Call Answered: Joely Fisher: "Growing Up Fisher", Feinstein's/54 Below, and "Ellen"
I will never forget when Joely Fisher joined the cast of Ellen as “Paige Clark” in the show’s second season. She was an instant favorite! I loved how Joely portrayed “Paige’s” self-centeredness. She was definitely the comic relief throughout the series.
From Inspector Gadget to Desperate Housewives, I have continued to enjoy watching what Joely does next!
In 2017, Joely released her memoir, Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories, and Misadventures, about life in the Fisher dynasty. Now, Joely is taking those stories and bringing them to the stage in her new cabaret concert.
Get a backstage look into the world of Joely’s career and family. Growing up in an iconic Hollywood dynasty with crooner Eddie Fisher and 60s sex kitten Connie Stevens as parents, Joely will share her unconventional coming of age story. She’ll also talk about how the loss of her unlikely hero, sister Carrie Fisher, ignited the writer and performer within.
Joely’s hilarious, irreverent, and down to earth show, based on her memoir Growing Up Fisher: Music, Memories, and Misadventures is filled with incredible music, candid stories, and never before seen photos that will break and warm your heart.
Joely Fisher will be at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on Thursday, November 15 and Friday, November 16 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This November you are coming to Feinstein's/54 Below with your show "Growing Up Fisher," based upon your 2017 memoir. What are you looking forward to most about performing at Feinstein's/54 Below? I’m actually super thrilled to be returning to New York in this way because I haven’t been on stage singing like this since I was in Cabaret on Broadway, which someone just reminded me was almost two decades ago.
I wrote this book, which was brought upon me by loss & tragedy, but turned out to be a creative/personal catharsis to write this story and be able to say, “Yes, I do have a book in me and now a show.”
The book came out a year ago and now it was just released in paperback. I went back in and tried to see if these stories still felt fresh and told with authenticity. The reality is, they’re my stories, and I’ve always been a storyteller, but this was a way for me to pull out all those journals/memories and get them down into a book.
I want people who have read the book say, “Oh, I want to see this person on stage. I liked her on Ellen, she makes me laugh, but I don’t think I have ever heard her sing.” For the people who have seen me do Broadway, they are going to get to see a different side of me in the pages of the book.
This show brings it all together and includes all the different facets of myself. There are some very vulnerable moments on stage where I get super raw & candid, but there are obviously fun moments that are meant to be entertaining. And all the while, I get to sing my little tits off, well, they’re not so little actually [we both laugh].
2. What do you think will surprise fans most about your live show? I feel they will be surprised by my eclectic choices of material & music. I have used my favorite stories/memories as glue to songs that are on the nose & fit perfectly. The audience will see that song goes with that story and that song reminds me of that memory.
Then there will be those moments where I was like “I just want to sing this song, how can I fit it into the Joely Fisher Story?”
It’s kind of all over the place in terms of music, but I think everybody will find something they love & recognize and maybe I introduce to some new tunes.
3. What was the first story you knew you had to include in the live show? I started building the show around an Eddie Fisher smackdown. I make a joke about it in the show, but it clues you in as to what my relationship with my father was like: the good, the bad, and the ugly. That story includes the things that have been recorded/chronicled about him at nauseam and the stuff that maybe you don’t know about him. Not to say my show is all about Eddie Fisher, but my name is Fisher and the book is Growing Up Fisher. I don’t tell everything on stage because we’d need more time. It’s not going to be a Harry Potter experience where you come back the second day, but I do get down & dirty.
4. What was one story you really wanted in the show, but in the end, you were just like, “It’s not going to make it?” I don’t think I leave anything out. I am trying to give everyone the full journey. I give the love story, the career story, the family history. I think in a really spectacular way I honor my sister Carrie. I talk about woman & power, my children & politics. I feel as though I share everything I wanted to.
5. In writing Growing Up Fisher, what did you learn about yourself that you didn't realize while living through a particular chapter? The biggest revelation for me was that I was courageous enough, and it really does feel brave for me, to lay it all out on the table. That I can tell people it’s okay to have missteps and it’s okay to fall. I’m very, very truthful in this book almost to a point where I wondered how this will be received & then I just felt, “To hell with this. I have to tell the story the way it happened.” I think people who read the book or see the show will definitely find out things about me they didn’t know.
