not everybody,” she immediately corrects. “Everybody except for racists, rapists, sexists, misogynists, narcissists, you know, folks that are calling the cops on black folks who are just living our lives.” She continues to tell Trump voters, transphobes, xenophobes, and straight men who don’t reciprocate oral sex that this special is definitely not for them, either.

    “I knew I wanted to do an intro that was quick, but that had a tie-in to my voice and to my Instagram story, because my Instagram has become a very important part of growing my voice and my support base,” she says. “This just felt like a very quick way to bring people in, and also push the people I don’t care about away.” 

    “I really just hope that black women see it as a representation for some of our voices,” Seales says. “And that even if it’s not that particular black woman’s experience, that she is excited about black woman’s experience getting a voice and getting a platform, because I think we don’t get enough opportunities to speak our unique identities into a bigger arena.”

    And Seales’ platform is a pretty amazing one. The multi-hyphenate spent much of last year on tour with Smart, Funny and Black, her game show all about black history and culture, and is currently starring as Issa Rae’s very happily married friend Tiffany on HBO’s Insecure, which was renewed for a fourth season last fall.

    When asked if it’s ever challenging to switch between acting and stand-up, Seales doesn’t hesitate. “Tiffany is her own entity. When I’m in the comedy space, it’s my voice,” she says. “I think it actually would be harder switching between my own scripted project and my stand-up, just because it’s closer to home—for some people that may make it easier, but for me, it’s like I go to my job, and I become this character. And once I leave there, I’m Amanda.”

    amanda2 70604

    Additionally, Seales is currently on the second season of her podcast, Small Doses, which offers advice, glimpses into Seales’ life, and conversations with other comedians and actors. In fact, she’s writing a book—also titled Small Doses—that she describes as the “literary accompaniment to my podcast.”

    “It has kicked my ass, the entire process of writing, in the best way possible,” she says. “It’s essentially the world according to Amanda—so you either find humor in that, or you hate it, but it’s authentically my thoughts about things, and my choice to find the funny in all of this.”

    I Be Knowin is out on HBO January 26 at 10 pm EST on HBO. And after the hour-long special—probably even after just ten minutes, to be honest—you’ll probably agree that the world according to Amanda is exactly what we need right now.

    Photos courtesy of Amanda Seales / HBO

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  • Actor Yvonne Orji Wearing A Yellow Blazer

    Comedian and actor Yvonne Orji is best known for her role as Molly on HBO’s “Insecure”and her film credits include “Night School” and the upcoming “Vacation Friends.” She co-hosts the critically acclaimed podcast “Jesus and Jollof,” with her pal Luvvie Ajayi, and her upcoming book “Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me Into the Life of My Dreams” will hit shelves next year. Her first hour-long HBO comedy special, “MOMMA, I MADE IT,” comes out June 6 and it is super funny and touching and women in particular will love it. In this episode of BUST’s “Poptarts” podcast, she gets real about her immigrant identity, her decision to save sex for marriage, and that BIG fight between Molly and Issa on “Insecure.”

    Listen to Yvonne Orji's Episode of BUST's Poptarts Podcast Here:


    More About BUST's Poptarts Podcast:

     BUST's Poptarts is a twice-monthly podcast hosted by magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts that celebrates women in pop culture. The first half of each episode is devoted to a hot topic in entertainment, and in the second half, a segment called "Whatcha Watchin'?," Callie and Emily dig into all the shows, movies, books, music, videos, and podcasts they've enjoyed since the last episode, and either praise or pan each experience

    This podcast was produced for BUST by Logan del Fuego.

    Photo by James Anthony

    Hey! Did you know that the Poptarts podcast has a swell new Patreon program with fab thank-you gifts for members? Well it does! Give it a look-see at !


  • aznpop 8bf0d
    “Hello. I’m the new Hispanic cast member, and I’ll be playing Asian moderator Elaine Quijano. Because, baby steps.”

    Back in October 2016, Melissa Villaseñor went meta on Saturday Night Live when America was in the heat of the presidential election. Since then, the Oval Office underwent a major facelift, but some things never change, such as SNL’s lack of a female Asian American cast member.

    In its 40-plus years, save for hosts Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan, SNL has never featured a player of East Asian descent. And while critics may decry this argument, citing that Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider are both one quarter Asian, the fact remains that their Asian-ness is, for lack of a better word, invisible.

    Last year, SNL production designer Akira Yoshimura played Asian Star Trek character Sulu. It was the fourth time Yoshimura had been outsourced for the role since 1976. And earlier this year, a photo of Will Ferrell with an Asian family was shown as a closing shot. In a show that uses Asians as props for comic relief, an Asian cast member is long overdue.

    kimberlytruong 5206bvia Twitter/@kimtruhere

    It’s not like there’s a lack of successful Asian American comics. Margaret Cho, Ronny Chieng, Ken Jeong, Bobby Lee, to name a few, have paved the way in representation. And very recently, there seems to be a cultural shift with Asian American women in pop culture, with funny ladies Ali Wong, Constance Wu, and Awkwafina becoming popular.

