Natasha Leggero takes on the vapid and vulgar
With her classic movie-style delivery and elegant white gloves, Natasha Leggero may look like a throwback, but what spills out of her mouth never would have made it past the Hays Code. The sassy and shallow sophisticate talks about toilet babies, jerking off old men, rape, and STDs, among other things, in her standup act. It’s the best of both worlds, really.
While no empty-headed vulgarian in conversation, Leggero admits to inhabiting those uglier on-stage traits somewhere inside the pretty exterior.
“I guess that’s just who I am,” she says, laughing, over the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “I think that your stage persona finds you if you keep at it long enough. And if you’re lucky, it can present itself to you as your evil twin. It’s a part of you that you want to unleash—and the part of you that you want to react to society—but it’s not exactly you.”
Her vapid concern about the world running out of diamonds and her indifference to child labour in the Third World are certainly not to be taken at face value. “I think you start to move out of the realm of comedy if you’re really aware of everyone’s suffering and you want to help everybody,” she says. “I’m always interested in political undertones, but comedy is just a place to make people laugh and present ideas that can make people laugh.”
Sometimes they don’t laugh, but that’s the price you pay being a risk-taking comedian—even when it’s not such a big risk. On a New Year’s Eve panel with NBC’s Carson Daly, Leggero joked about a tweet by SpaghettiOs asking people to remember Pearl Harbor: “It sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew.”
It got a big laugh from fellow guests, but some viewers took offence.
“One of the main problems as a society becomes stupider and stupider—I think [literary critic] Harold Bloom said this—is people’s inability to understand irony,” she says.
Instead of apologizing, Leggero wrote a wonderful response on her blog, saying, in part: “In the past few days I have been called a cunt so much it felt like I was in a British pub rooting for the wrong soccer team.…Do we really believe that the people who fought and defended our freedom against Nazis and the Axis powers will find a joke about SpaghettiOs too much to bear? Sorry, I have more respect for Veterans than to think their honor can be impugned by a glamorous, charming comedian in a fur hat.”
She ended by encouraging others to donate to the Disabled American Veterans foundation, as she had done. Leggero says the foundation wrote a letter saying they got the joke and were grateful to her for raising awareness of the fund. “All I ever wanted to do was just get some of my fans on Twitter to fight with the people who were sending me death threats!”