I turned the pen on myself so that if someone wants to talk about me when I’m gone, I have put it out there in a way that I would like for you to hear it.
6. What was the easiest part of the book to write? I wouldn’t say it was easy because life isn’t easy, especially for me. I would say it came very naturally for me to write this book.
7. What was the hardest part to get through? The only thing hard about writing this book was that I’m a terrible typer, so I wrote it out in long hand [laughs].
In all seriousness, the book was very emotional to write. It was all digging very, very deep. There’s a chapter called “Blind Trust” which is about my money being embezzled. There was time I trusted someone with everything and for over two decades I didn’t realize she was stealing from me. I thought she was somebody who had my back, but instead she did me wrong. This is my way of telling everybody that I hit rock bottom.
This family has a history of not being great with money. The chapter talks about our spending habits compared to our earning ability, but how our second acts are really amazing. I feel like I’ve bounced back from it.
8. If I can switch gears for a moment, I'd like to ask you a question about Carrie Fisher. What is something you do on a day to day basis where you've caught yourself saying "Gosh, I wish Carrie were here for this"? For sure politics! I mean, “Don’t you want to hear what Carrie Fisher has to say about what’s going on in the world right now?” She was the smartest, most cleaver, most delightful, witty mind I ever knew. I was so happy to be in her small group of daily e-mails and to see the people I was included with. I’m her sister, but she didn’t have to include me or share her thoughts with me.
I have a whole relationship with people on social media that were her fans mostly, but there’s a generation out there who have issues with mental illness/addiction who thought they were going to survive because Carrie Fisher said they would, but now she’s died and there’s a whole lot of people out there who are mourning the loss of her, but are turning to me to say, “What do I do now?” I’ve tried to be a touchstone for a lot of people & it’s turned into something quite wonderful for me.
In 2019, I’m going to be starting the Fisher Foundation, along with my sister Tricia Leigh, which will provide scholarships/grants for people who can’t afford rehab and if their insurance doesn’t cover their medications. So, I’m going to pick-up the lightsaber & carry on her name in a graceful way and help as many people as I can.
9. I can't do an interview with you and not ask about one of my all time favorite TV shows, Ellen.
What did you relate to most about "Paige"? We had the same hair [laughs]. I found and still find today that I get cast as the sarcastic entitled best friend. I find that quality and rhythm easy to play, but I’m not that person. It was delightful to be able to deliver some of that crazy, self-involved great jokes. We made each other laugh a lot. We just did that 20th Anniversary on Ellen and I saw some clips where were are laughing and 100% can’t keep our shit together, and that’s how we were every show. We had so much fun! When we all got together for the reunion, we all went out to dinner, hung out all night, it was great!
Last April, the cast of Ellen reunited on Ellen's talk show for the first time in 20 years (that you were all in the same room together). What was that first memory you said, "Remember when..." It wasn’t really one thing we remembered. The day of the reunion was so emotional because the audience was filled with people who had told their stories of coming out after our show aired and what it was like to see us all together again. For us to hear those stories of people that said, “I watched you come out to your friends & your family and it made it okay.” Even though we talked about the crazy backlash and the negative stuff that happened after, which we all kind of lived through this darkness of Ellen’s journey, but we got to see the light and the bird fly out of its cage which was pretty amazing. It was a historic moment in television that we all got to be a part of it.
In my book I do talk about why the show is called “The Puppy Episode”, how I got the job, what it was like afterwards, and I do also say that when I read the script of the coming out episode, I was really happy for the voice “Paige” got to have in that she wasn’t happy right off the bat. Everybody else was like “Great! We always knew or I have a girl for you.” But “Paige” was like, “You need to give me a minute. I feel like I’ve been lied to and that our whole relationship isn’t real.” I think that reaction represented the way a lot of people felt the show & about Ellen.
