Comedian Marga Gomez on Middle Age: Is it Safe to Come Out?

July 26, 2011 at 6:00 am

Primarily known as a comedian, the writer and performer Marga Gomez is a New York City homegirl who has done her people proud, especially in the gay community.

She came out as a lesbian early in her career and she credits her breakthrough as a female, Latina performer to her upfront honesty about being gay. But the star — who has revealed much about her life on the small screen with specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime and on the stage with eight solo theatrical shows — admits she has not been entirely forthcoming about one part of her identity. She takes herself to task in her ninth solo work, “Not Getting Any Younger,” a headline event of the 20th Annual Hot! Festival at Dixon Place this summer.

Comedian Marga Gomez poses on the Off-Broadway stage of the 47th Street Theatre in New York, April 6, 2006, where she performed her one-woman show, "Los BIg Names." AP Photo/Tina Fineberg

With septuagenarian comedians like Joan Rivers still burning through rubber and botox on tour dates, it’s not just flattery to say it’s premature for Gomez to tackle aging. She clarifies, “This story is more about lying than aging. I lie about my age. I got that from my show biz parents.  In ‘Not Getting Any Younger’ I  admit that I lie because I want to stay relevant, whatever that means, and I reveal the lengths I have gone to for this charade.

“The irony is that I was one of the first out lesbians in comedy in the ’80s, which should make me almost a 100 years old, right? If this show was really about aging it would offer wisdom, but I have a case of arrested development. If I was a guy I’d go buy a Porsche right about now and grow a little ponytail. If I was rich guy.”

Struggling with her identity is a marathon sport for Gomez. She grew up in Washington Heights before moving to Long Island when she was 12. “Long Island Iced Latina” portrays Gomez’s cultural confusion at being the only “brown girl” at a Catholic high school run by Irish nuns, and her shame for not speaking Spanish or knowing how to dance salsa. “Los Big Names” (2006) focused on her mother, a dancer from Puerto Rico, and her father, a comic and producer from Cuba. Both worked in New York’s  Latin show business scene in the 1960s. They were not accepting when Gomez came out to them as gay; she left Long Island at 20 to live in San Francisco, Calif., where she still lives today.


Marga Gomez performs scenes from “Not Getting Any Younger,” her new one-woman show.

Asked about how she crafts her one-woman theatrical performances, she answered, “I don’t create a solo show unless I feel compelled because of some burning issue that has affected me personally. Then I experiment with ways to tell the story filtering it through humor — which is my survival tool. I make a world for the story and drive it to a destination…

“Stand-up comedy is more random. It’s collecting a bunch of tiny funny gems from daily life and polishing each one, then tossing them out to the audience in any number of ways — plus beer.”

“Not Getting Any Younger,” which is partially set in the short-lived Bronx amusement park called Freedomland, was shown this spring at the BAAD!Ass Women Festival at The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD), in Hunts Point. The Academy’s co-founder Charles Rice praised Gomez for knowing “how to connect to an audience on both a personal and universal level,” saying she is “one of the great contemporary live performers who has had a long-term love affair with her audience.”

When asked what experiences in her life resonate more now than they did when she was younger, Gomez responded, “People in my life mean a lot more to me. I really try to listen. It’s been all about me for so long. I just want to hear what’s up with family and friends. I’m grateful for my health. I feel like I have dodged a few bullets.”

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