It may be a year and a half after her debut hour special Sweet & Salty premiered, but the momentum of Fortune Feimster’s career has not slowed down one iota.
Quite on the contrary. Last year, she was slated to go out on a massive tour, on the heals of her Netflix special dropping last January. The tour was supposed to launch in mid-March at Gilda’s Laugh Fest, but we all know what happened next. And now, a year and a half later, she is back on the road with an all new hour in her 2 Sweet 2 Salty tour. And as she’s making the big leap from clubs to theaters, her loyal fan base has not only followed, but is selling the tour out as well.
Beyond touring, Feimster is also staying busy in front of the camera as well. She just wrapped up filming season 2 of Kenan, which debuts its second season in January. She has also appeared on recent shows like Nora From Queens, Q-Force, and the Paramount+ reboot of iCarly. And hopefully all the success in front of the camera can lead to eventually finding Fortune Feimster headlining her own project, something she would also like the next step in her career to be.
We recently spoke with Fortune about her new tour, making the leap to theaters, how audiences have been post-COVID, filming her debut hour special in her hometown, the second season of Kenan, and what she would like to possibly do next.
Last year, you premiered your special in January. And you had all this momentum built up for a tour the following month. What was the experience like to go from having this big tour planned to the pandemic to back on the road again?
It was a whirlwind because it was my first hour special. I’ve had two half hours. And I was so excited because this was the first opportunity to really share my story, show people who I am. And I’m sort of known for popping into scenes, popping into TV shows, popping into movies. And this was like me for a whole hour. So you put something out like that and you hope people watch it.
So it came out late January of 2020. And right away it seemed like people were really taking to it and I was getting a lot of feedback. I wasn’t on the road. I was taking that time off to develop a new hour. So we put a tour up on sale and it sold like hot cakes. It was that step that comics hope to make from comedy clubs to theaters. We were finally in theaters. I was so excited. It was like “Oh my Gosh. This is it. This is what you’ve been dreaming of!”
I’ve been touring for the last 11 years. And my first show I think was supposed to be March 11th or March 12th. I had not performed hardly any shows once the special came out. So I wasn’t seeing people in person, so I was like “I think that people are watching it. It seems like it because we’re selling these tickets.” But I hadn’t been out and about to really like hear any feedback.
And then it’s like “The tour’s starting March 11th.” I had my bags packed ready to go to Grand Rapids. And I remember I filmed David Spade’s last Lights Out show. I was on the last one with Nikki Glaser. And she had already started her tour, because her special came out a few months before mine. And she was like “It’s so fun! You’re going to love it!” And that night at midnight, they’re like “You’re not going anywhere.” (Laughs). And in hindsight, we laugh because it’s like “Let’s reschedule them in a month. We’ll get these shows in a month from now.” I think we rescheduled some of those shows three times.
So who knew it would be a year and a half later that we finally did the shows. And of course you’re like “What if people don’t come? What if this has changed comedy forever?” You don’t really know what’s going to happen. But I’ve been really lucky that we picked the tour right back up and people have been coming out and the shows have been awesome.
How would you describe the response to the tour after all this time?
It’s been unbelievable. Again, I didn’t get to experience the residual effect of Sweet & Salty a year and a half ago, so it’s been very prolonged for me. But I think in general, audiences are just so grateful to be out. We’re so grateful to be around people again, we’re so grateful to get to have an experience of live entertainment. And I’ve been hearing this across the board from a lot of comics. Audiences are so pumped that it makes for the best comedy shows.
This is one of the best tours I’ve been apart of in my career. I’ve had lovely shows throughout my career and lovely audiences. But I think coming out of a year and a half of darkness, this crazy pandemic, there is this light shining through with these audiences of just “Bring it! I’m ready to laugh. I’m ready to feel silly.” So the response has been overwhelming. I mean, it’s incredible. And the fear was that people would be too timid to come to shows, but people have been showing up. We’ve added four shows in Atlanta, four shows in Portland, second shows in Denver, Seattle. All over the place. Multiple shows in Dallas. It’s like we’re selling tickets in a way that I’ve never experienced before. So I’m really grateful that people held onto tickets for a year and a half and people are showing up who just discovered me. It’s really an amazing feeling.