In this day and age of reboots, is there ANY discussion of a reboot? Of course I’m on the only show that is not going to get rebooted. I can’t see Ellen doing that schedule again. She’s got an amazing life doing the talk show. But if she wants to produce the reboot of “Paige,” that’s okay [laughs].
If there was a reboot of some kind, where do you think "Paige" would be today? She’s running a studio. She’s definitely divorced. She’s a cougar for sure. And she probably has a rotten daughter that is giving her all the shit that she gave everybody.
There’s a lot that goes into who owns the character because “Paige” was brought in after the first season, but I reached out to the studio and said to them, “I’ve got an idea. What if “Ellen Morgan” is dead? Then Ellen could do the voiceover and say “Look at my friends, they’re exactly the same as they were. Look at my cousin “Spence,” he’s still an asshole. Then “Audrey” is like living in Connecticut with a slew of perfect children that look as if they are right out of an L.L. Bean catalog and “Joe” runs the only bookstore in America and because nobody buys books anymore, it’s now an internet cafe.” I have it all written, I just have to get it to the right person.
10. You have worked in every medium of entertainment...Film, TV, Broadway, Music, Books. What is something you still want to accomplish? I am directing my first movie. We are putting it together. We just got financed and we are casting right now. I love that path. I have been directing television: some 1/2 hour comedies, socially conscious PSAs, and some music videos. I’m embarking on that part of my career right now. I feel like that’s going to be my second act and I feel it will be just as sparkly as the first half.
I feel missing from television right now. I’ve had enough of a hiatus and I’m ready to get back to work. I’d love to do a role on an ensemble drama, which I haven’t gotten to do so much. I’m sure there’s another 1/2 hour series in me and who knows, maybe another Broadway show.
11. I have a component to my interviews called "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear-up misconceptions about my interviewees. What do you feel is the biggest misconception out there about yourself that you would like to clear up right now? I’m very blessed to have the career I have, but there might be a misconception that it came easy for me because I was in a family that was successful/famous. I’ve worked really, really hard. I’m a hustler and I’m driven. I don’t take no for an answer and sometimes I don’t take yes for an answer.
When I did the National Tour of Cabaret, Rob Marshall and Sam Mendes directed, Rob told me “The world needs to see you do this. I don’t think people understand what a gift you have.” This isn’t me telling you how fabulous I am, I truly feel like there’s so much of what I do that hasn’t been seen.
More on Joely:
Joely Fisher made her movie debut in the comedy Pretty Smart. From there she went on to play “Kris” in TV's Schoolbreak Special drama Dedicated to the One I Love. Next came the feature I'll Do Anything starring Nick Nolte.
She had a variety of guest roles on series such as Growing Pains, Blossom, Caroline in the City, The Golden Palace, The Outer Limits, Grace Under Fire and Coach.
In 1994, she was cast as “Paige Clark” on the sitcom Ellen. She played the role until the series ended in 1998. That same year, she earned a Golden Globe Award nomination.
She followed Ellen with the role of “Dr. Brenda Bradford” in the feature movie Inspector Gadget opposite Matthew Broderick.
Joely made her Broadway debut in the revival of Grease (1994) as a replacement in the role of “Rizzo”. She was also a replacement in the revival of Cabaret (1998) as “Sally Bowles.”
Joely's career in music not only landed her on Broadway but has her featured on several albums. Her most noted album was Tradition; a family at Christmas which she, her mother Connie Stevens all sang various Christmas carols. She sang her own solo "Grown Up Christmas List". Joely can also be heard singing "One For My Baby" in Harold Arlen's album STAGE.
From 2003 until 2005, Joely starred in the Lifetime network's drama series Wild Card as insurance investigator “Zoe Busiek,” which was followed by a recurring role as “Lynette's” (Felicity Huffman) boss “Nina” on ABC’s Desperate Housewives.
From 2006 until 2010, Fisher starred opposite actor Brad Garrett as “Joy Stark” in the Fox TV sitcom 'Til Death.
Since ‘Til Death, Joely has been directing. In 2017, Joely released her memoir Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories, and Misadventures via Harper Collins.