Erin Foley Kicks The Door Open For Out Comics With ‘Gays R Us’

Whether crafting her own comedy showcase Gays R Us or writing for the brilliant (and terribly missed) sitcom One Day At A Time, Erin Foley is following in the footsteps of people like Judy Gold and Wanda Sykes. She’s also paying the opportunities that she has been given forward, and offers burgeoning comedians the opportunity to showcase their own talents in a truly safe space. I sat down to chat with this comedic gem about her podcast Sports Without Balls, her experience writing for the force of nature that is Rita Moreno, and how being forced to change up how she delivers her comedy this past year was totally a game-changer for her as a comedian. 

Michael Cook: Tell me about Gays R Us and how it has become such a fantastic showcase for comics…

Erin Foley: I started Gays R Us in 2007-2008 at The Hollywood Improv when I moved to Los Angeles. There was a fantastic show that I hope will come back called Homocomicus at Gotham Comedy Club and I wanted to do the West Coast version. There is rarely a show just for the queer community. I have been headlining clubs all over the country and it’s straight crowds. That is fine, but I have been in crowds where the comic is performing & there are the three or four terrible gay jokes; It’s so annoying. Even when I headline, I primarily work with two straight guys and I tell them “hey just take out your gay jokes because I’m headlining” and they tell me they don’t; meanwhile I know that they do, so I tell them to “just take them out”.

Gays R Us is to have a full packed house for the LGBT community and fun straight people of course, and they can just take the night off. They’re not gonna have a performer on stage and the punch line is going to be some terrible gay joke. If there are six or seven comics, ninety percent will be queer-identified or a really fun straight lady and I really don’t have to worry about anything. It just kept going, I do it monthly at the Hollywood Improv. It has been an absolute joy, a really fun night.

MC: How did the pandemic contribute to you deciding to change up the game for your comedy?

EF: When the world stopped, there were a couple months of “what do we do now”? A lot of people were doing shows online, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to work; I just really missed it though. I did a show originally on a different platform and figured out how to work it, then went over to RushTix a couple months ago and that is like the varsity of online shows, they are amazing. It’s a little bit wonky online, seeing and hearing people, but I have gotten such wonderful feedback. Everyone just needs a night of laughing; it’s almost like turning on the television and you get this live and interactive “what is happening” show and they love it, so I am going to keep doing it. 

MC: How much of a culture shock has it been for you to have to leave the stage for such an extended period of time?

EF: It does feel weird, although I won’t lie there are a lot of silver linings. I was really burned out from being on the road and traveling, doing these clubs Thursday through Sunday. Taking a break has been amazing. I think it has been really good for my stand up; now when I do it, I really want to do it. The first four or five months I was legitimately doing stand-up in a closet, which is really funny. That’s how we started out, with a sheet in the background. It has obviously evolved, I only book A-talent and I take it very seriously; it is very professionally done. I try to put the best product forward and RushTix has been amazing to partner with. 

MC: Who are you own comedic influences and who sparked you to get into comedy? 

EF: I got very lucky, since I started off in New York City. It is the best standup in the world in New York City. When I started out, I just started following two people around; Judy Gold, who I am now friends with which is the crowing achievement in my standup career. The other one was Jim Gaffigan, I loved his observational humor. He would close out “bringer shows” that I would do, I had to bring three people to get up for six or seven minutes and he would always close out the show at Gotham Comedy Club, that is how I got to know his humor. The other person that has had the most influence on me is Wanda Sykes. She would come to New York and I would sneak into the back of Caroline’s and see her perform. We have mutual friends out here and she would drop by a show that I do in Silver Lake working on new material and I could not believe that Wanda Sykes was ten feet away from me. I have gotten to know her personally now and she is just amazing. Her love of standup and her joke writing, she is number one for me. She is a champion; the gold medal of comedy. 

MC: You were a writer on the criminally underrated and gone too soon One Day At A Time. What was that experience like? 

EF: I joined in Season 4 when the show moved to PopTv, we wrote out thirteen episodes and they aired seven. I just assumed that it was going to come back and we would start filming again. It was one of those things where the pandemic stopped it and then the network blew up. There was a CBS/Viacom merger; ten episodes aired on CBS and then it just ended. I just thought that of all the crap that is on television for seven seasons, this show was wonderful, heartwarming and so funny. I am still not over it, I have to say that was a dream job and I felt lucky to be a part of it. 

MC: Writing for an entertainment icon like Rita Moreno, it probably does not get much better than that

EF: She hugged me and wrapped her leg around me and I thought “I can die now” (laughs)! Her documentary comes out soon also. Let me just say, she and Justina Machado were the greatest one-two punch ever. They were just as lovely off-camera and the whole time you’re like “I’m pitching jokes for Rita Moreno“. It was unreal, it was just awesome. 

MC: Going from standup comedy to sitcom writing is truly a completely different animal. As a creative, where do you think you thrive the most? 

EF: I think when I was younger, stand up was the be all, end all for me, but now it has shifted. I’ll always love standup and I’ll always want to do standup. I think the collaboration and the writing for sitcoms is now what I am the most excited and obsessed about. For me, the same joy comes from writing a joke and having Rita Moreno deliver it and everyone laughing, that to me was a game changer. It was equally wonderful and satisfying and I dont have to travel, I can just got down the street. I have co-worklers, I have good good hours, the game has now changed. Besides my sweet Gays R Us baby, I am going to do whatever I can to get back into a room.

MC: Your podcast Sports Without Balls is all sports from your completely unique perspective. Have you always had such a deep passion for sports? 

EF: It is sort of like, if I had a parallel life, I would just do everything in sports. I would be a funny sports reporter or a professional athlete. Playing sports my whole life, my partner Sara tells me that I am no fun when I watch sports. I get so heated, and my mood changes she says.I get insane about it. I love it and at the same time, I am trying at the same time, I am trying to champion a woman’s sports project that I have been working on. Anything that I can do for women in sports is awesome, I wish I had more days. 

MC: Lack of sports was very challenging; my own partner was mourning the loss of Duke Basketball and March Madness at the beginning of the pandemic. 

EF: I know! I It was, I think when they sort of came back with the National Women’s Soccer League, the NBA and the WNBA, I think that is when I realized how much I missed it. I felt alive again! 

MC: What do you think you want to do now that the world is opening up and traveling is feasible possibility? What do you think is different for you? 

EF: I think what is different is that I used to want to go to work and go out around the clock and burn the candle at both ends; now it’s like “do I ever want to go out again” (laughs)? I have such a new appreciation for time; maybe not having one hundred friends, and five really great friends and spending the most amount of time with them. I think my perspective has really changed on how to spend time. Also, really honing in on what I want to do. That is to stay in LA and write, do my standup and make sure I do my Gays R Us. But stepping into a bar and getting a gin and tonic, I can’t wait. Not taking those moments for granted also; I think there are a lot of silver linings. I don’t think its dramatic to say that people are changed forever and I hope that it is in a good way. 

Follow Erin Foley on Instagram 

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