A new collection from an icon in and out of the LGBT community
I Told You So is a hilarious, bittersweet, and politically acute survival guide. In collected columns and routines, Kate Clinton gleefully details personal coping techniques tested over a lifetime. They’re perfectly suited for political and cultural upheaval: wildcatting for democracy, curbing your cynicism, and changing the climate. Read them and you’ll never be voted off the island.
Clinton’s new collection spans refreshingly disparate topics: sexual hypocrisy and gay marriage; girls gone wild and boys gone to war; Hillary Clinton and U.S. politics; Obama props and prop hates; baptism and waterboarding, as well as intelligent design, families of choice, and even bee colony collapses. With intriguing titles such as “The Sistine Shusher,” “Lights out on Bush,” and “The Closet and the Confessional,” the essays in the book are classic Clinton-provocative, thoughtful, and edgy.
As a humorist for over twenty-five years, Clinton believes that making light-light enough to see and light enough to move-is what sustains us. What unites the essays is a Mobius strip of humor intended not to dissipate outrage but rather to motivate action.
“Kate Clinton makes our world bigger by sharing hers. With her laser beam wit, she offers up a series of bittersweet, twisted, tart and tangy, honest and from the heart essays. I enjoyed every minute of viewing the world through her eyes. All that and she is funny.” —Lewis Black, The Daily Show
“A hilarious, jam-packed and fun-filled collection of thoughts from the mind of an American original.” —Lily Tomlin
“I Told You So is true, terrifying, and coffee-out-your-nose funny. I love Kate Clinton. Buy the book, or I’ll sic the NSA on your ass.” —Rachel Maddow, Host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC and Air America
Review: The Gay and Lesbian Times - July 1, 2009
“Hot-button topics such as same-sex marriage . . . gays in the military and religious hypocrisy are fertile fodder for the author’s intelligently caustic ridicule. But Clinton also has the knack of spinning even the small moments of everyday life into comic gold.”
Review: Jane and Jane Magazine - June 1, 2009
“Along with her brilliant delivery, indefatigable work ethic, and uncompromising political courage, Kate Clinton possesses the superpower of maintaining consistent relevancy in our fickle, sound-bite-driven, instant-downloadable age.”
Review: Ms. - April 1, 2009
“Clinton proves in these essays—which cover topics from the inherent lesbianism of Sex and the City to three-dimensional thesauri—that she still ranks among the sharpest, funniest working comedians.”
Review: Washington Blade - March 6, 2009
“Funny lesbian Kate Clinton’s book of vignettes, “I Told You So” (May), throws just as many ingredients into the pot — she riffs on Hillary Clinton and waterboarding, baptism and Provincetown — but comedic license and her own wicked sense of humor, allow Clinton a kind of thematic ADD that fiction would not afford.”
I Told You So was completed at the end of July 2008. This book is a collection of columns from magazines, essays translated from earlycentury Bloggerean, and material written especially for this compilation. After I sent the document file of my book to my editor just by warily pressing Send, I made a big flourish of checking off the last day of my six-month writing schedule. I cleaned off my desk, filed two trees’ worth of hard-copy rewrites, and turned my full attention to writing for my summer show in Provincetown.
For more than twenty years I have performed in July and August in Provincetown. I write something new every day, especially if the weather is bad; I ride my bike down to the club and try the lines out at night. My audience knows that a lot of the material is being workshopped for the show I will take on the road in the fall. They know because generally I tell them.
Some weeks a brilliant three pages of newly minted material becomes an aside after only three shows. But other times a throwaway line gets a surprising response and over a few performances grows to a brand-new ten minutes. My audiences like being part of the process. They often talk to me after a show: “When you said that, I thought you were going to go this way,” as if the show were on MapQuest, but then they finish with the perfect punch line that had eluded me. Since I have joke dyslexia, they kindly point out when I have reversed setup and punch line altogether. Or they tell me their stories. I take notes. I promise them royalties.