    “I think Asian women definitely have more visibility in comedy right now than they have had for a while,” says Chinese American New York City comedian Lily Du, who tours with the Upright Citizens Brigade and has had small roles in Broad City and The President Show. “But I think people are still very limited in the way that they view demographics. They’ll be like, ‘I can’t imagine ABC having a second show about an Asian American immigrant family,’” she says, referring to Fresh Off the Boat. “And you’ll hear it with managers or casts: ‘Great, we have one Asian, let’s check that box.’ While it is progress, it’s still kind of calculated.”

    lilydu 41f64Lily Du, via

    Fellow comedian Ann Marie Yoo, who is Korean American and performs with the group AzN PoP, has also experienced the absurd logic of attempting to include Asian American actors in casting calls for TV shows.

    “They expect you to have an accent. You can’t be Asian too and act American. It’s weird that that blows people’s minds,” says Yoo, who has appeared in Gotham and Death Lives. “I feel like I’m fighting that all the time.”

    Some casting calls specifically call for the sassy, supporting character to be Asian, which Du describes as a double-edged sword. “I guess I have mixed feelings about tokenism being a necessary thing.” She laughs halfheartedly.

    Even though tokenism doesn’t necessarily solve the lack of diversity problem, she agrees it still presents an opportunity for representation. “It’s necessary in a sense,” she says. “I’d rather they say, ‘Hey, let’s put someone of color on this show,’ than make it all white.”

    So why is it SNL — perhaps the most influential comedic variety show that has spearheaded many comedians’ careers — has yet to even cast a token Asian American cast member?

    AzNPoP 990b3

    One reason may be the show’s emphasis on celebrity impersonations. Dan Lee, a Korean American who performs at UCB Theatre East Village, says that an Asian male would possibly have to subject himself to playing Kim Jong-un every weekend, given the show’s attention to political satire. But Du disagrees that an Asian American man would be limited to playing Asian roles, especially when white cast members have played people of color.

    “I don't think an Asian man playing a white man is anymore inappropriate than Bobby Moynihan playing Kim Jong-un,” she says. “There's just not that many recognizable Asians in media in order to do an impression.”

    Du herself favors accents over impressions, but often wonders if this skill will fall by the wayside. “I love doing a Cockney accent like Michael Caine, or like an Australian accent, but I just know that I'm not the person that you're going to ask to be an Australian person in a skit.” She quickly changes tack. “Or maybe that's me limiting myself in my thinking because there's a lot of Asians in Australia, actually. I don't know why I'm kind of just like, ‘Well, I'm already Asian, so I don't get to be British,’ which is maybe me limiting myself. I kick myself out of the game too.”

    annmarieyoo 24b72Ann Marie Yoo

    Another reason Asian Americans are ignored for comedic opportunities is because audiences may find their presence in traditional white roles “distracting.”

    “I think for some reason we've built up that Asians in American culture are so different, an ‘exotic race,’” Yoo says. “I think having us visually on TV is just so striking for a lot of people that it takes them out of whatever reality the TV is trying to portray, therefore we're not that cast-able.”

    Both Du and Yoo say that the lack of diversity is also related to cultural attitudes within the Asian population.

    “I don't want to make a racial generalization, because I think a lot of modern Asian Americans have been very outspoken lately,” Du says, “But sometimes, like culturally, I think Asians don't want to rock the boat, they're not as aggressively outspoken about it.”

    “I feel like we're very late to the game,” says Yoo. “I feel like it's because Asians tend to want to fly under the radar. They want white people to like them. Unfortunately, white people will just see that Asians will do whatever they want, and they can be stepped on. I hate to say it, but I kind of think that dynamic exists a little bit.”

    Du remembers a moment early in her career when she was subjected to this stereotype. During a bit, a man in her practice group said to a fellow player, “Oh! Well, you should try dating Asian women, they’re so docile!” He then signaled at Du to step into the scene. She refused to participate.

    “I was like, ‘No, this sucks. That makes me feel uncomfortable. Maybe I don’t want to do shows like this ever again,’” she says. “Then, you eventually get more confident and also your self-worth and understanding of what is okay and not okay expands. Now, I have more social cachet as a performer to say, 'don't do that to me.'”

    To avoid being “othered” in skits, she used to try not to draw attention to her race. “I very much just tried to kind of assimilate and blend in, and I never tried to other myself or bring up the fact that I'm Asian or female or whatever.”

    She admits there are times when you need to step in and take on that caricature. “A Korean American performer will sometimes do an Asian accent if he wants to in a scene for a comedic purpose or whatever, and I'm like, honestly, fine, because I don't think anyone else should. If not him, who else?”

