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I Told You So

Kate Clinton.

Kate Clinton

General Assembly 2009 Event 3012

Kate Clinton has a mouth on her, and she's not afraid to use it. The 61-year-old lesbian comic has been poking holes in the foibles of both the gay and straight world for 28 years—and on Friday night, she came to Salt Lake City to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and bring the wrath of God down on a standing-room-only crowd of Unitarian Universalists.

And, let it be noted: She succeeded. Right in the middle of her only joke about Mormons, the room shook with an enormous roll of thunder, as lightning struck the convention center's main tower almost directly overhead of the ballroom. Perhaps a gay comic teasing Mormons in their own Zion (the center is just a half-block from Temple Square) was, in a way, asking for it.

But Clinton rolled on, only slightly fazed. ("I love Mormons," she meekly told the ceiling after the noise subsided.) She skewered George W. Bush. ("Gotta ride the bike... gotta wear the helmet—for no apparent reason.") And Barack Obama. ("I want whatever he's on. Big sticky maui wowee buds of calm. We were in an abusive relationship for eight years with a guy on crack—and everybody's like, Why did you stay with him? We're all in recovery now. We should have gotten a shiny 100-day chip.")

On the other hand, Clinton wasn't pleased with Obama's decision to invite Rick Warren ("the P is silent") to give the invocation at the inauguration. Warren likes to describe his compassion for gays and lesbians by noting that when protestors came to his house, he once gave them coffee and donuts. "I don't know about you," Clinton averred, "but I'd prefer my rights to a French cruller."

Onward she rolled, tossing off quips about the religious leaders from Joel Osteen ("the patron saint of teeth whitener" who once admitted that "homosexuality is not God's best effort") to the Pope ("He went to Africa and said that condoms don't stop AIDS, and that stopping homosexuality is as important as saving the rainforests from destruction. Suddenly, we're Dutch Elm disease?") Still, she made it clear that "it's not their religions I denounce—it's their fundamentalisms."

Some of her best riffs explored our increasingly intense relationship with technology. Email: "It's a depressant. It's also the only thing we now produce in this country. I'm ADDed on it." Twitter: "I sent out a tweet this afternoon, and accidentally started a protest." Google: "It's ruined our family fighting. Those fights over dinner used to go on all night. Now somebody goes, gets out their computer, and looks it up."

"The only thing left to fight over now are feelings. And I'm Irish Catholic—in my family, if you had a feeling, you went to your room."

Clinton's response to right-wing claims that homosexuality will "destroy civilization as we know it:" "So what?" Likewise, the terror that repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will "destroy the military as we know it"... "well, there's a weapon."

There were old, popular political targets. Hillary Clinton: "I was a big Hillary Clinton supporter—I was so looking forward to watching Bill O'Reilly's head explode." John McCain: "...or as we called him in our house, ‘God Forbid.’" Sarah Palin: "Dan Quayle in a ponytail."

And a new target: the economy. "I knew the economy was in trouble when I bought a toaster and they gave me a free bank." Still, shopping has its place: "I've got a solution to the Middle East crisis: I think we should build malls in Afghanistan. After all, it's totally pacified us."

After the performance, Clinton signed copies of her new book, I Told You So.

Reported by Sara Robinson; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.