LEA DeLARIA is an American comedian, actress, and jazz singer born on this date. DeLaria is credited with being the first out gay comic to appear on American television with her 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. She is best known for her portrayal of inmate Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black.
DeLaria was born in Belleville, Illinois, the daughter of Jerry Jean (née Cox), a homemaker, and Robert George DeLaria, a jazz pianist and social worker. Her paternal grandparents were Italian. She attended kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Belleville and has referenced her Catholic upbringing in her performances.
DeLaria’s stand-up career began in 1982 when she moved to San Francisco and performed raunchy stand-up comedy in the Mission District. Discussing her stand up, Delaria says, “This is who I am, when I’m up there. This is it. I’m a big butch dyke. That’s who I am. And I’m a friendly one. I’m a big butch dyke with a smile on my face.”
When DeLaria appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993, she was the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk-show. While appearing on the show, DeLaria said, “Hello everybody, my name is Lea DeLaria, and it’s great to be here, because it’s the 1990s! It’s hip to be queer! I’m a big dyke.” DeLaria later said she had been told that she should not have used the term dyke on the air. Hall later defended her, saying, “If she wants to call herself a dyke, that’s her business.”
In December 1993, DeLaria 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 and Box Lunch. 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 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 appeared in a number of films, including Edge of Seventeen and The First Wives Club.
DeLaria is the originator of “the U-Haul Joke” which she began performing at comedy shows in 1989.
Question: “What does a lesbian bring on a second date?”
Answer: “A U-Haul.”
In January 2015, DeLaria became engaged to fashion editor Chelsea Fairless after two and a half years of dating. The two met through Fairless’s friend, actress Emma Myles, who plays Leanne in Orange is the New Black. In January 2017, DeLaria confirmed she and Fairless had separated.