And since it has been a year and a half, how much does your set change? Does it get reworked? Is there new stuff?
Yeah. I had a new set ready to go, but it was probably at like 45 minutes, though. So I was going to do some stuff from Sweet & Salty and then 45 minutes of new stuff. But then once I had a year and a half at home, I changed a lot of it. And I have a whole new hour now. Some of that’s left over from what would’ve been there a year and a half ago, but most of it’s new.
For the first time in a year and a half, I was at home. And I had not been at home much since 2010. On top of acting projects and filming, I was touring clubs all the time. And so yeah. I finally had time to sit there and think about what I wanted to talk about. I was reinspired. Like I could feel my creativity coming back. My voice was a lot clearer than the it was a year and a half ago.
And I love the idea that there is material that you’re now never going to tour. Material that is just gone forever.
Yeah. I mean, not much. But just stuff where you were like “It wasn’t really working then. And I don’t really know if it’s going to work.” And so you just have to feel what the audience is resonating with and what they’re not and how with that. But I think Sweet & Salty helped me hone in my voice. It helped me hone in my way of storytelling. And I can feel that in this set. Like it’s a whole different set. But the style has set in more.
That totally makes sense. So you think that year and a half off actually helped improved your stand-up, even when you weren’t performing.
Yeah for sure. I always had a core group of people who followed me with my career. They found me at Last Comic Standing or Chelsea Lately. And they were showing up to shows the last ten years. Sweet & Salty really opened up the door so much wider in a way that I never experienced with my stand-up. So that sort of set the tone for what my style is and what my storytelling is. So when people come to my shows, they know what they’re going to see. They don’t know what the jokes are going to be or what the stories are going to be, but they’re familiar with me now and my style now. And I feel like that sort of was cemented with Sweet & Salty.
And that’s the Netflix bump. Once you’re on there, you have this much wider exposure.
I think it’s just this reach that it has. It has this kind of reach that other places don’t have, in that it’s world wide. I put out stuff before with other outlets, but it’s not world wide. So you have an audience in that way. And I do think, because we were in a pandemic, that a lot of people found it during that time at home. Would they have found it otherwise? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But I do think that being stuck at home and being starved for content – and certainly people wanting comedy and wanted to laugh – helped people find it in that way, too. So that was – if there’s a bonus – a bonus that I had content available for people to watch while they were home.
And speaking of Netflix, last year they sent me a box that had a button in it where it had you talking about how when you press it you eat ice cream and dance.
(Laughs). Oh hilarious. You have the punchline ice cream button.
How often do people come up and offer you ice cream after you did the ice cream dances?
I do get sent a lot of ice cream. And that was such a cool thing to do with Ben & Jerry’s. Aparna, Wanda, and I shot these fun commercials for them last year for their ice cream. It was obviously a good partnership for me because for the last few years, when I was going on tour, I would go to local ice cream shops and do like a silly ice cream dance. So then it became like synonymous for cities I was going to for shows. Still people are like “You’ve got to go to this ice cream shop!” They’re very proud of whatever their local ice cream is. They want to share that with me. They want me to go and see if that inspires me to go.
I haven’t gone to as many places because, on this tour, we’re going city to city to city versus clubs, where you’re in a city for three days. I’m in and out so fast that I haven’t gotten to enjoy as much ice cream! It’s hard to find late night ice cream. But I did do a show in Cincinnati and Matteo Lane opened for me. And the ice cream joint there, Grater’s, stayed open until 11, which is unusual. And we got ice cream after the show.
