Stand-up comic and actress Fortune Feimster used to write stories like this one as an entertainment journalist.
For seven years in the 2000s, she interviewed celebrities primarily for the late Marilyn Beck, a popular syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News and her own website, and her working partner Stacy Jenel Smith. Feimster talked to future peers like Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Silverman. Journalism, though, wasn’t a lifetime career choice for Feimster.
Beck and Smith, her bosses, “always supported my comedy career,” said Feimster, in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in advance of her upcoming show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre March 24. (Some tickets still available at Ticketmaster with prices from $24.50 to $70.) “It was never an either-or thing. I’d go to the Groundlings and the Comedy Store at night while I had this beautiful day job form 9 to 6 where I could pay my bills and do something really interesting.”
The affably likable Feimster, who grew up in North Carolina and proudly retains her Southern accent, credits her teacher mom Ginger with ensuring she both spoke and wrote well. “She was always very adamant that I learn grammar and she was always doing grammar exercises,” Feimster said. “‘What is a conjunction?’ ‘What is an interjection?’ It definitely helped me in both careers.”
In the early 2010s, Feimster began getting notice as part of Chelsea Handler’s rotating panel of comedic commentators on her E! talk show “Chelsea Lately.” She plugged away on her stand up while nabbing smaller roles in TV shows and films like a gabby Uber driver in “Office Christmas Party,” which shot in part in Atlanta in 2015. She was also a regular on Fox’s “The Mindy Project” as a nurse for three seasons.
“The pursuit of comedy and acting is so difficult,” Feimster said. “It required many, many years of grinding and not making money. Nothing happened overnight.”
But her big break came in early 2020 when Netflix released her first comedy special “Sweet & Salty,” just weeks before the pandemic forced the world to sequester, Netflix and chill. Her amusingly relatable stories about childhood birthday parties at Hooters and joining the swim team helped her build a sizable new fan base.
Forced off the road by COVID-19, she worried that momentum built from that Netflix special would dissipate. But once she was able to tour again in 2021, she graduated from comedy clubs and began booking small theaters. She originally set up a single night at Center Stage in Midtown Atlanta in late 2021 but pent-up demand was so high, she added three more shows.
“That was the result of people seeing that special and wanting to get out,” she said.
The upcoming Cobb Energy show, she said, will be all new material since her second Netflix special came out last fall, but she plans to throw in a classic bit from the breakthrough “Sweet & Salty” hour.
“It’s a fun little way to end the show,” she said. ”Last time, I didn’t do any ‘Sweet & Salty’ and people would yell ‘Swim team!’ and ‘Hooters’! Otherwise, it’s fun stories about my life. It starts with a honeymoon story with my wife, then goes into our life and navigating marriage and adulthood together and what that looks like.”
She also plans to incorporate improv for the first time in her show by handing a mic to a volunteer in the audience to tell a story and she’ll react to it. “This will make each show feel a little different,” she said. “The fact is I don’t have to be done in a certain amount of time.”
Netflix continues to be the gift that keeps giving for Feimster. She will be a regular in a new Netflix action series “Fubar” coming out May 25 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first regular scripted TV part ever. Her character will be part of his CIA team, enabling her to run around battling bad guys and shooting guns.
“I didn’t realize how much of Arnold’s life is taken up by charity events,” she said. “He still lives his life like he’s the governor. He’s everywhere. He’s so dialed in with so many organizations. I went to his after-school charity event. That was cool to see him in action.”
Credit: CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/NETFLIX
Credit: CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/NETFLIX
Prior to “Fubar,” she shot two seasons of NBC’s “Kenan” starring Atlanta native Kenan Thompson as an Atlanta morning talk show host. “Kenan had all this pressure and weight on him but you’d never know it,” she said. “He really taught me how to not sweat about stuff. There’s not a single jaded part of him.”
She almost became a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” with Thompson in 2009 and 2010 when creator Lorne Michaels flew her to New York City twice to audition.
Unfortunately, she didn’t make the cut.
But now she’d be thrilled to host: “That’d be a dream come true!”
IF YOU GO
7 p.m. March 24. $24.50-$70, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. cobbenergycentre.com.
About the Author
Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution