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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 21, 2005)
GAIL HAND IS LAUGHING THROUGH LIFE'S UPS AND DOWNS
BY JODI HELMER
PHOTOS BY MARTY DAVIS
ail Hand sees humor as a calling.
“1 wrote 10 jokes, and the audience laughed at
Throughout her life, she has used
seven of them,” she says.
humor to bond with others, sell prod
Hooked on the high of being on stage,
ucts and get through difficult times, and for Hand began performing at clubs around the
more than a decade, she has been making a liv country while maintaining a day job in sales.
ing hy making other people laugh.
At the start of her career, she says standup was
“1 have always looked at life in a very sar
donic manner,” says Hand. “Originally comedy
“1 made fun of dating and sex because 1
was a way to process the things that had hap
knew we all had ridiculous things happen to us,
pened in my life, hut when I realized I could he
and it was fun to share that humiliation,” she
getting paid for it, it was a no-hrainer.”
says. “1 would go on stage and talk about rela
Hand had her first audiences while working
tionships and process my breakups, and the
a host of jobs in customer service. “I was always audience would laugh.”
entertaining my customers, and 1 realized that 1
Despite the fact that Hand was beginning
sold more because I was funny,” she recalls.
to earn a living making people laugh, many of
“Being funny helped me he successful.”
the things that had happened in her life were
On a dare, Hand performed during an open
far from funny.
mike night at a San Francisco bar in 1989.
“I was 11 months old when my mom died,
Richard Voss, gri
Principal Broker / Owner
pvery woman's JJealth
and my grandmother and grandfather died
shortly thereafter,” Hand says.
Hand also faced the challenge of growing
up with a brother who is bipolar and border
line schizophrenic. “Having someone you love
so much he diagnosed with a mental illness
can make you crazy,” she says of Richard, who
is four years older. “My family had to deal
with his erratic behavior, which was not
Hand says her entire family dealt with the
mental illness through humor. “We would
joke about the funny things he did. We had
to, because otherwise it would have made us
Her brother also used humor to connect
with the family. “One of [Richard s] gifts is
humor. He knows that he is sick, but he has a
good mind,” Hand says. “He says a lot of funny
things. Even today, he’ll call and leave funny
messages on my answering machine.”
Humor also helped Hand come out to her
“I tried to come out as a teen-ager, but it
was too difficult,” she says. “I think one of the
reasons I got on stage in the first place was
because 1 had a lot to say that I felt 1 couldn’t
say anywhere else.”
At 21, Hand finally decided it was time to
tell her father and stepmother that she was gay.
“I told my mom, and then she got dnink and
told my dad, ‘Your daughter is a lesbian.’ My
dad sat me down and said he didn’t want it to
jeopardize my work or my life, and that was it.”
Today, Hand says her parents fall in love
with her girlfriends as deeply as she does and
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