And moving onto your special from last year, Sweet & Salty, you filmed it in Charolette, where you’re from. What was that experience like? Was it a massive homecoming? Did you know you had to film it there?
I really wanted to film it there, because I didn’t set out initially to tell a very biographical story. It didn’t line up in that way. But then the more I kept working on that set, all these personal stories kept coming to the forefront. And I realized the timeline of it was very like childhood – high school – college – moving to L.A. It was all very succinct in the timeline. And I was like “Oh, this is like my life. This is like my life’s story.” And at the base of it was growing up in North Carolina, not knowing who I was, trying to figure it out, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes. So it just seemed to make sense to do it back hone. I knew a lot of these people knew my journey and they watched this journey from the start of my life. So it felt very full circle to be able to be like “I’m going to tell you stories about how I didn’t have any clue about who I was.” And not that I’m a fully formed adult, we’re all still evolving, you know. But here’s me now kind of full circle telling these stories now that I do have a much better idea of who I am. Let’s do it in North Carolina, in the south, in a freaking church/theater. It just seemed to make sense for this set that I was doing.
The hometown crowd, though. It were so rowdy. They were so pumped to the point where I had to be like “You guys. I’m filming this! Let me get through the punchline.” But there was just so much love that was coming out. It was pretty incredible. But also, don’t mess up the sound because we’ve got to record it.
I’m assuming the audience was also filled with your own family.
Yeah. That was a cool thing to be able to show my family that part of my business. I’ve been in L.A. for 18 years. They don’t get to come out very much. They don’t see that part of my life, like filming and acting and being in the business. They come to my shows, you know, when I do stand-up. So to show them this cool production with the film crew and how that works behind the scenes, I think that was really neat for them to see.
Jumping around a little bit. You’ve popped up in so many movies and TV shows over the last few years. Was acting something you were always interested in and set out to do? Or did it happen organically?
My acting was very simultaneous with stand-up. I trained with The Groundlings for 6 or 7 years. I did their Sunday company for a year and a half. I tested twice, two summers in a row, for SNL. At the core to sketch comedy is acting. That’s what it is. It’s a form of acting with comedy being at the forefront. So I always loved acting and I always wanted to act. It’s just that people only discovered me first through Last Comic Standing, which is obviously known for stand-up, and then Chelsea Lately, which was more round table, late night kind of thing. I did a ton of sketches on there, so people saw that part of me. But because I was on there for three or four years, I wasn’t able to do much acting.
So as soon as I left Chelsea, I really amped up the acting. I tested for a Tina Fey pilot that I booked and almost went and then it didn’t go. And then I did my own pilot with Tina Fey that we filmed but didn’t go. I was so close to being out there as an actor. I was getting all these really cool opportunities behind the scenes, but no one was really seeing them yet. It wasn’t until The Mindy Project where my acting really came to the forefront. And that was because I finally got to be on a show as a series regular. And I learned a ton. My acting grew just doing that show. So after I did that show, it really started opening up the acting doors a lot more. And that’s when I started filming a lot more guest spots and popping up in movies and such.
And so, for me, acting is equally as important as stand-up. It’s something that I take very seriously. But it’s just that stand-up’s kind of at the forefront and sometimes acting’s at the forefront. You never know what’s going to be kind of the thing that’s the focal point. But they’re always definitely part of my life.
I love that. But I can imagine balancing both sometimes may make things hectic if they’re happening simultaneously.
Yeah, my schedule is pretty crazy. Especially this fall, I started my tour, which I had been gearing up to do. And then filming the second season of Kenan, which I love and I love him. I schedule my tour basically for Thursday through Saturday or Friday through Sunday knowing that I’ve got to get back to LA to film during the week. Normally you’re doing one or the other. But I love it. I would not have it any other way. So if I’ve got to get back to LA to film, gosh, that’s a good problem to have.
But I like keeping both things going. I see the value of both very much so, because they show a whole different side of you. I can’t show what I show in stand-up in acting, and vice verse. So I like that the two exist together. And I always try to make time for both of them whenever I can.