My partner of twenty years has said to me after almost every show she has seen, “Well, that was too long, but you need to do more political stuff.” Over the years, and because of the world, I have become more political. Actually I am a full-blown junkie. My shows reflect that. On the Provincetown entertainment menu of drag shows, piano bars, Broadway adaptations, theater, and comedy, I am the entre known as “that political one.”
In the past, doing a lot of political material for people on their precious one- or two-week vacation in a resort town could be dicey. They have been at the beach all day reading trashy beach books or boogie boarding. They have not kept up. Some nights I felt that I was anchoring a news show, not so much doing a comedy show. Instead of laughter, I would hear, “I wish she had this on PowerPoint.” The summer of 2008 was like nothing I had ever witnessed. It was not just because critical mass had been reached in the possession of personal handheld devices. Nor was it because the town mothers and fathers had finally gotten some decent radio transmitters and fewer people had to stand out in parking lots screaming into their cell phones, “I can’t hear you!” That summer Wi-Fi was the preferred guesthouse amenity. More than a private bath. No one wanted off the grid. No one wanted to miss anything. Even on vacation.
Would the Hillary supporters get over themselves and make the change to Obama? Could Obama really beat McCain? The town slept fitfully, waiting for a text message about Obama’s choice for vice president. Would he pick Hillary? In the line at the Grand Union, strangers would say, “Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about Palin.” Increasingly panicked mass e-mails from California warned of the passage of Prop Hate, the anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative. Everyone bemoaned high gas prices. Bear Stearns Week trumped the fun of Bear Week. International tourists crowded town during Carnival Week. Some shops accepted euros. In one ominous sign, the store called Don’t Panic was shuttered.
When your situation room is a resort town in August, it is difficult to convey the seriousness of some developments to vacationers. It is also perhaps cruel. In one late August show I joked about George W., back stateside from the Chinese Olympics, which had been brought to us by our own credit card debt. With not one little toenail left on his moral footprint, and still president-erect from cruising the Olympic volleyball babes and hectoring China on its human rights abuses, our spectator in chief excoriated Russia for its preemptive strike on Georgia. You could practically hear the world snorting, or maybe it was me.
After the show, I was talking to one very sunburned woman and realized she thought Russia had invaded the state of Georgia. (No, it was not Sarah Palin.) She confided, “If they can fix the Atlanta airport, I’m all for it. They should give them Florida while they’re at it.” But even at half-attention, people were more politically and passionately interested in politics than I could recall.
After Labor Day and before my tomatoes had ripened, dammit, I finished my summer-long run and returned to Manhattan with a shiny new show for fall touring. But every day brought such dizzying change, I wrote new material and eased out pieces that seemed dated with just a week’s shelf life, because the show was getting as long as a Bruce Springsteen show. I felt like an embedded war correspondent just a sentence or two ahead of breaking news.
Whenever I thought back to some sections of the book I had had to turn in at the end of July, they seemed like all setup without punch line, cruel foreplay. I regretted not being able to finish the Clinton- Obama/McCain-Palin/Prop Hate/campaign/election story lines. It seemed unfair, unfinished.
As we who wanted a woman president almost learned from Sarah Palin, be careful what you wish for. In early September, I received a call from my editor at Beacon Press requesting an additional chapter to conclude the political dramas I had been following. Though I had a busy fall tour schedule, it was like receiving a reprieve from the governor. And at sixty, I find I work well on deadlines.
The stay of publication also allowed me to move on. This time, when I finished the last chapter, the book felt finished. I felt finished. Eight long years of being Kate the Designated Bush Watcher can make you very cynical. Yes it can. I am finished living in I-told-youso. The schaden is off my freude. I am eager to transition into my new job: Kate the Happy Chronicler of the Successes of the Bush Toxic Cleanup Committee, the Great Restoration Hardware Voting Rights Act, the International War Crimes Tribunal, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Actual Intelligent Design Project, the Stepping Aside of the Baby Boomer Ritual, and the Cynicism Abatement Task Force.
Kate Clinton on The Rachel Maddow Show
Kate Clinton's new video on Beacon Broadside
Kate Clinton on Grit TV with Laura Flanders on May 1st discussing the 100-year anniversary of Progressive Magazine