    Besides facing uncomfortable situations when their race is put into the spotlight for the sake of a punchline, the reluctance of Asians Americans to band together due to ethnic tension could also be hindering progress.

    “One of the running jokes in our show is that a lot of Asian cultures hate on each other,” Yoo says, referring to her show AzN PoP (by pure coincidence, each member represents a different part of Asia: Korea, Japan, China, the Philippines, and India). “Culturally, I feel like Asian countries are still learning to get past that and I feel like that's another added struggle amongst all of it. That’s not helping our cause.”

    asianafny e3ab2Asian AF's debut New York show, via

    But that doesn’t mean spaces where Asian Americans accept each other, despite differences in ethnic background, are nonexistent. Last year, actor Will Choi founded the Asian American variety show Asian AF at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. The show spotlights Asian American actors, and includes sketch, improv, and standup. Choi approached Lee to run Asian AF in New York City. Along with fellow comedian Alex Song, Lee has hosted a sold-out show every month since July 2017. Some critics may call out the show as another example of Asians secluding themselves from other races. However, even though the audience is primarily Asian, Lee sees people of all kinds of races come in to watch the shows.

    “Personally, I would love to be in those spaces more and I think those spaces are really a good thing,” says Gideon Bautista, who is half Filipino and the creator of Brooklyn-based comedy group Not Quite NASA. He refers to a metaphor he learned from diversity training when he was an undergrad at Boston’s Emerson College.

    “It's like building a house,” he says. “If you build a house a certain way, you know where you want everything. If someone else is going to come into that house, they can't move anything, they can't rearrange the furniture. They have to feed into this whole place and figure it out. So, whenever I see an underrepresented or marginalized group getting together and creating their own space, I see them getting a chance to build their own house and see where they want to put things because they've been living in someone else's house for a while. If they have a chance to build that, maybe other folks will eventually come in and see what it's like to have to live in someone else's house. If Asian Americans can finally have a space, the white person who comes in can be a minority for once and realize what that's like.”

    Still, it would be revolutionary if SNL opened its doors to Asian talent. But perhaps change is on the horizon. Yoo says an Asian friend made it to the final round this past casting.

    “That’s huge for us,” she says, “I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”

    top photo courtesy AzN PoP

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    Bob the Drag Queen in a yellow gown

    Bob the Drag Queen first rose to prominence as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 and since that time, he has been using his huge platform to not only become a major name in standup comedy but also to become a powerful voice for LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. His HBO series We’re Here features Bob alongside fellow Drag Race alums Shangela and Eureka traveling to small towns across America to help create support systems and communities for isolated queer folks by putting on drag shows. And during pride month, Bob organized a massive online event called the Black Queer Town Hall and made headlines by encouraging other members of the drag community to stand up as allies for the protest movement that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Bob’s HBO show and new comedy special Bob the Drag Queen: Live at Caroline’s, have been so uplifting to so many during quarantine and in this inspiring episode of BUST’s Poptarts Podcast, he talks about his rise to fame, fills us in on his activism, and advises us on how to relate to our Republican elders.

    Listen to Bob the Drag Queen's episode of BUST's Poptarts Podcast Here:

    More About BUST's Poptarts Podcast:

    BUST's Poptarts is a twice-monthly podcast hosted by magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts that celebrates women in pop culture. The first half of each episode is devoted to a hot topic in entertainment, and in the second half, a segment called "Whatcha Watchin'?," Callie and Emily dig into all the shows, movies, books, music, videos, and podcasts they've enjoyed since the last episode, and either praise or pan each experience

    This podcast was produced for BUST by Logan del Fuego.

    Photo by Jacob Ritts

    Hey! Did you know that the Poptarts podcast has a swell new Patreon program with fab thank-you gifts for members? Well it does! Give it a look-see at !

  • Yumi Album Cover 2b29d 

    Yumi Nagashima (@yumicomedy) is the kind of comedian who continues to surprise. The Japanese-born Vancouver-based standup's brand of observational humor and deadpan delivery is delighting audiences nationwide. A YouTube clip from one of her sets has recently gone viral with over 400,000 views. In the video, titled "Japanese Sweet Bite Technique," Nagashima casually addresses the lackluster sex life of a couple, seated in the front row, mulling over different methods of oral sex for them. In her new debut album, My Name Is Yumi, Nagashima covers a range of topics, such as racism, international dating preferences and working in entertainment, from her unique viewpoint as a millennial woman from Japan to establishing a performance career in North America. You can see her perform at this year's Winnipeg Comedy Festival, or YouTube where she frequently uploads new bits. We had the privilege of speaking with the rising star about her road to comedy, her creative process and how she's challenging western stereotypes of Asian women. 

    Yumi 147c6

    What attracted you to comedy? Have you always been a funny person?

