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Comedian provides a 'Fay' ol' time
by Sarah Toce

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Beloved comedian Fay Jacobs will grace the Center on Halsted stage for the first time in her career on Sunday, July 9.

Her previous stint in Chicago occurred more than 10 years ago for a reading at Women & Children First and was at a completely different time and place. Now she's headed back to the Windy City to present her latest rendezvous with aging titled 50 Shades of Fay.

"I'm most looking forward to making people laugh and thinking about how far we've come on the road to full equality," Jacobs told Windy City Times. "Hopefully [the audience] will laugh with me on the relatable tales of aging in place—whatever that place may be."

Laughing is indeed the best medicine in times of uncertainty and stress—two items greatly affecting the aging population in America.

"As a humorist, it's my job to see the tough stuff through a funny lens," Jacobs said. "My show looks at issues like staying fit…Did you know there's a smart bra that works as a pedometer?; Cataract surgery…It's terrifying to wake up, look in a mirror and more clearly see your wrinkles; and remembering when we smoked joints instead of replacing them."

Along with the humor, the show's narrative follows both the trajectory of the fight for equal rights and some of the hilarious and relatable indignities of getting older.

The bulk of her incredibly relatable performance in 50 Shades of Fay is borrowed from real experiences.

"Much of the funny stuff is from my books, but the narrative is also based on my work for gay rights and marriage equality," Jacobs ruminated. "I remember the first time a newspaper quoted me on an issue and attributed it to 'Fay Jacobs, gay activist.' I gasped, but then realized it was true. And some of those tales are great examples of my motto 'Nothing is so bad if it's worth the story you can tell.'"

Jacobs has been a mainstay in women's festivals around the world, most notably gigs on Olivia cruises and in LGBTQ meccas like Ft. Lauderdale, Winston-Salem, Philadelphia, Allentown, Asheville, Rehoboth Beach, Provincetown and others.

The goal of her repertoire is relatively simple: It's time to laugh … at yourself.

"When I am telling stories about aging—like when I talk about 'the organ recital,' when your friends sit around discussing which of their organs are deteriorating, I hope folks who relate have a good laugh at themselves - and those who don't see it as funny and learn that it's okay, mandatory actually, to laugh at life's humiliations," she shared.

Millennials have a coveted place at Jacobs' performance table as well.

"There have been many millennials who've seen my show, on Olivia or in P-town, for instance," she said. "I was especially touched by the young women who'd tell me they had no idea about some of the discrimination issues and hard times in the '60s, '70s and '80s."

Inviting the younger crowd in to the wonders of aging is a happy medium for all involved, it seems.

"I'm always careful to give the young ones permission to laugh with me for the stories about my getting older," she said. "They'll have their turn!"

Does Jacobs have any advice for the not-yet-wrinkled children of our era?

"I tell them, 'Keep a sense of humor. It will save your butt,'" she admitted.

Jacobs has been awarded multiple times for her works of literature and is a staple in the LGBTQ community—and aging community. How does she select which stories to bring to the big stage?

"Since I started touring in 2015, the narrative has stayed pretty much the same, but some of the fun stories get changed, depending on the crowd, or as I have new material published," she shared. "At a show in DC last week, I added a story that happened just the day before, when I was online with computer tech support and the fellow in Mumbai, or wherever the call center was, complimented me on my keyboard speed and grasp of his commands, 'for someone of your age.' I didn't know whether to feel proud or report him."

Audiences who've seen Jacobs' hilarity in person before need not worry about disappointment.

"Folks who have heard me at readings and book conferences will find this show a completely different experience," she said. "And for folks who have seen it, there are new stories. And truthfully, every show is different because audiences react differently. This one, with a large LGBT audience, should be especially fun since so many of the stories will be relatable to the crowd."

Jacobs has been married for more than 35 years to her wife, Bonnie. So, how's married life?

"It's a 35-year discussion! Bonnie and I met in 1982, got married in Canada in 2003, civil unioned in Delaware in 2012, saw that convert to marriage in 2013 with the Edie Windsor decision. So I think it's a done deal," she said.

Did anything substantially change with the added classifications of their relationship during this time? Not so much.

"I never, ever thought I would see marriage equality in my lifetime, so it's a big deal," she said. "Of course, our 35-year relationship didn't really change, just the protections we have—and that's nothing to laugh at. I can laugh when Bonnie says, 'It might only be 17.5 years because I only listen to her half the time.'"

The wives live in a boat, two condos, two houses and an RV.

"Well, not simultaneously!" she quipped. "In the past 20 years in Rehoboth Beach, we started out in a boat, graduated to two different condos, then a house and an RV and now we've become downwardly mobile and live in an ... ahem … manufactured home. Actually, it's great, because we can just turn off the water, lock the door and winter in Florida. But the trailer park jokes have been a blessing."

Something that Jacobs said hasn't been a blessing is the current White House administration. "The only thing our current administration has made great again is late-night comedy," she said.

Catch Jacobs' performance of 50 Shades of Fay at the Center on Halsted Sunday, July 9. Tickets are available at

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