Julie Brown is a singer, actress, and comedienne extraordinaire. She was a hit on MTV with her kitschy, hilarious songs, including “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun”, “I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid” and “Girl Fight Tonight.”
She also won our hearts in Clueless as Coach Diemer and as this month’s Miss October (a compliment she remembered as long as she could) in her iconic song ‘’Cause I’m A Blonde.” She brought us a California fairy tale with aliens, makeovers, and Angelyne with the cult classic movie Earth Girls Are Easy and parodied Madonna, Tonya Harding, and lots of other real-life characters in Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful and Attack of the 5’2 Women.
This multi-talented performer (and former RuPaul’s Drag Race judge) recently brought her MTV series Just Say Julie to the podverse and chatted with us about the rigors of podcasting, her latest movie projects, and lots more in our exclusive interview.
Where did you hone your comedy chops?
I was going to acting school in San Francisco at American Conservatory Theater and you know, everything was so serious and I met this guy, Charlie Coffey, and we would just goof around and started writing stuff. And in his third year, he was supposed to do a show – and all the other third-year students did super serious shows – and we decided to do a comedy show, like a Saturday Night Live type of show. We did it at this incredibly serious school and everybody loved it. They went crazy for it. Then we got booked at a nightclub before I even graduated. So then I was going, well, this is really fun versus, you know… I mean, I do like theater. I really do, but it was just so much more fun.
Who are your comedy inspirations?
I would say like early on Lily Tomlin, the people on Laugh-In and particularly her, because she was doing characters and Jonathan Winters…he was brilliant. Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, Richard Pryor – those were the people that I first got really excited about and we’d listen to their albums. And then I was pretty young when I started performing in San Francisco, [I was] like 20 and I performed at this place sometimes called the Holy City Zoo, which is where Robin Williams performed. But mostly I performed in gay clubs.
How did you make the move into music?
Oh, that started in San Francisco. We just started writing a lot of comedy songs and people would really like them. So, when I came down here – we moved down back to LA. I grew up in LA, and we moved back here because I wanted to be an actress, and [Charlie] didn’t want to do [comedy] anymore.
So I’m doing stand-up by myself and it’s just horrible because it’s mostly straight clubs, which, you know, are the worst. And I just thought, you know, finally, it occurred to me that I should do music because I really loved it when I first did it. And music has more energy to it than just pure stand-up.
So, I started thinking of these songs, and then my writing partner and I wrote them together, and then I started performing. And the interesting thing was that the gay audiences loved them so much. I mean, they became popular on K-Rock and local radio, and then they shared it with other radio stations. So, it was really just a way for me to get attention doing comedy. I like stand-up, but I don’t love stand-up. You know what I mean? Just for me to go out there and do pure stand-up. I’m like, okay. I wanted to have more energy than that, so it was just what I landed on to make my act be more exciting to me.
Do you remember the first song that you wrote?
When we were an act, the first one was called “Psycho on the Run” and it was about a girl who has a psychotic boyfriend. It was sort of styled after those 60s songs, those girl group songs, but it was about a boyfriend who was insane, but I was still really in love with him.
And then, I did a song about Anita Bryant called “Don’t Make My Child a Homo” and that was really popular. And so, we just start doing songs in clubs and they loved it. It was so surprising. So then, when I came down to LA, I wasn’t working with Charlie anymore and I was like, “Oh, man, what am I going to do?” So, for about six months, I went kind of crazy trying to figure out what to do. And then I just thought of “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun”. The whole thing just occurred to me. And so, we wrote that and then we started writing more songs and I started performing them and people liked them a lot. It was just more fun to me than stand up, a lot more fun. So, the first song I actually produced was “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun”.
I know they’re like children, but do you have a favorite song that you’ve written?
Yeah, that’s hard because I like “Homecoming Queen”. I like “Vague”, you know, the one I did [for the Madonna parody Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful], I liked that one. I liked “’Cause I’m a Blonde” because I would say in general, that’s the one people like the most, I would say maybe those three.
Earth Girls Are Easy was recently the topic of a Midnight Mass podcast and I loved hearing you discuss it. What was it like to have your ideas up on the big screen in a feature film?