    Well, I started with acting first. I started studying acting around 2015, or wait a little bit before that, and I was kind of struggling because I have a thick Japanese accent so, like whenever I go to auditions I will have to be like a "Japanese Waitress" or like "Japanese Nuclear Scientist" or like the roles that make sense with my Japanese accent and it was like really limited opportunity. And then my agent asked me to go to see a dialect coach to get rid of my Japanese accent and I took a few classes and I felt so wrong because this is how I talk and this is what happens when Japanese people try to speak English. And in order to fit the Hollywood standard, I have to change how I talk and I felt so wrong. One of my actor friends, he wrote a comedy play called How Much Are Those Feelings In The Window? And then I got to play a Japanese wife who was like really not happy in her marriage. And when I said the first line, the audience started laughing which, I wasn’t expecting that and I had to wait a little bit to say the next line. And then, I realized when you do comedy it’s really interactive and you get to create something special with the audience and it made me happy. And that’s when I said oh maybe I should do comedy.

    Who are some of your favorite comedians?

    Dave Chapelle and Wanda Sykes, Bo Burnham. Dave Chapelle, I love him because he is like so effortless and casual like he could totally be your friend. Wanda Sykes, I love her delivery. Bo Burnham is like my soulmate. He’s like totally outside the box and it sort of changes my perspective on comedy or what comedy can do.

    I’ve noticed that sex is a big topic in your comedy. A video of one of your sets recently went viral. You’re talking to this couple in the audience about the right way to go down on someone. I love how you're just so unapologetic about women advocating for their pleasure. Why is talking about this topic important for you?

    Yeah, I think what’s happening is, in Japan, it’s like so oppressed. Like to talk about sex in public is so no-no, especially for women it’s so not elegant to talk about sex in public. And I want to challenge that. It should be okay to talk about sex. It’s natural. It’s not a bad thing. Sex is a really beautiful thing and we should be able to talk about it without feeling a sense of guilt or shame.

    Do you consider yourself a feminist?

    Oh totally. Hundred percent.

    YUMI LDM 1250 ruff C 576f1

    I love the way you structure your jokes in that they continuously subvert the audience’s expectations about your identity so the joke just gets funnier and more interesting in a way where you’re revealing something not just about yourself, but the audience as well. It’s really engaging. Do you like having those audience interactions?

    Oh yes. That’s one of the reasons I do this. I feel a really strong connection with the audience. It’s a live performance and you’re talking to them. I love asking what they’re thinking and it’s like they come out feeling like “Oh, she’s actually looking at us.” It feels like [giving] extra love to the audience like “Hey, I can see you! Thank you for coming and thank you for being here!”

    They talk about crowd-work a lot in comedy and some comedians, especially starting out, really struggle with it, but it comes so naturally to you it almost seems like it’s part of your joke-writing process. Would you say that it is?

    Yeah, that joke was basically part of my writing process. Like, the beginning of the seed of the idea always happens in my shower. Like when I’m showering the idea pops in [my] head and sometimes I’m like ‘Oh shit! I gotta write this down.” And then I stop showering and put a towel on my head and before I forget I write the premise, the idea of the joke, down on paper. And then when I know I have like at least 30 minutes or an hour I sit in front of the computer and then start typing all the jokes. Like, "how do I say it?"

    Yeah, it’s interesting how one word can change how funny the joke is.

    Yeah! It was kind of funny because I’m Japanese, I think I’m even more careful with that than some English speaking comedians [in terms of] what the word means to the general public. I’ve used a dictionary because I want to deliver the exact idea so there’s hopefully no misunderstanding.

    Have you ever performed standup in Japan?

    I did it twice in Tokyo but both of [the shows] were for an English speaking audience. I’ve never performed comedy in Japanese except for this one time I was performing at a café called the Kino Café (in Vancouver) and apparently the owner just hired one Japanese dishwasher and she was watching the show with her friend and her English was so limited at the time and he [the owner] wanted me to perform for her for a few minutes and I did it in Japanese and she loved it.

    What’s the comedy scene in Vancouver like?

    I have to say it got so much better after the whole #MeToo movement. The awareness changed so much. Male comedians show more respect for female comedians. It’s comfortable working as a female comedian in Vancouver. We feel like friends and we’re more connected.

    Does the #MeToo movement in the Vancouver comedy scene impact your writing in any way and if so, how?

    When I started my goal was always to empower women or liberate women specifically Asian women. I was just touring with mostly female comedians and there are so much restrictions to women especially more in certain areas of the country and I always try to liberate them. And I think it’s kind of like after the movement, it’s even easier for me to state a point.

    YUMI 4191 C 8057b

    Any advice for comedians who are just starting out?

    I want female comedians to have really good self-esteem; just respect and self-love and know that your opinion matters. And know that you matter. Each person feels differently about anything and it’s so fun to learn about the other people talking about the same topic. It’s very interesting.

