Susie Bright: George Carlin, Meet Kris Kovick

200812290945 You did it -- you survived another "holiday with the family."

Your (parent, sibling, soon-to-be-ex) is batshit crazy.  No satiric holiday movie comes close to the horrors you've witnessed. The Griswolds have nothing on your clan.

And then... you have the late, great Kris Kovick. Kris was a cartoonist, activist, author of "What I Love About Lesbian Politics Is Arguing with People I Agree With"- and a singular performing storyteller.

Her home-for-the-holidays classic recording is called Hair Pillow:

"Each person in my family is a different religion. It's like Belfast meets Beirut. There are Jews, Serbs, Catholics, red-neck Christian snake handlers, quietists, and noise-makers of all beliefs. My sister was recently married and her people were Portuguese. We were Serbian-Texans- guess how many guns I have? It made for great potluck, but very careful politics."

You can hear all of Hair Pillow at InsideStories, a site devoted to San Francisco oral history, including audio walking tours of Harvey Milk's San Francisco, and the Presidio Pet Cemetery.

Kris was one of the first cartoonists I met when I first got involved with queer-underground-journalism in my early twenties. But she reminded me we'd been introduced on a previous occasion. When I was 14 years old, she and my dad... were both dating the same woman. My father, in his great liberal fashion, calmly introduced me to both of them. I remember being fascinated by Kris because of a silver band she wore on her wedding finger dating from the days of her first great love. On the inside, engraved in perfect Edwardian script, was one word: "Bitch."

Alison Bechdel, Eisner-award-winning author of Fun Home, has some great cartoon memories of Kris. "Kris scared the living shit out of me. She kissed her dog on the mouth and had a dildo in a harness hanging from a doorknob in the living room. I was planning to rent a car to drive to Santa Barbara, but she insisted I drive her vintage 1956 pick-up."

The end of Kris's life came too soon (age 50) and was marked by the fact that she and her mother were both dying of breast cancer at the same time, not knowing who was going to go first. How is that funny? Well, Kris may have created the original Hospice Stand-up.

At one point in their terminal saga, Kris was the more able-bodied of the two and her mother was exhausted with living, helplessly tied up in tubes at the hospital:


Thanks to InsideStories producer Paul VanDeCarr, Alison Bechdel, Luke Browne, and Ray Hellmann for helping me put together this homage.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)


  1. there’s something wonky going on with the flash player app — sound comes through all staticky like a not-quite-tuned-in radio channel. i can’t tell you if it’s the widget ( or my version of Flash, but the file’s fine so it’s gotta be something in between.

    here’s a direct link to the file; it plays fine in your favorite media player:

    otherwise, good post, thanks muchly!

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