Posted on 25 June 2013.
Interview by Dino Thompson-Sarmiento, Senior Writer
Edits by Berlin Sylvestre
Tony what brings you to the ATL?
I am coming to open for Joan Rivers on the 29th of June at the Atlanta Symphony Hall. I’m also there to support a local Atlanta charity, Positive Impact. I‘ll be doing a benefit at Blake’s on the Park on Saturday, June 29th between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Come out and support this benefit! There will be food, cocktails, and so much more. I’m so excited to come to Atlanta. It’s always such a great time and I’m just thrilled I’m able to do both in one trip. By the way you can ride in style with a designated driver for that day just download the Uber App on your smartphone and enter the code UBERLAUGHS for a discount and come see me at Blake’s!
We’re thrilled to have you! We gotta ask: What is it like to work with the Queen of Comedy Joan Rivers?
I would love to tell you that she’s tough as nails and she’s a total bitch who’s critical and hates everything, but that’s just not the case. The truth is, Joan has become like a grandmother to me. She is affectionate — we kiss ‘hello,’ we say ‘I love you’ when we’re saying goodnight, and she is far too involved in my life that any employer should be. I just recently moved into a new house and her very first question was: “Do you have enough china?” That tells you a little something about the lady I work for. She’s just wonderful. She’s constantly trying to find me a husband —she’s a Jewish mother, after all, and that’s what they do. She doesn’t understand why I’m such a nice boy, but don’t have someone. We laugh so hard and all the time. I’ve learned so much from her and she has the most incredible work ethic that I’ve ever witnessed. I’m so proud to call her a friend, a part of my family, and a complete mentor.
You work as a writer for “Fashion Police.” What do you prefer: being in the background or being on stage?
I definitely prefer being on stage and being on camera. That was my dream as a little gay boy growing up in Phoenix, AZ. I never saw anyone on television that I thought was like me. I always wanted to find a way, as an adult, to be on television so that other little gay kids growing up would see someone like them on television and in their homes. That said, to get to be behind the scenes and write jokes that are made 10 times better through the talent of someone like Joan Rivers is incredible as well. I really, really love my life — I have the best of both worlds.
Have you always been open about your sexuality?
I always knew. I remember being very small, maybe four or five years old, and noticing billboards and advertisements always had a man, a woman, and a child. I remember thinking to myself that when I grow up, I don’t imagine [my life] with a man, a woman, and a child; I imagine me, another man, and a child. So I knew there was something that wasn’t typical [about me]. I spent a very short time realizing there was no one like me on television, so I thought: “It must be really horrible … to be ‘that thing.’”
I remember watching “Charlie’s Angels,” and they showed pimps and drug dealers and criminals, but they never showed [gay people]. I remember thinking: “Gosh! It must be even worse!” Luckily, my parents were so accepting. I officially came out when I was 17, but I don’t think they needed me to actually say it. I think it’d been pretty clear. I never felt like my family was going to turn their backs on me or kick me out.
Tell us about your time as a Chippendale stripper.
It’s really weird. I made my living as a singer until 2001, and you really just go from job to job. You’re singing what people tell you to sing, so I was Aladdin for The Walt Disney Company for three years. At the same time, I got hired to sing for a Chippendale’s European tour, so I literally went from being this Disney character to being this guy singing between male strippers — that was a weird adjustment. One of the things that I always try to tell people, regardless of what they do for a living, is: “Say yes to everything.” All those experiences add up to make you who you are. I’m so grateful for it and the truth is, it wasn’t my favorite experience, dealing with male strippers. They weren’t the smartest, kindest people I’ve ever dealt with, but I will say: There’s nothing quite as hilarious as watching two straight men fistfight over waterproof mascara.
Tony, I think you’re a man’s man because of your willingness to fly out to Atlanta early and help raise funds for Positive Impact. Have you found your charity platform as you gain fame?
It comes back to that “Say yes to everything” philosophy. Anytime there’s a charitable organization that could possibly be helped by me showing up and telling my dirty stories for an hour, I’m thrilled to be there. There are people doing much tougher work. There are people volunteering at phone banks, the really tough fundraising, and those are the people who really deserve the credit. I’m thrilled anytime there’s an AIDS-related charity. I’m 43 years old. I’m of that generation that became sexually active right when MTV was putting condoms on bananas. I’m part of the first generation that knew what safer sex was and what the rules were and we’ve never really lived any other way. I find so many men my age are incredibly complacent about it and I find that troubling. So anytime I can do any work for an AIDS/HIV-related organization, I’m thrilled to step up.
What can we expect on season four of “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best”?
Oh, it’s great. We’ve been given the greenlight for season four and, as you know, Joan’s birthday is coming up in June. It’s pretty rare for a star of a television show to reach that milestone. I’m really hoping to incorporate some of the celebration, [even though] she doesn’t like birthdays. Melissa’s going to have to twist her arm and do a lot of secret planning behind the scenes in order for there to be any celebration — Joan’s just not having it. I hope the cameras are around to capture all of that. It’s such an adventure. I’m excited to see what happens in season four. Joan’s career is constantly getting hotter and hotter and she’s getting busier and busier, and at some point, she’s going to snap. I think the show’s going to be more about finding balance.
When can we see you in the thong again?
*laughs* I still can’t believe I thought that was a good idea, but I did it. I try to say yes to everything, and I will tell you that I’m such a sucker for a man with a big smile and a tiny ass. That combination can pretty much get me to do absolutely anything.
You’ve mentioned you’re single. Besides the smile and the small ass, what are you looking for in a man and do you think you can find him in the South?
I had my sophomore year of high school at Roswell High, so I only lived in Atlanta for one year. I was 14, so it’s not like I was really dating. I would love to have a nice romance with a Southern boy. I think everyone should experience that, but I’m only in town for a couple days. Can we make this happen? I’m at that age where I want a husband and a house. I work so much and I travel so frequently, that I’d love to have someone that could share it, that could be there at home at night. That’s very important to me.
Thank you Tony and we look forward to seeing you on the 29th at Blake’s. For tickets to the Positive Impact benefit click here.