Tom Ammiano Doesn’t Mince Words, Especially When Responding to Veto Threats

Politician and comedian Tom Ammiano calls his solo show at the Marsh about his time in the California State Assembly, Mincing Words, not a kiss and tell, but a kiss and don’t ask, don’t tell. Ammiano, a former teacher, School Board President, President of the Board of Supervisors as well as a stand-up comedian who did a couple solo shows back in the ’80s and ’90s, says his comedy was always topical and he did jokes during the Reagan and Bush years as one of the few openly gay comics around. In this show, he’ll be talking about his time in Sacramento and telling anecdotes about dealing with the governors and other members of the legislature.

“There are a lot of wonderful people there and a lot of people you’re not sure what planet they’re from,” he says. “But they’re elected and we must deal.”

One anecdote comes from when former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor and vetoed a bill of Ammiano’s. The comedian says he noticed that the veto was written in a very ornate style. Looking at it more closely, it turned out that the first letters of the lines in the veto spelled out: “I-F-U-C-K-Y-O-U.”

“We did not have a warm and fuzzy relationship,” Ammiano says. “Obviously, I rejected his veto and his offer.”

Ammiano thinks his humor was a big help in Sacramento. When one of his colleagues, who he describes as “very Tea Party,” kept referring to his sexual preference rather than orientation, Ammiano set her straight (so to speak).

“I stood up and said, ‘To be clear, my sexual orientation is gay, and my sexual preference is Brad Pitt,’” he says.

To put the show together, Ammiano had help from director, writer, and Marsh guru David Ford, who has worked with dozens of performers on solo shows.

“Let’s just say he has a lot of patience,” Ammiano says about Ford. “He gave me input on the writing and on stage craft. You know it’s only me, so it’s not Kabuki – it’s very minimalist. It’s having a third eye. Which he does have. Right in the middle of his forehead.”

When Ammiano first went to Sacramento, some people wondered how the left wing politician from San Francisco would do working with people from all over the state and with wildly different ideas. He felt it went just fine. His progressive point of view was a minority one in the legislature, he says, but he was able to have personal relationships with people with opposite points of view and work on legislation to benefit foster children, as well as transgender and domestic workers rights.

“When I first went, it was sort of like, ‘Holy shit, Batman, what have I got myself into?’ ” he says. “But there’s so much going on, you don’t really have the time to worry, you have to keep moving, and that suited my personality. I didn’t let anything stop me, and I did a lot of work.”

Mincing Words, Sept. 8–Oct. 15, The Marsh Mainstage, 1062 Valencia Street. Tickets $20-$100, 415-282-3055.

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