Lea DeLaria

Last updated

Lea DeLaria
Lea DeLaria at the International Emmy Awards.jpg
DeLaria in 2015
Born (1958-05-23) May 23, 1958 (age 61)
  • Comedian
  • actress
  • jazz singer
Years active1982–present
Website www.leadelaria.com

Lea DeLaria (born May 23, 1958) is an American comedian, actress, and jazz singer. [1] [2] [3] DeLaria is credited with being the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk show with her 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show . [4] She is best known for her portrayal of inmate Carrie "Big Boo" Black on Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black .


Early life

DeLaria was born in Belleville, Illinois, [1] [2] the daughter of Jerry Jean (née Cox), a homemaker, and Robert George DeLaria, a jazz pianist and social worker. [2] [5] Her paternal grandparents were Italian. [3] She attended kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Mary's Elementary School in Belleville [6] and has referenced her Catholic upbringing in her performances.


Uzo Aduba, Dascha Polanco, Samira Wiley, Lea DeLaria and Alysia Reiner from Orange Is the New Black in 2015 Orange Is the New Black cast.jpg
Uzo Aduba, Dascha Polanco, Samira Wiley, Lea DeLaria and Alysia Reiner from Orange Is the New Black in 2015

DeLaria's stand-up career began in 1982 when she moved to San Francisco and performed raunchy stand-up comedy in the Mission District. [7] [8] Discussing her stand up, Delaria says, "This is who I am, when I'm up there. This is it. I'm a big butch dyke. That's who I am. And I'm a friendly one. I'm a big butch dyke with a smile on my face." [7]

In 1986, DeLaria directed "Ten Percent Revue", a musical revue with songs related to homosexuality and most of which reflect pride in being gay. [9] "Ten Percent Revue" was performed in Boston, San Francisco, Provincetown, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. [10] Many shows were sold out. [10]

In 1988, DeLaria starred in "Dos Lesbos", a musical comedy about two lesbians dealing with the issues of living together. [11] The show received very favorable reviews nationwide. [12]

DeLaria starred in "Girl Friday: We're Funny That Way", a musical comedy, in 1989. [13] [14]

When DeLaria appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993, she was the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk-show. While appearing on the show, DeLaria said, "Hello everybody, my name is Lea DeLaria, and it's great to be here, because it's the 1990s! It's hip to be queer! I'm a big dyke." [15] DeLaria later said she had been told that she should not have used the term dyke on the air. [6] Hall later defended her, saying, "If she wants to call herself a dyke, that's her business." [6]

In December 1993, DeLaria hosted Comedy Central's Out There, the first all-gay stand-up comedy special. [4]

DeLaria is also known for her touring "musical comedy about perverts", Dos Lesbos (1987–1989), as well as Girl Friday, a comedy she conceived, wrote, directed and starred in, and which won the 1989 Golden Gull for Best Comedy Group in Provincetown, Massachusetts. [16]

DeLaria has released two CD recordings of her comedy, Bulldyke in a China Shop (1994) and Box Lunch (1997). She has also written a humorous book entitled Lea's Book of Rules for the World.

DeLaria appeared as Jane in the 1998 Off Broadway production of Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, "a gay retelling of the Bible." [17] Entertainment Weekly said "a star is born with Lea DeLaria" of her "showstopping" performance as Hildy Esterhazy in the 1998 Broadway revival of On the Town . [18] [19] [20]

DeLaria subsequently played Eddie and Dr. Scott in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show , and can be heard on the cast recording. [21] DeLaria appeared in a number of films, including Edge of Seventeen and The First Wives Club

DeLaria integrates musical performance into her stand-up comedy, focusing on traditional and modern be-bop jazz. In 2001 she released a CD of jazz standards called Play It Cool . This was followed by the album Double Standards in 2003, [22] [23] and by The Very Best of Lea DeLaria in 2008.

In 2001, DeLaria was the voice of Helga Phugly on the short-lived, animated sitcom, The Oblongs . In 1999 DeLaria played the recurring role of Madame Delphina on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live , returning in 2008 as both Delphina and Professor Delbert Fina. She continued to portray Delphina on a recurring basis until 2011. [24]

In 2008, Warner Records released The Live Smoke Sessions, DeLaria's first recording focused on "timeless pop standards" such as "Down With Love," "Night and Day," "Love Me or Leave Me" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." She noted, "I styled this CD on the old school live recordings ... It is my hope that this CD will take you back to 1948 and the Village Vanguard. So please let me invite you to mix a cocktail and enjoy a smoke while you sit back and soak up the swing." [25]

In November 2008, DeLaria completed a tour of Australia, playing Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. She also frequently collaborates with comedian Maggie Cassella, most notably on an annual Christmas cabaret show in Toronto, Ontario which also sometimes tours to several other North American cities. In July 2010, her version of "All That Jazz" was used on So You Think You Can Dance . DeLaria is currently performing in Prometheus Bound at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 2013, she has appeared in the Netflix Original Orange Is the New Black as the recurring character prison inmate Carrie 'Big Boo' Black. [26] [27] [28]

