You know that old phrase, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it?” Comedian Dana Goldberg learned how true it is last year.
“I flew 175,000 domestic airline miles in 2019,” she said during a recent phone interview. “I remember saying to myself, ‘God, I wish I could just get a little time off.’ And then the pandemic happened—and I was like, ‘That is not what I meant. That’s not what I meant!’
Thankfully, Goldberg’s “time off” has come to an end: At 7 p.m., Thursday, July 8, Goldberg will perform at Hunters Palm Springs. She’ll be headlining a free night of LGBTQ comedy, and will be joined by Ian Harvie, Brad Loekle and Shann Carr. This is the first in a series of shows Carr is organizing at Hunters; the next one, with an as-yet-undetermined lineup, is slated for Thursday, July 22. (Full disclosure: Shann Carr is a friend of mine.)
Goldberg said she expects she’ll need to “brush off some dust” during the show.
“I haven’t really been with people that I’m unfamiliar with, or that I don’t know are vaccinated,” Goldberg said. “So there is some nervousness around it, but at the same time, I’m thrilled to be able to get back onstage and do what I love, and to bring laughter and joy to people who have also been locked inside for a year and a half.”
While the pandemic is obviously still on people’s minds, Goldberg said she doesn’t plan on bringing it up much.
“I think people are hungry for live comedy,” she said. “I think they’re tired of the Zoom shows. I’m tired of the Zoom shows. I think people want to be around their community. They want to laugh. They want to let go. Material-wise, I’m going to do what feels good to me. I’m not going to be doing a bunch of mask material. I’m going to perform as if we didn’t lose a year and a half of our lives, and that we just picked up where we left off. Hopefully, the audience comes with me.”
An online search of Goldberg’s comedy reveals videos that cover a wide variety of topics. One recent search revealed a set, from about 10 years who, during which she made jokes about codependent relationships; the next video was a portion of an interview with Mary Trump, part of Goldberg’s Out in Left Field podcast. This political bent carries over to Goldberg’s social-media accounts—including a hilarious take on that crazy nurse who testified that the COVID-19 vaccine had made her magnetic, and “proved” her claim by sticking a key to her chest.
“She’s like, ‘Explain to me why this is sticking here,” Goldberg said, “And I’m like, ‘It’s because you need to shower.’”
I asked Goldberg if the events of the last five years have made her comedy more political.
“Over the years, I’ve become more politically savvy,” Goldberg says. “As comedians, we try to make sense of the insane—and politics over the last five years were scary as hell. But even before that, when Sarah Palin came onto the scene, those types of GOP politicians … really changed for me this outlook of how political comedy can be done.
“My show in itself involves so much material from daily life and relationships and my family, but I’m very good at political comedy. So it’s become a little staple for about 15 to 20 minutes of an hour-long show, just to try to bring some levity to some scary times. As much as I want to say the last five years gave me so much material, it also scared the shit out of me, because I’m not just a comedian; I’m also a lesbian and a Jew. So I’ve just been marching and day-drinking for, like, five years. That’s all I do now: I just march and day-drink.”
Our discussion then turned to the unique challenges facing comedians these days, including so-called “cancel culture.”
“There are a lot white, straight, cis men out there who feel like, well, they’re getting canceled, and they can’t say anything without offending people,” Goldberg said. “I’m, like, ‘Maybe you’re just not funny. Maybe you are insensitive. Have you ever thought of that?’ … What’s funny to one person is definitely offensive to others, but that’s not even something comedians can necessarily worry about. This is the bottom line: If you’re going to say something that is edgy and could be offensive, you’d better make it funny, because if it is funny, people will forgive you for things that they would not otherwise forgive you for.”
I asked Goldberg if she has ever gotten in trouble because of a joke.
“I offend a lot of people on the right,” she said. “That’s not something that bothers me. I make an effort not to punch down, because I don’t think it’s necessary; I try very hard to punch up, toward people in power. So I offend people on the right, absolutely. But there have been times … how can I say this? There are fanatics on both sides. I think if you go way too far to the left or way too far to the right, you’re going to be offended.
“I’ve played to that middle part; that’s where I want to live. … Some things are black and white; don’t get me wrong. You know, transphobia? Black and white. Racism? Black and white. Misogyny? Black and white. But there’s a gray area where you can find joy and laughter with people you disagree with politically.”
Politics aside, Goldberg said she is glad to be coming to Palm Springs.
“I mean, what Jew doesn’t like going to Palm Springs in the middle of July and schvitzing for the entire day?” Goldberg said. “Palm Springs is truly a magical place for me. I’m from Albuquerque. N.M., so the Palm Springs mountains and the desert are the closest thing I can get (to that) here in California. It makes me feel like home. I’m very excited to go to Palm Springs for my first live show in front of a real, live audience in a year and a half.”
Dana Goldberg will perform with Ian Harvie, Brad Loekle and Shann Carr at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 8, at Hunters Palm Springs, 302 E. Arenas Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/346149293546649.