I imagine the schedule for a show like Kenan must have been designed to specifically be done that way, because your other two co-stars Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd also have a similar schedule where they have to be on the East coast for the weekends.
Yeah, their schedules are just as crazy having to fly back and forth to New York every weekend. So we were all on planes on Fridays and Sundays flying back and forth. But we got it done! We wrapped the second season and it’s coming out… [editor’s note: season two of Kenan premieres January 3rd].
That’s so fun. I love that character. I just love acting. And I hope to keep getting to do to do more. My next goal, obviously, is to try to be a bigger part of a movie. I’ve written my own movies. And I hope at some point that I’ll get the opportunity to film one of those, where my character is more part of the plot and more part of the whole movie. That’s really where I want to go next with acting. Getting to carry a storyline.
I hope you get to do that!
Yeah, I hope so. All I can do is work hard and hope that some of these opportunities come to fruition. I think the thing about stand-up is I can say, without a doubt, “Hey, look at this audience. I think something is resonating with them when it comes to me or my comedy. So I think they would also enjoy that in a movie.”
Because I think the industry was sort of set on actors or entertainers had to look a certain way or be a certain way. And I think stand-up is showing people want a relatable person. They don’t necessarily need everybody to look like a super model. That’s great and there’s a lane for that. But also people want funny people, relatable people. There’s a lot of different boxes that can be checked. And a person in the entertainment industry doesn’t have to fit a certain mold, if that makes sense.
It totally does. And now I’m gonna move to another skill you have, which is as an interviewer. In addition to co-hosting a show on Sirius with Tom Papa, you also started out as a journalist. Tell me about how you went about interviewing celebrities. Was it something that again was organic or something you had to work at?
Yeah. I was a journalist for seven years, which was my day job as I pursued comedy at night. And yeah, what a cool day job that was. I got to go to a lot of events in LA. I interviewed tons of actors and directors and writers. It was this education of the business. I was entertainment adjacent for seven years while I was doing Groundlings at night. So I learned so much about the business in that way. And it did sort of help me with the skill as far as learning how to interview people.
I had never done it before. I had never taken a journalism class. I just happened to be able to write. And they hired me because they were like “We heard you could write.” So they threw a tape recorder in my hand, and as I talk about on my special, my first interview was Will Smith for Bad Boys II. And you’re like “Wait! I don’t know what I’m doing.” So it was very much trial by fire.
But I didn’t realize that skill would eventually come full circle, like on Chelsea’s show. It was all pop culture and writing jokes for that. And it was like “Oh! I’ve been dealing with that for the past 7 years.” And then now that I’m doing a radio show for Netflix on Sirius XM where I’m now interviewing people again. I never thought that part of my life would come back around. So yeah, it definitely helped me as far as talking to people. Because the job I had for seven years was never gossip. It was like “What are you working on? Tell me about your project! How did you start?” It was always getting to know people as a performer. And that’s what we’re getting to do on the Netflix show as well.
And finally, aside from maybe starring in your own movie or show, is there anything else that you hope to accomplish next in your career?
There are a couple of things that I want to eventually accomplish. I want to write a book at some point. I do have 17 years professional background as a writer that I don’t think many people know. 7 years as a entertainment journalist, 4 years as a writer on Chelsea Lately, I’ve sold 3 movies, 2 television shows, and my stand-up is all written by me. I definitely don’t know if people are familiar with that side of me. So I think a book would be really cool to do at some point.
And then I think at some point, it would be cool to do a small run like on Broadway or off-Broadway type of show. I think that would be cool to do a type of live theater type of situation again. I did that in college, and have dabbled in live theater since. But it would be neat to go back to that at some point.
Something like a Birbiglia type of one woman Show?
Yeah. Or even in an acting role. Some sort of musical or something like that.
Tickets for Fortune’s tour can be found here.