    Photos courtesy of AlphaPR

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  • Headshot of comedian Judy Gold taken by Justine Ungaro

    A legendary stand-up comedian, Judy Gold was one of the first out lesbians in the business and she has been making people laugh on stage, on TV, and as an author for almost 40 years. She won two Daytime Emmys for her work as a writer and producer on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, she’s had stand-up specials on HBO, Comedy Central, and LOGO, and she’s had two hit Off-Broadway shows. Now, Gold is hosting the podcast Kill Me Now and her new book, YES, I CAN SAY THAT: When They Come for the Comedians We Are All In Troublecomes out July 28, 2020.

    In this hilarious episode of BUST’s Poptarts Podcast, she takes on cancel culture, gets real about sexism in comedy, and we compare our Jewish mothers.

    YesICanSayThat Book Cover

    Listen to Judy Gold's episode of BUST's Poptarts Podcast Here:

    More About BUST's Poptarts Podcast:

    BUST's Poptarts is a twice-monthly podcast hosted by magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts that celebrates women in pop culture. The first half of each episode is devoted to a hot topic in entertainment, and in the second half, a segment called "Whatcha Watchin'?," Callie and Emily dig into all the shows, movies, books, music, videos, and podcasts they've enjoyed since the last episode, and either praise or pan each experience

    This podcast was produced for BUST by Logan del Fuego.

    Photo by Justine Ungaro

    Hey! Did you know that the Poptarts podcast has a swell new Patreon program with fab thank-you gifts for members? Well it does! Give it a look-see at !

  • Screen Shot 2020 10 16 at 1.19.13 PM 0fde3

    Diane Guerrero adds a little "something-something" to voting in this hilariously seductive PSA, “Safe Voting Feels So Good”, which promotes “safe, consensual, and pleasurable voting.” 

    In the video, co-produced by Rosario Dawson, we see Guerrero sitting on the edge of a bed in a dimly lit room, purring to viewers that this is “no time for abstinence,” and that people need to “get it in.”

    This playful approach to voting is a cheeky way to motivate those who remain disengaged when it comes to casting in their ballots. Go VOTE!

    Top image: Screenshot from video.

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  • Murray TopPhoto 0c8d7

    Murray Hill is busy. When we speak in March, he’s got three different TV shows streaming on three different networks, he’s writing a memoir, and he’s working on a pitch for his own Murray-led detective show. Even his recent well-deserved Miami vacation turned chaotic when the mayor enacted a curfew following two shootings in one weekend. “As much as it’s nuts, I didn’t realize it was spring break,” he explains from the safety of his home in New York City. “Why are there cops on horses and children with coolers and White Claws?” It’s no wonder then that the self-proclaimed “hardest working middle-aged man in show business” claims 2 p.m. is “the morning.” He needs his rest!

    If Hill is having a mainstream moment now, though, it’s only because he spent years grinding, hosting drag bingo nights and performing his act in clubs in a pre-gentrified East Village. In N.Y.C., he’s something of a local celebrity, having emceed all manner of pageants and fundraisers (including BUST events). Real Housewives fans may also recognize him from his cameo in Countess Luann’s “Feelin’ Jovani” music video, or as the opening act from her 2019 cabaret tour. 

    It’s difficult to draw a clear line between Murray Hill the character and Murray Hill the person, but the gist is this: The character is a mustachioed wisecracker in a jaunty three-piece suit who could have traveled in a time machine directly from 1973. The person is that, too, just on a smaller scale. “After 25 years of therapy, I can say I’ve reached a place in my life where there is some separation between onstage and offstage life,” Hill explains. “When I’m home, I’m kinda, sorta relaxed. I’m not as full-blown as when the suit is on.” 

    Murray Hill the character has always been 50, but now Hill the person is, too—and he’s seen it all. “It’s such a long-winded, crazy story,” he says, before launching into the Cliffs Notes version of his evolution into Murray Hill, aka Mr. Showbiz. “I grew up in a tumultuous, Irish and Italian Catholic household,” he recalls of his New England childhood. “I never felt safe or accepted.” He threw himself into extracurricular activities to escape the turmoil at home, playing sports and joining any school groups he could—but not the drama club. “I was never consciously interested in performing as a kid,” he says. Even so, he still found his way into a costume or two. “Instead of writing a book report, I’d show up to school dressed as the character. Coincidently, it was always male characters. I started young.” Things began to improve in the early 1990s when Hill moved to Boston for art school, where he was exposed to the photography of Diane Arbus. “I came from a very conservative background,” Hill explains. “Closeted, had no idea what gay, queer, or trans meant. I didn’t know anything.” Arbus’ work, however, ignited something in him. “To me, it was seeing other kinds of people,” he recalls. “And having her take photos of these people that were in the margins, but she gave them the same importance as the mainstream. She was looking at them, but she was also giving them equal light.” A few years later, he moved to Manhattan after transferring to N.Y.C.’s School of Visual Arts. “I went to Wigstock, like, the second or third day that I was in town,” he says, referring to the legendary East Village drag festival. It was there that Hill had another light-bulb moment. “Everyone’s taking pictures of drag queens. There’s gay men everywhere,” he recalls. “Where are the women? Where are the lesbians? And I thought to myself, ‘Is there something on the other side of this spectrum that we just don’t see?’” 

