Lea DeLaria is not exactly thrilled with the state of the world.
So when the veteran comedian, jazz singer and “Orange is the New Black” cast member comes to the Allendale Theatre on Saturday to perform her new variety show “Last Butch Standing,” you can bet she won’t be holding back.
“The show itself came about because I was doing a lot of acting and not as much stand-up as I used to do. I kind of looked around, I’ll be really frank, and I hated everything I saw,” said DeLaria, who drops F-bombs as often as most people blink. “It’s my bird’s-eye view of what the heck’s going on right now from a very particular viewpoint: The viewpoint of this 55-year-old butch dyke who’s seen a few things.”
On her hit list for Saturday’s performance are segments of the “LGBTQ” community that has embraced and promoted her throughout her career and the challenges of maintaining a radically liberal worldview in this fraught political moment.
Between complaints, DeLaria will perform some of the jazz interpretations that have gained her a devoted musical following, including a popular swing version of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and “I Can Cook, Too,” which she performed to ecstatic reviews in the 1998 Broadway revival of “On the Town.”
DeLaria was the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk show in 1993. Through her work on TV, film and theater, she remains one of the most visible out lesbians in American culture. It’s a role she said she’s proud of, but that comes with plenty of built-in challenges.
On her 1993 appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” she identified herself as “a big dyke” and has turned the formerly negative word on its head in her acts and albums ever since.
“I cast myself in that role, in that reclamation role, ages ago. Interestingly enough, I was hanging out with a bunch of girls from ‘Orange’ and we were all talking about language, and especially in this context of me referring to myself as a queer and as a dyke,” she said. “It’s amazing to me that something that Lenny Bruce started talking about what, 50, 60 years ago, we are still having this conversation about words and intents.”
Her character on “Orange is the New Black,” the second season of which will be released on Netflix later this year, is a defiantly butch lesbian named Big Boo. DeLaria praised the show’s creators for writing such a multidimensional character that goes against the stereotype.
“Even though she is in prison, they put a very positive spin on who Big Boo is. She’s, as far as I know that I’ve ever seen, the first positive portrayal of a butch dyke,” DeLaria said. “She’s the smartest person in the room in any room that she goes to. No matter who tries to mess with her, she can always come back at them with a really sharp remark.”
Not unlike DeLaria, whose talents span the worlds of acting, music and comedy.
“Not only am I smart, and I’ll make you laugh, when I start to sing I’m not going to pull out an acoustic guitar and sing some folk song in A-flat. I’m going to really give you what I can do,” DeLaria said. “I think people are always surprised by me. And with this show, I really intend to keep that level of surprise going.”
What: Lea DeLaria
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen St.