When comedian Fortune Feimster’s father went in for open heart surgery earlier this fall, her family got support from one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, her new friend, action movie icon Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I got a FaceTime from Arnold saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell me your dad was having open heart surgery?’ Feimster told Revue. “I was like well you’re a very busy guy. But Arnold had also gone through that, so he wanted to FaceTime my dad to give him some tips from his own experience. So when I visited my dad, I called Arnold and they got to FaceTime for about five minutes. It was a really cool experience that meant a lot to me and my dad. My dad was definitely a fan. Arnold was like in every hit movie my dad watched.”
Having The Terminator in your corner can help give anyone strength when they’re pulling through a difficult ordeal, so it was a highlight that came during an otherwise hard time for the comedian, who had shared on social media how challenging her father’s recovery was after having an aortic valve replacement and double bypass.
“He’s doing better,” she said. “It’s still a long road to recovery ahead. But he was in the hospital for a month due to some complications, but he’s at least out of there and now in a rehab facility to work on his walking and swallowing. I was able to go visit him while he was in the hospital and it was nice to be there. He wasn’t in the laughing mood, but I was able to make the nurses laugh. I’ve always used laughter to get through hard times. I definitely think it helps, especially when you’re not feeling your best.”
Feimster last performed in Grand Rapids as part of last year’s LaughFest, and she definitely shares that organization’s mission statement that laughter is often the best medicine. Her current Live Laugh Love! Tour (coming to DeVos Performance Hall Nov. 24) has a similar ethos, reclaiming the long cliché expression, and reemphasizing the importance of the simplicity of those three words – with jokes of course.
But when it comes to Grand Rapids, Feimster said she will never forget performing at Dr. Grins years ago, as it’s an important place to her then fiancé now wife Jacquelyn “Jax” Smith (who she married in 2020 during the pandemic).
“I always think of Jax’s grandmother, Beverly, when I come to Grand Rapids,” Feimster said. “She was from Hastings, which is about 45 minutes away. And the first time I met her was when I was doing the comedy club in Grand Rapids. I was nervous about impressing her because Jax loved her so much. And she came and hung out with just the two of us on the top floor of the JW Marriott, and loved looking out and seeing all of Grand Rapids. We ended up having the best weekend with her.”
Clearly family in all its forms is at the heart of Feimster’s life and comedy, so to see it expand to include someone like Schwarzenegger becoming a friend has been surreal.
From breaking out on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” back in 2010, to landing her latest special “Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune” on Netflix, the native North Carolinian has taken her uniquely Southern charm and heartfelt comedy into the acting world. Most recently, she became an unlikely action star alongside Schwarzenegger earlier this year, and has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, which she couldn’t discuss because of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.
“It’s never easy going on strike because it’s something that affects thousands of people,” Feimster said. “It affects the local economy. No one wants to be out of work. But actors and writers have to have a living wage. The people you see making a butt load of money represent such a small fraction of our business. Most live paycheck to paycheck. Plus technology is changing at a rapid pace and our union leaders have to do what they can to preserve our business and protect the people who work in it; not just for now, but for the generations to come.”
Having worked hard for over a decade for her success, Feimster firmly showed her solidarity in the strike for all her fellow actors, but also gladly shared that she’s kept busy, with both her own podcast “Sincerely Fortune,” where she more personally shares with her fans like family, and her latest podcast, “Handsome,” with fellow comedians Tig Notaro and Mae Martin launched this past summer.
“This was a very unexpected venture,” Feimster said. “Tig called me up and had this idea. We weren’t sure exactly what the podcast would be, but all three of us were excited just at the prospect of working together. We taped a couple of episodes before we honed in on what it was, and every episode we just kept laughing more and more. So we’re really proud of it. I love that we all come from similar worlds, but with very different perspectives. And it’s so cool it’s resonating with people. We already have over a million downloads and we’re only seven episodes in, so I look forward to seeing where this goes, and I know we’ll be laughing a lot.”
Fortune Feimster: Live Laugh Love!
DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Nov. 24, 7 p.m., $25+
(616) 742-6500, devosperformancehall.com, fortunefeimster.com