    There was, and Hill eventually found it in a drag king show in the (again pre-gentrified) Meatpacking District. While he was impressed, he still thought there was something missing. “It was, like, serious,” he recalls. “It was about passing, being masc. The people that were on stage, they didn’t perform. They just would walk up and down and ‘present,’ so to speak.” 

    The missing link was comedy, and Hill wanted to change that. He started performing in N.Y.C. wearing a blazer and painting on chest hair. “I looked more like a lounge lizard back then,” he jokes. His stage moniker, Murray Hill, M came later, and was inspired by exactly what you think it was: the Manhattan neighborhood of the same name, where he was living at the time. 

    Dressed in a natty suit, Murray Hill looked like a drag king, but the heart of his act was comedy in the vein of old-school Borscht Belt stand-ups like Joey Adams, with a bit of the big-ego energy—and old-school sexist attitude—of a star like Jackie Gleason. The jokes were as important as the outfit, and, in Hill’s mind, one didn’t exist without the other. He started headlining his own shows and hosting parties, and finally, the grind paid off. By the mid-aughts, he was landing gigs at Joe’s Pub and touring with the likes of Dita Von Teese and Le Tigre. As Hill would say—“Showbiz!” 

    While Hill became a star in certain circles, drag kings remained on the margins, which remains true today. You won’t find drag kings on RuPaul’s Drag Race or its many spinoffs, and you probably won’t see them at your local all-you-can-drink drag brunch. “It’s still so imbalanced, it’s insane,” says Hill. “If you step back and look at society and pop culture, it just regenerates or regurgitates the sexism. It’s, like, triple-layered.” 

    Hill now identifies as transgender, but he’s adamant that he prefers the word “comedian” over any other label. “From very early on, I chose not to identify by my sexuality, orientation, or other IDs,” he explains. “First, I don’t fit in any category. To choose one, for me, feels reductive. More importantly, I want to be treated like everyone else.

    You never read something like, ‘Pete Davidson, a white heterosexual male comedian, plays Madison Square Garden.'

    If you’ve seen Hill perform, you may have heard him address this subject with one of his signature jokes. “I’m reading your mind, sir,” he’ll say to a slightly confused club patron. “You’re thinking, ‘Is it a man or a woman?’ Sir, the answer is no.”

    Career-wise, Hill’s not interested in replicating anything that’s already out there, but he does want to see more inclusion for performers who fall outside of the now relatively mainstream box. “I’ve made a slight, tiny, little crack in the glass ceiling with these last two shows,” he says, “so it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.” These “last shows” include HBO’s Somebody Somewhere, created by and starring Bridget Everett. The semiautobiographical series follows a 40-something Kansas woman (Everett) as she copes with the death of her sister. Hill plays Sam’s pal Dr. Fred Rococo, an emcee who also happens to be a soil scientist. HBO has already renewed the series for a second season.

    Hill and Everett “go way back.” After meeting through friends, Hill invited Everett to perform with him, and the rest is history. “We’re buddies,” Hill explains. They also lived together with their Somebody Somewhere costar Jeff Hiller while filming season one, which shot in the suburbs outside of Chicago. “Those two would totally have girls’ night and watch every single fucking HGTV show ever invented, and I would literally lose my mind,” Hill recalls. “I’m like, ‘Well, if we’re gonna watch this, then we have to watch basketball.’” 

    Life & Beth, meanwhile, premiered on Hulu in March and stars Everett’s friend Amy Schumer as the titular character. The dramedy is far more subdued and impressionistic than most of Schumer’s previous work, and that sensibility also extends to Hill’s character, who is named Murray but is a smarmy middle manager who gets excited about sales charts. “Amy had seen me at Joe’s through Bridget’s recommendation,” he explains. “And then she was like, ‘I want to work with you at some point.’” Showbiz! 

    And finally, there’s Welcome to Flatch, a Fox sitcom helmed by former Sex and the City  writer Jenny Bicks. The documentary-style show follows the quirky residents of the fictional Midwestern town of Flatch. Hill is one such resident—a local magic shop owner who peddles vapes on the side—and executive producer Paul Feig wrote the role specifically with him in mind. “He’s always dapper,” Hill says of the Bridesmaids director, who he first met at a Hollywood afterparty. “We just hit it off over our suits. It was like a dandy connection.” (You know what word comes next.) 


    While all three of these roles incorporate elements of the Murray Hill that fans know and love from his cabaret performances, they’re all different from each other—and they’re not the same Murray experience you’d see in a downtown theater, either. “My base level for Murray on stage is like, I start at about a 10,” he explains. “With TV, you can’t really start at a 10 unless you’re getting run over by a bus. I had to really tone it down, dial it back.”

