DeLaria has performed stand-up comedy for over 25 years and is a prominent figure in the world of LGBT comedy. She began her career billing herself as "That Fucking Dyke"; she states "I called myself that because I would walk down the street and people would yell (it) at me. But after two years of performing I would walk down the street and people would yell (it) at me and I wouldn't know if they were a fan or not!"
The Italian American DeLaria was born in Belleville, Illinois, the daughter of Jerry, a homemaker, and Robert DeLaria, a jazz pianist and social worker. She attended kindergarten through 8th grade at St Mary's Elementary School in Belleville, and has referenced her Catholic upbringing in her performances.
Of her watershed 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, as the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk-show, DeLaria said "It's the 1990s ... It's hip to be queer, and I'm a bi-i-i-i-ig dyke!" In December 1993 she hosted Comedy Central's Out There, the first all-gay stand-up comedy special.
DeLaria is also known for her touring "musical comedy about perverts," Dos Lesbos (1987–1989) as well as Girl Friday, a comedy she conceived, wrote, directed and starred in, and which won the 1989 Golden Gull for Best Comedy Group in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
DeLaria has released two CD recordings of her comedy, Bulldyke in a China Shop (1994) and Box Lunch (1997). She has also written a humorous book entitled Lea's Book of Rules for the World.
DeLaria appeared as Jane in the 1998 Off Broadway production of Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, a "a gay retelling of the Bible." Entertainment Weekly said "a star is born with Lea DeLaria" of her "showstopping" performance as Hildy Esterhazy in the 1998 Broadway revival of On the Town. DeLaria subsequently played Eddie and Dr. Scott in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show, and can be heard on the cast recording.
DeLaria has also appeared in a number of films, including Edge of Seventeen and The First Wives Club.
DeLaria integrates musical performance into her stand-up comedy, focusing on traditional and modern be-bop jazz. She has even said at her shows "It is my personal goal to bring be-bop jazz back into the gay and lesbian community." In 2001 she released a CD of jazz standards called Play It Cool. This was followed by the album Double Standards in 2003, and by The Very Best of Lea DeLaria in 2008.
In 2001, DeLaria was the voice of Helga Phugly on the short-lived, animated sitcom, The Oblongs. In 1999 DeLaria played the recurring role of Madame Delphina on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, returning in 2008 as both Delphina and Professor Delbert Fina. She continues to portray Delphina on a recurring basis as of 2011.
In 2008, Warner Records released The Live Smoke Sessions, DeLaria's first recording focused on "timeless pop standards" such as "Down With Love," "Night and Day," "Love Me or Leave Me" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." She noted, "I styled this CD on the old school live recordings ... It is my hope that this CD will take you back to 1948 and the Village Vanguard. So please let me invite you to mix a cocktail and enjoy a smoke while you sit back and soak up the swing."
In November 2008, DeLaria completed a tour of Australia, playing Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. She also frequently collaborates with comedian Maggie Cassella, most notably on an annual Christmas cabaret show in Toronto, Ontario which also sometimes tours to several other Canadian and US cities.
In July 2010, DeLaria's version of "All That Jazz" was used on So You Think You Can Dance. DeLaria is currently performing in Prometheus Bound at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Lea's Book of Rules for the World by Lea Delaria
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Dell (May 2, 2000)
Amazon: Lea's Book of Rules for the World
Rule #10: Learn all the rules...then break them.
Lea DeLaria has been breaking rules all her life. Now she offers some of her own....
Cross Howard Stern with Sandra Bernhardt, add a one-two punch, and you have stand-up comic Lea DeLaria, who plays to rave reviews on and off the Broadway stage. Now, in this uproarious collection of essays, DeLaria shares her Modern Day Ten Commandments and X-Rated Rules for the World with anyone bold enough to read them.
From fashion advice "Never point at anything beige and call it cool"(Rule #4) to the five myths of ex-girlfriends and the facts about fake breasts, DeLaria offers straight-talking wisdom for a world desperately in need of some raunchy humor. Here Lea shares glimpses of life as a Butch so butch she's mistaken for a man--by her gynecologist. Read all about it as Lea falls hard for the girl of her dreams...reveals how Judy Garland helped her to find her first New York apartment...and gives an appreciation of sex toys that is as outrageous as it is heartfelt. From her promising beginnings as a Nice Italian Catholic girl to her headlined adventures with Nice Italian Catholic girls, among others, here is Lea DeLaria, the stand-up, lay-down, in-your-face comic who tells you everything your mom never wanted you to know.
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