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She's Wild, Wacky . . . and Edgy

Marga Gomez Mixes Frivolity With Thoughtful Substance


"Half Cuban, Half Lesbian" is the line comedian Marga Gomez uses to advertise her stand-up shows. It's as much a warning as a humorously stated fact. She simply doesn't want anyone blindly showing up expecting a traditional monologue from a traditional girl-next-door type.

Not only is Gomez both Cuban and lesbian, but she is by her own definition a wild and wacky, lewd and crude provocateur. Wind her up and she's apt to deliver some sexually explicit gags and stories that are bluer than a picture-perfect Montana sky.

Gomez, who plays the Coach House on Saturday, acknowledges that some of her adult humor is "frivolous" but that her stories and observations can also be thoughtful and spiced with recognizable truths.

Whether she's talking about condoms or lesbian pornography, her act taps into the humorously absurd and odd details that make up some of the most private aspects of life. And unlike Andrew Dice Clay, she doesn't use sex to demean others.

Though she began her career in the early-'80s, performing with San Francisco's feminist-directed Lilith theater group and then joined Los Angeles' Latino-oriented Culture Clash comedy ensemble, Gomez does not feel she's a spokeswoman for any cause. She is staunchly liberal in her political beliefs, and her shows tend to attract similarly minded folks, whether they're gay or straight.

"A lot of the people who come to the show are involved in political work, which [leads to] incredible burnout," she said by phone from her home in New York City. "So doing material about what we're up against is a good release. It's also a way of claiming your power over it too, to point out racists who go on television and say, 'I think all the Puerto Ricans should go back to Mexico.' I actually heard that one time.

"A lot of my material is also about cultural identity and stereotypes. I do this character who's a talk-show host who does a late-night show called 'Noche Line.' " In a thick accent, she continues: "Tonight on 'Noche Line' virginity: What it is, who has it, how you can get it!"

Gomez will also be trying out new material now that she's single again. She recently ended a relationship of seven years. The chatty comedian, whose animated performing style prompted one scribe to dub her "the Cuban Lucille Ball," said her anecdotes about love strike a universal chord.

"Relationships are the same," she said, whether you're homosexual or heterosexual. "You have your good days and your bad days."

Gomez's Cuban-born father, whose stage name was Willy Chevalier, was a well-known comedian and variety-show producer in New York City in the '50s and '60s. Her Puerto Rican mother was an exotic dancer who met Chevalier when she auditioned for one of his theater shows.

Gomez, an only child, was entranced by the excitement and characters that colored her father's productions, including the time she was a child and got to to walk the family Chihuahua onstage.

In the early '90s, Gomez wrote and starred in a one-woman play called "Memory Tricks." The drama is about her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease. In 1994, Gomez began staging "A Line Around the Block," a similarly styled play about her father, who died in 1983.

"I always wanted to write about them and record what they did because they're basically forgotten," said Gomez, whose TV credits include "HBO's Comic Relief VI" and "Rosie O'Donnell's Stand-Up Spotlight" on VH1. "The two of them were like the Lucy and Ricky of their time: a marriage of celebrities. They were big stars in New York.

"They made a big contribution to the life of Latinos of that time. It was more than just going to a show back then. It was like a community event. Everybody would see each other. It was something that gave people pleasure and relief from the hard jobs they had during the week."

In between "Memory Tricks" and "A Line Around the Block," Gomez staged another one-woman play called "Marga Gomez is Pretty, Witty and Gay," which dealt with sexual identity and relationship issues. She said its tone was far closer to her stand-up performances than her family tributes.

Today, Gomez is looking for ways to broaden her appeal and increase her income. She realizes that this goal isn't going to be accomplished by her latest creation, a "pornographic puppet show" in which she uses sexual devices as puppets. Performances of this drama have been staged in New York.

Gomez said that although acting is appealing to her, she hasn't placed a priority on landing her own sitcom.

"I see it happen so often where people put their life on hold for a few years to do a sitcom that has little chance of making it," she said. "What makes me apprehensive is that some of the shows I've loved have flopped."

For now, Gomez is happy enough about her guest spot on an upcoming episode of Tracey Ullman's HBO comedy series, "Tracey Takes On."

"I play a crazy Cuban voodoo girl," she said. "I'm going to be wild and wacky. I get to be me."

* Who: Comedian Marga Gomez.

* When: 8 p.m. Saturday, with Roxanna Ward.

* Where: Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

* Whereabouts: Exit Interstate 5 at Camino Capistrano and go left. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Plaza, on the right.

* Wherewithal: $13.50-$15.50.

* Where to call: (714) 496-8930.

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