    At this point, Hill tells a story about a voiceover part he recently didn’t get. “It was to play a deadpan starfish,” he says. “And guess what? I couldn’t do it. I actually could not do it. [The casting director] was like, ‘Wait, you sound happy again.’ My talking like a dead corpse sounded like I just won the lottery.” 

    Hill does seem incapable of being in a bad mood, but that preternatural optimism is hard won. Just as he was gearing up for his year of TV domination, he lost almost everything in a fire at his apartment building in Brooklyn. As it happens, the fire occurred on Thanksgiving, which was also Hill’s 50th birthday—he refers to the incident as “universe shit.” Still, there were some small mercies. No one, including Hill, was hurt in the blaze, and his fans raised more than $180,000 to help him relocate. 

    So if a four-alarm fire can’t keep him down, then it’s hard to imagine him getting too upset over losing out on that talking starfish role—and who would want a dialed-down Murray when you could have the full package in all his schtick-y glory? Plus, he’s got plenty of other projects to keep him busy. He’s planning to tell all in a memoir tentatively titled My Life as a Man: The Story of a Girl, Who Thought She Was a Boy, Who Became a Middle-Aged Man to Survive, and he’s working on a pitch for his own show called Sonny Sugarman Detective Agency—starring himself, of course. “It’s like a cross between Magnum P.I.Colombo, and Benny Hill,” he says. But perhaps the most exciting news in Hill’s life is a new romance. “I have a special lady friend,” he admits. “I’m literally middle-aged, and it took me 30 years of trial and error to meet the woman of my dreams.”

    One thing he’s not sure about is whether he’ll regularly return to the stage. “I’m going to always do the live stuff, but I’m really trying to do some more projects,” Hill explains, referring back to his earlier comments about the glass ceiling. “Now I have an ice pick and a mallet, and I got a couple of hits and there’s a little crack, so now I gotta get through.” Say it with me this time: Showbiz! 

    Photos by Lauren Silberman, photographed at TV Eye at N.Y.C.   

    This article originally appeared in BUST's Summer 2022 print edition. Subscribe today!

  • danceRiot poster 10x15 CROPPED c0fe7

    Get out and Slay The Vote at the Bowery Electric this Sunday, September 30th. The TailShakers and danceRiot are teaming up for a raucous dance party fundraiser for VoteRunLead, a non-profit that helps train women to run for office and win. There will be no shortage of entertainment at this event with musical performances, comedy, and burlesque all happening under one roof. Broadly Entertaining will MC the party. Doors open at 5pm with a VIP happy hour, and a discussion moderated by VoteRunLead will include female activists, candidates and elected officials. Get your tickets now for the most TailShakin, danceRiot of a political fundraiser you'll ever attend.

    Here are some of the amazing performers you won't want to miss:

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    Header image courtey of VoteRunLead

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    Jason Mantzoukas is a real human. This may seem like an odd thing to say about a hilarious actor, but it’s necessary. The son of a Greek immigrant father and Greek-American mom, Mantzoukas, 46, has built an incredible résumé by playing a variety of funny dirtbags and sexy weirdos. He’s so good at disappearing into his characters, in fact, that fans sometimes forget that he’s pretending.

    This is particularly true when it comes to his stint as Rafi on FX’s The League,where the Massachusetts native was tasked with playing a maniac obsessed with feces, criminality, and his own sister. “The compliment I take from it is, nobody ever says, ‘Oh shit, Jason Mantzoukas!’ Or, ‘Oh shit, the actor who played Rafi,’ he says. “They are like, ‘Rafi is here!’ As if to say, ‘There’s a bear here.’ You know what I mean? They think that I’m an actual monster that is where they are.” The downside of this kind of fame, is that fans often try to get physical, grabbing him from behind on the street or yanking at him at a bar. To de-escalate, Mantzoukas says, “I respectfully ask people not to touch me. I go very low voice. I go very quiet.”

    Mantzoukas began performing in high school theater productions and Boston-area punk bands before studying improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. (He now performs at the Los Angeles branch at least twice a week). And aside from Rafi, he’s currently known for co-hosting the popular film podcast How Did This Get Made?, as well as his roles on the TV comedies No Activity, Big Mouth, The Good Place, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He also did one episode of the Gilmore Girls series revival, “because I begged them,” he says of the show, which he’s loved for years. When I ask if he got to visit the iconic Stars Hollow gazebo, he looks mildly pained. “I shot on location somewhere else,” he sighs. “Don’t get me started.”

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    Speaking of girls, Mantzoukas has a distinct appeal among female fans. But when they gush about him online, they often sound kind of surprised by their attraction. Mantzoukas characterizes his usual flirty feedback aptly: “It sounds crazy and I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but, I think Jason Mantzoukas might be sexy?” He seems to find it amusing, not insulting, because if there’s anyone who knows that Jason Mantzoukas plays a lot of scuzzy guys, it’s Jason Mantzoukas.