It was weird. I should’ve probably been more surprised by it, but in my mind, I just thought, yes, this is a great idea. Of course, they’re going to do it, you know, and I sold it in the room, like I’m pitching it and they go, yes, we’ll buy it. So I thought, this is easy, what’s the problem? And then we write 20 drafts and then they make me do a screen test – because I’m supposed to play Valerie. Then they say, “You can’t play Valerie because you’re not a big enough star”. So, there was so much of a learning curve about Hollywood.
And, you know, it was kind of horrible. I mean, yeah, it was horrible. I loved seeing the movie become something. I did love that. I mean, that’s probably my all-time favorite thing, to write something and have it get produced and manifested and be something, you know what I mean? That’s the best.
Have you ever, or did you ever, consider a sequel to Earth Girls?
We did, but the thing is when it first came out, it wasn’t successful. It’s done well on TV and reruns and, weirdly, we had the theatrical rights to it, so I’ve been writing [a stage version], and we actually produced it about two years ago. I’ve been writing the stage musical of it, and we’re going to do a reading of it in a couple of weeks. So that’s what I’m going to do because we do own that. I don’t own the movie. So, I can’t really control that. I wish I could, but it’s Lionsgate that owns it, so they would have to decide to – and I don’t think they will because I don’t know that was enough of a success for them to say “We have to do this.”
Well, I have to ask you, because I am such a RuPaul’s Drag Race superfan, what was it like being on the Snatch Game on season five?
It was fun. I had a good time, but RuPaul didn’t tell me he booked the other Julie Brown – not that I have any kind of problems with her because we’ve ended up doing things together, but I didn’t know she was going to be there. And drag queens take a long time to get ready, so when you do that show, you are waiting around a lot. But they were very entertaining, so it was fun. And Michelle Visage is wonderful. She’s really nice. I like her a lot and I met Jinkx Monsoon who is brilliant and one of my favorites. So, there were a lot of fun things about it.
I love the Just Say Julie podcast, but I noticed there haven’t been any new episodes. Are you still doing the podcast because I noticed it’s not been updated in a while?
I know! I felt really bad. Okay, this is what happened. Benny, who I was doing it with, got a full-time job. And I don’t know how to edit. We were getting so overwhelmed by doing it every week, which I guess is the thing with a podcast.
I do still really want to do it, but I have to find someone who can edit and put it together for me because she’s now working. That’s the problem. And I know it’s super unprofessional and lame, but I didn’t really consider what would happen if she got a full-time job. But I will do it again. I will.
It was really entertaining. I really liked it. I like the dynamic between you two.
I did too! We’re different ages and at different stages in our life, which I think is funny because we really are really good friends.
I especially loved it when she didn’t know pop cultural things.
Can you believe that? Like when she said she didn’t know who Chelsea Clinton was, I was like, “You are kidding me, right?” And she said, “No, I don’t know – and I’ve bet a lot of people my age don’t know.” And I said, “I bet a lot of people your age do know,” because that’s insane, right?
I’m in improv classes too, and they’re all in their twenties, and a suggestion can come up and they won’t have any idea. And you just go, oh my God. I think I’m kind of actually really shocked sometimes because I learned a lot about history, especially the history of show business. So, when I was their age, I would have known a lot of stuff that they don’t know, you know? And they’re like, “I don’t know Lucille Ball. Who’s that?”
I am in an improv class with younger people too and I hate feeling like the old lady in the class.
I just refuse to play into it. I just go, no, I’m sorry. I know things, I know probably more things than you do, so too bad. Anyway, I will still do [the podcast] again, but I’m not sure how, and I may just do it on my own for now or try to find somebody else who can do it.
How do you choose the topics that you are going to talk about on the show? Do you preplan or is it off the cuff?
No. Maybe the day before – and this is what made me kind of insane. Benny and I would get into discussions about it. I said, “I think we have to plan this out a lot more.” She says, “No, I don’t think so.” So, because we’re both so busy, we didn’t get to plan it that much. A lot of it was on the fly and I think if I do it by myself, I will plan it more because I’m a Virgo. That’s just how my brain is.
What kind of topics do you like to talk about?
