The Los Angeles debut of lesbian humorist Lea DeLaria's comedy and music act, "Muff Diva," sold out six shows Thursday through Sunday, earned several standing ovations and,after 11 years of exclusion, seems to continue her journey toward the mainstream.

The Los Angeles debut of lesbian humorist Lea DeLaria’s comedy and music act, “Muff Diva,” sold out six shows Thursday through Sunday, earned several standing ovations and,after 11 years of exclusion, seems to continue her journey toward the mainstream.

Improvisation co-owner Budd Friedman has scheduled a March 27 encore performance of her show at his Santa Monica club’s cabaret room.

DeLaria also will join the Melrose Improvisation’s Friday-night lineup and tape an upcoming segment of “Evening at the Improv.”

Despite prior ostracism by mainstream television and clubs, DeLaria had built a substantial following of male and female, gay and straight audiences through the college and alternative performance circuits.

DeLaria, a powerful presence whose manic, campy style hints at a combination of Bette Midler and Robin Williams, weaves hearty be-bop blues and jazz singing around hilariously racy comedy routines about the lesbian experience and social stigmas assigned to homosexuals. She is backed by a terrific four-piece jazz band, the 13th Tribe, so named because all the members are Jewish.

Performing in such gender-bending attire as an Indian-print dress and army boots and, later, a man’s suit and black lace bra, DeLaria creates a partylike atmosphere and thrives on audience participation. Encountering a straight man in the audience, she says, “Tell me, how did you get that way?”

Her comedy targets range from family (“I gave myself the best Christmas present a queer could give themselves — I did not go home for the holidays”) to those surprised by the presence of homosexuals in the military. “Yeah, right. Like I know lots of straight girls who graduate from high school and say, ‘Gee, I think I’ll join the Army.’ “

Lea Delaria

(Highways Performance Space; 120 seats; $ 10 top)

Production

Written, directed by and starring Lea DeLaria. Reviewed March 14, 1993.
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