Just Jackie!

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Wednesday September 12, 2018
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It's been almost a year since Jackie Hoffman turned in what may be the most widely seen performance of her career. At last September's Emmy Awards, the Broadway and comedy veteran was nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role as Joan Crawford's major domo Mamacita in "Feud."

As Laura Dern was proclaimed the winner, Hoffman, who makes her San Francisco cabaret debut at Feinstein's at the Nikko next weekend, was captured on live TV, all lipstick snarl and cat-eye glasses, emphatically snapping, "Dammit! Dammit!"

Anyone familiar with the 58-year-old Hoffman's curmudgeonly Noo Yawk comedy routines immediately recognized the bit as sharp-elbowed performance art, played directly to the cameras trained on capturing nominees' reactions to the announcement. As it turns out, not that many people were familiar. While Hoffman has had small roles in film and made plenty of guest appearances on TV series and a recurring role on the short-lived sitcom "The New Normal," she's very much a creature of live theater.

So when Hoffman doubled down on her onscreen Emmy pique with a double-barreled Twitter blast ("Laura Dern had famous parents. Forgive me for being from real people #elitism #Emmys2017"; "I hear that Laura Dern runs a child porn ring #soreloser Emmys2017") there was a brief eruption of backlash in broadcast media and online.

"I was absolutely surprised by how many people didn't get it," said Hoffman during a recent phone conversation with the B.A.R. "What person in the world would do that seriously?

"That was on brand for 'Jackie,'" she notes of her cranky take-no-bullshit comic stage persona, "but for people who don't know me, I guess they thought I was just some psychotic, postmenopausal crazy woman." In retrospect, she savors the moment. "I was finally popular enough to have haters." Before that, "I could have shot a political figure in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not been arrested."

Hoffman's brash, earthy, politically liberal humor is a natural for New York, where she's mounted a series of adored solo shows at Joe's Pub including "A Chanukah Carol" and "The Kvetching Continues." Hoffman has developed a cultish following among gay and Jewish audiences, and has performed at Jewish charitable events and on gay cruises.

On Broadway, she's appeared in gay cult favorite "Xanadu" along with "Hairspray," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "On the Town," and "The Addams Family," as Grandma. A former Second City improv performer, Hoffman has also collaborated with David and Amy Sedaris, taking roles in their quirky off-Broadway plays "The Book of Liz," "Incident at Cobbler's Knob," and "One Woman Shoe."

Asked whether she thinks of herself as more an actor or a comedian, Hoffman said, "I have to go with actor. Even Joan Rivers, when she was doing stand-up, was playing a character. When you're bright-eyed and bushy-assed, you're like, 'Oh, I want to be a movie star,' but now I'm in my 50s, and I'm still breathing and functioning. And I'm working. I'm acting.

"I have fulfilled many a dream, I must say: five Broadway musicals, a regular on TV series. I would like to have a chance to play the kinds of roles that have automatically gone to males in the past. A mob boss or something that I could use my humor and vulgarity in."

Meanwhile, the wider recognition and recognizability that's come from acting in "Feud" have given Hoffman an opportunity to expand her live audiences beyond her hometown. She's leveraged the moment by titling her Feinstein's show "Memoircita." Though she used the same name for solo performances last spring at the LGBT center in Los Angeles, Hoffman says that because she's developed so much material that's rarely been seen outside of Manhattan, she won't be repeating her LA sets.

"I don't know exactly what this show is going to be," she said. "I can tell you it will be a cross between stand-up and a one-woman show with some songs. The songs are exquisite. I write the lyrics. It will be a new breath of putrid."

Jackie Hoffman, "Memoircita" Sept. 21-22, 8 p.m. Feinstein's at the Nikko, 222 Mason St., SF. $45-$80 www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com