I like to talk about celebrities and my opinions about them. It’s hard to even narrow down. It’s sort of like when something comes up…what’s weird is like, do you have an opinion about everything that comes up? I mean, I probably do, but sometimes you don’t have that much of an opinion about something, but you kind of have to in that situation. So that’s why I think I would plan it more.
Now if you reboot the podcast and you have guests, who would be your dream guest to have on the show?
Melissa McCarthy. I love her. Maybe Cyndi Lauper. I mean, I guess you’d want to have some people that were crazy, right? I don’t know, it’d be so interesting to have someone like Alex Jones on, Like, what am I going to do with this? People that are just going to be interesting to me, you know? That’s what I think I would do. And I really wanted to – and I don’t know how to do this exactly – but to interview like older women stars, because they come from a time that you know them, but like what happened in their life? They don’t all write autobiographies, so I would like to do that.
I went to see Mitzi Gaynor, who was doing her show in Orange County. And I thought I’m going to talk to her. I thought I just have to find her gay assistant and I did, and I got to meet her and she was so sweet. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, she’s from another time. So, it will be so amazing to talk to someone like that. Oh, you know, what would be the best dream guest? Madonna.
Out of everything that you’ve done, writing, acting, and producing music, what’s been your favorite thing to do?
Of all those things, I guess performing, but then I would have to say almost equal to that is getting to write something that gets produced and made. It’s hard to take that apart because that’s like this amazing feeling when you come up with something and it gets made and you get to be in it and it’s like, you’ve created a little universe, you know, that’s like, that’s the ultimate to me…but, overall, probably performing.
Now, since you are a writer, do you have any aspirations to write your autobiography?
Yes, I do, actually. I’ve been meaning to do that. I just wrote a young adult book and that took me all the way through the pandemic. So, I’m like, once that’s done, I will write an autobiography.
What else have you been up to?
I just did a Hallmark movie called Craft Me a Romance. It was really fun, but it was weird to do something that was not edgy at all. But it was really because one of my best friends was directing it, so I got to hang out with him. I’ve been in like five movies of his, and he does TV movies like this. And I was in one called Mother of the Bride and My Santa and what’s the other one? Oh, Fat Rose and Squeaky. That was the most insane one by far with Lea DeLara, Cicely Tyson, and Louise Fletcher. That was insane. That’s really a whole chapter in the book because it was epic. I did another movie in December called Alien Vacation, and that was super fun. We shot in Joshua Tree, which, you know, I don’t love the desert, but the people involved were so sweet and I loved them all. Sometimes you just love all the actors and sometimes you don’t, but I really love the actors on this one.
Julie Brown Answers the Socialite Seven
Who’s been the biggest influence on you in your career overall?
That’s so hard. I guess Lily Tomlin, because she super inspired me and then she got me my SAG card.
Who, if anyone, would you love to work with?
What talent would you like to wake up with tomorrow that you don’t already possess?
I would love to be able to sing, like with a killer voice, you know, like Ann Wilson from Heart. I would love to wake up with a voice like that or Adele’s voice. That must be amazing to be able to sing like that, right? I mean, I’ve done records and stuff but that’s, that’s a specific kind of voice and that would be the best.
What are three things that you can’t live without?
Coffee, my son, and comedy.
If they made a movie of your life story, who would you want to portray you on the big screen?
Oh, that’s really hard. I have to pick someone younger than me, right? Can I say me? I would like to play me!
What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
My son, because he’s amazing. And I think having a career that I kind of made up myself. That’s the other thing I’m really happy about – because I didn’t even really think about it that much until the last couple of years, and I realized I’ve been really lucky to get to do all these things. I didn’t think of it like that because I was just trying to do the next thing. But I think that’s an accomplishment. I wanted to do these things and I got to make a lot of them happen.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t take things seriously. You know what piece of advice I hate? Follow your dreams, because there’s a lot of people in LA who should not be following their dreams because they’re just going to get frustrated. You know, because I’ve been doing this a while and I grew up here, and it’s sad that a lot of people have to go through this incredible frustration, but yet I also applaud them for trying to live out their dreams at the same time. It’s a hard thing to say, you know what I mean? I would say also that if you don’t have to do this. Don’t do it!
Follow Julie Brown on Twitter and Instagram. Check out Just Say Julie and lots more on Julie’s YouTube channel.