On February 14, 2015, DeLaria received the Equality Illinois Freedom Award for her work as "a cutting-edge performer who has used her talent to entertain and enlighten millions of Americans," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. On receiving the award at the 2015 Equality Illinois Gala in Chicago, DeLaria said, "As an out performer for over 33 years who has made it her life's work to change peoples perception of butch, queer and LGBT, it is an honor for me to receive such recognition from my home state. I feel I'm doing Belleville proud. Go Maroons!". [29] [30] [31]

The U-Haul Joke

DeLaria is the originator of the U-Haul Joke [32] (see also U-Haul lesbian) which she began performing at comedy shows in 1989.

Question: "What does a lesbian bring on a second date?"

Answer: "A U-Haul."

The U-Haul Joke is well known in North American Lesbian culture and has also been featured on several television shows including ER (TV series) and The L Word.

Personal life

In January 2015, DeLaria became engaged to fashion editor Chelsea Fairless after two and a half years of dating. The two met through Fairless's friend, actress Emma Myles, who plays Leanne in Orange is the New Black . [33] In January 2017, DeLaria confirmed she and Fairless had separated. [34]


Comedy albums

Jazz albums

Guest vocalist

Broadway and film



1996Rescuing DesireSadie
1996 The First Wives Club Elise's fan National Board of Review Award: Best Acting by an Ensemble
1997 Plump Fiction Mr. Purple
1998Homo HeightsClementine
Edge of Seventeen Angie
2006Fat Rose and SqueakyFat RoseCo-starring Cicely Tyson as 'Squeaky'
2013 Ass Backwards Deb
Dear Dumb DiaryMs. Bruntford
2016Bear with UsChief Ranger Stewart (voice)
2017 Cars 3 Miss Fritter (voice)
2018 Support the Girls Bobo


1993Out ThereHerselfTV film
Camp ChristmasHerselfTV film
In the Life Herself/Guest host1 episode
1994 Matlock Det. Pat Jordan2 episodes
1994–95 The John Larroquette Show Lorelei2 episodes
1995 Tom Clancy's Op Center Capt. WhiteTV film
Saved by the Bell: The New Class Miss Hearst1 episode
Out There in HollywoodHerselfSequel to the 1993 TV movie Out There
1996 Friends WomanEpisode: "The One with the Lesbian Wedding"
1997 The Drew Carey Show Jewel1 episode
1998In Through The Out DoorVarious characters (also writer)TV film
We're Funny That Way! HerselfDocumentary
1999 Great Performances Herself/PerformerTV series
1999–2011 One Life to Live Madame Delphina 31 episodes
2000 The Beat KathyUnknown episodes
2001 Further Tails of the City Willie OmiakTV mini-series
The Oblongs Helga Phugly7 episodes
The Job Kiki1 episode
Cabaret Live!Herself/Performer
2002 Just for Laughs Herself/PerformerTV Movie
2003 Will & Grace Nurse Carver1 episode
The Award Show Awards ShowHerselfTV special
2004Mercury in RetrogradeBetsy BrickTV short
2006Outlaugh!Herself/PerformerTV special
2009Ptown DiariesDeLariaTV movie
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit FrankieEpisode: "Transitions"
2012 Californication DebbieEpisode: "Raw"
Submissions Only Auditioner #4Episode: "Another Interruption"
2013 Dear Dumb Diary Ms. BruntfordTV film
2013–2019 Orange Is the New Black Carrie "Big Boo" Black Recurring season 1-3, regular season 4-5, guest season 6-7 (63 episodes)
2014 Awkward TattooistEpisode: "After Hours"
2014–2017 Clarence EJ / various characters (voice)9 episodes
2014Tellement Gay! Homosexualité et pop cultureHerselfDocumentary
2015 The Jim Gaffigan Show HerselfEpisode: "The Bible Story"
2017 Baroness von Sketch Show BrinaEpisode: "Don't Make Me Send a Lawyer Up There"
Broad City DebEpisode: "Bedbugs"
Shameless BarbEpisode: "Frank's Northern Shuttle Express"
2019 The Code Episode: "1st Civ Div"
Reprisal Queenie

Video games

2017 Cars 3: Driven to Win Miss FritterVoice


2015Theater PeopleGuest
2017The Naked American SongbookGuest
2017Vulture Fest Live: Lea DeLariaGuest
2018Ways to Change the WorldGuest
2018Woman's HourGuest
2019The Horrors of Dolores RoachCleats

Awards and nominations

1998 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical On The Town Nominated
Obie Awards Won [35]
Theatre World Award Won
2015 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Orange Is the New Black Won
Screen Actors Guild AwardOutstanding Performance by and Ensemble in a Comedy SeriesOrange is the New BlackWon
2017 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Orange Is the New Black Won

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