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From Page to the stage

Hurwitz to play 'Funny Girlz' at Herbst

by Richard Dodds

Comedian Page Hurwitz moved to San Francisco to come out, and in the process found love in her life and laughter in her career. Now she's moving to Los Angeles, where she has two TV comedies in development, but not before she performs in Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women's Humor on June 9 at the Herbst Theatre.

The transplanted New Yorker had been working at the San Francisco Tennis Club when friends pushed her to perform at an open-mike night at Josie's Cabaret. "It sounds so corny," she said recently, "but I got out on the stage and felt so at home. I knew it was exactly what I should be doing with my life."

That was three years ago, and within days, Hurwitz had committed herself to a life as a comedian. She's worked steadily, both in gay and lesbian situations, and with general audiences who find that her openness about being a lesbian doesn't mean material that is narrowly focused.

Hurwitz considers her comedy something of a hybrid. "Any comic uses some observational humor," she said, "but mine isn't observational in the tradition of Jerry Seinfeld. 'Don't you hate it when you get peanuts on the airplane…' I think for the most part I'm an anecdotal comic. I tell stories, personal and humiliating stories, and then weave in observational stuff. I build digression into my routine, and that allows me to be a little more spontaneous."

Sometimes she'll digress into a mention of her girlfriend or some other gay reference, and even for that she must pay a price. "As soon as you start talking in your act about the fact that you're gay, and even though it may not be the focus of your act, you're immediately funneled into certain venues," she said. "I find that sort of annoying. However, I never considered not coming out."

When Hurwitz moved to San Francisco from New York six years ago, she was so ready to come out. "When I got here," she said, "I was constantly walking around with, like, smoke machines at a disco, because it was just such an amazing time and just to feel free and liberated and do things I had never done before."

She has been together with her partner, a San Francisco attorney, for four years. "We were both dating other people when we met and we became best of friends, so we had a really good foundation when the time came when we were both single," Hurwitz said. Her impending move to Los Angeles will force them into a dual-city relationship, at least for a while.

3 out of 3

Despite the sense of liberation that San Francisco provided, Hurwitz dragged her feet about telling her parents that she is gay. "My brother and sister are both gay, and they had already come out, so I really waited a long time," she said. "I was the last great straight hope."

But she thinks her mother suspected anyway. "My mother has a theory that lesbians don't wear earrings, so each year on my birthday she gave me progressively larger earrings. Finally, I couldn't take it any more—the earrings were like hood ornaments—and I said, 'You know, Mom, I've got something to tell you.' I thought she was going to be a wreck, but she was so cool it kind of grossed me out. She said, 'If you and your girlfriend stay together, maybe your brother can be her sperm donor.' But it was so much better than her crying and rolling on the floor."

While her mother and sister still live in New York, her father and her brother are in Southern California, making her upcoming move more appealing.

LA-bound with the goal of becoming a television writer, she's working on two pilot scripts, one for Touchstone and one for Comedy Central, that could turn into series—but not with her as their stars. "I'm a rare standup comic who doesn't want to be on TV," she said.

The project for Touchstone (a division of Disney) is titled I'm So Lucky, which Hurwitz describes as a fish-out-of-water story about a hip New Yorker who winds up working in a Kmart in the South. "Imagine one of the Sex and the City girls in Wewoka, Okla.," Hurwitz said.

It's targeted at mainstream audiences, unlike the Comedy Central project. "That show is actually very gay, and I'm very excited about it," she said. "It has a lead character named Page who's a lesbian comic living with two straight friends in a condo building that is entirely filled with lesbians."

But Page will not play Page. "I'm just going to play a peripheral recurring character," she said. "I think we should get someone a little nicer than me to play me."

Page Hurwitz will perform at the third annual Funny Girlz at 8 p.m. June 9 at Herbst Theatre. The bill includes Elvira Kurt, Rene Hicks, Bridget Schwartz, Yayne Abebe, the Latina Theatre Lab, and producer/host Lisa Geduldig. Tickets are $20-$25. Call 392-4400.