    Now poised to transition to more film roles after positive reviews for his 2018 indie flick The Long Dumb Road, Mantzoukas will soon appear in John Wick: Chapter 3, where he plays a character named “Tick Tock Man.” It’s all very hush-hush, but one thing is certain—somebody will write a thinkpiece about how they kind of want to make out with Tick Tock Man. And he’s sure to take it all in stride. Because the real Jason Mantzoukas is proof that the good guy occasionally does win. Although he may have to play some not-so-good-guys along the way. 

    By Sara Benincasa
    Photographed by Gizelle Hernandez
    Groomer: Carola Gonzalez // Stylist: Jasmine Betancourt // Location: Black Cat L.A.

    This piece originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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    Jon Hamm is center stage in Eels' latest music video, “Are We Alright Again,” singing along to the song in headphones as a robbery, unbeknownst to him, unfolds in the background. Sipping whiskey and jamming out in this 1970s-style house, Hamm delivers some serious Don Draper energy, or perhaps his indie alternative. 

    Top photo: Youtube / OfficialEels 

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  • choMargaret Lucia by Gor Megaera CHO 01 94036


    Margaret Cho does it all. She’s a true stand-up comedy pioneer, an actor, an author, a singer/songwriter, a podcaster, a designer, an activist, and an all-around inspiration to outsiders everywhere. Rolling Stone named her one of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time and she’s been a friend of BUST since way back in 2000 when she graced the cover of our “Travel” issue. In this episode of BUST’s Poptarts Podcast, she reads Louis C.K. to filth, revisits her kerfuffle with Tilda Swinton, and discusses her status as a “bi-con” (iconic bisexual, natch). Miss it at your peril!


    About:  BUST's Poptarts is a twice-monthly podcast hosted by BUST  Magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts that celebrates women in pop culture. The first half of each episode is devoted to a hot topic in entertainment, and in the second half, a segment called "Whatcha Watchin'?," Callie and Emily dig into all the shows, movies, books, music, videos, and podcasts they've enjoyed since the last episode, and either praise or pan each experience.

    Check out every episode onApple Podcasts,and don't forget to rate and review! 

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    Photo by Gor Megaera



  • 605px Sasheer Zamata 81960b ccfd6

    On January 9th, comedian and SNL alum Sasheer Zamata performed a set at the L.A. club Dynasty Typewriter and not only called out Louis C.K. in regard to his being sexual harasser, but also called out the “lazy-ass” writing in his return to stand-up.

    Zamata was responding in particular to a set of Louis C.K.’s that leaked in January after an audience member recorded the entire hour of standup in mid-December, Vulture reported. Some of the subjects of Louis C.K.'s roasting were the surviving teens of the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

    “Fuck you, you’re not interesting cause you went to a high school where kids got shot. Why does that mean I have to listen to you? How does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I gotta listen to you talking,” C.K. said. He continued, saying that young people should be busy “finger-fucking each other and doing Jell-O shots.”

    And as crude and bewildering as that joke is, the content isn’t exactly what threw Zamata off. She said C.K.'s set was full of topics that she would “expect from a comedian who is desperately trying to avoid talking about the masturbation in the room."

    Zamata began her own bit by comparing C.K.’s jokes to eating pigeon when you ordered chicken: “It may taste the same at first, but the more you chew on it, the more you realize the quality has decreased. And then if you try to complain about it to the manager, he takes his dick out and calls you the N-word.”

    Zamata states that she used to think C.K. was really thought-provoking, but provides her own reasoning as to why that isn't true anymore.

    “Some people heard his set and they thought ‘He’s a comedian, he can say whatever he wants onstage as long as it’s funny,’ and I actually agree with that,” Zamata told her audience. “I don’t think any topic should be off limits, that you should be able to say whatever you want onstage, but you have to have a take. You can’t just get up onstage and say blatantly racist, transphobic, victim-blaming statements without a punchline! Like, who are you—all of our uncles?”

    Zamata's revision of the C.K. joke is even better than its introduction, and she provides evidence for her statement about punchlines. She took all the same content of the C.K. joke but reworked it in a way that, well, is actually funny:

    He says that the survivors of the shootings shouldn’t be spending their time talking to Congress about gun control. Instead they should be ‘finger-fucking’ each other. But who’s to say they’re not? They can do both! They’re teenagers—of course they’re finger-fucking each other! They’re probably fucking each other more on that bus ride to DC cause they’re so jacked up on adrenaline that they’re like, ‘I gotta burn some steam off before I make this speech—somebody fuck my face!’ They just know how to separate sex from work, which I understand is a hard concept for Louie to grasp. Which is ironic, because we all know how much Louie loves to grasp hard concepts.

    The leak of C.K.'s show has been removed from the internet, but you can listen to Zamata's cunning revision on Soundcloud.

    Top photo: Rhododendrites/Wikimedia

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