Wake-Up Maggie: Expatriate American Comic Maggie Cassella Tells All about Her Happy, Gay Life as a Talk-Show Host in Canada. (Television)

Article excerpt

Maggie Cassella is used to the road less traveled. Armed with a burgeoning avocation for stand-up comedy--which she first took up to vent the frustrations of her life as an out lesbian attorney in Connecticut--Cassella hightailed it to Toronto's more gay-friendly shores in 1995. Now she's a rising TV star, cross-examining guests instead of witnesses, Cassella currently hosts Because I Said So With Maggie Cassella, a half-hour talk show now in its second season on Star! TV, Canada's answer to E! Entertainment Television. Her CD of the same name is in record stores.

For Cassella, life north of the border has proved to be a perfect fit. "Generally, Canadians are not as homophobic as Americans," she says. "My experience in the States is that I'm a lesbian first and a comic second. In Canada what they see is my perspective--as a former lawyer, Italian, American living in Canada. That I'm also a lesbian is an afterthought. I'm rarely asked to appear in something just because I'm gay--or told not to say I am. I can't tell you how refreshing that is."

Her no-holds-barred interviewing style, honed on current and kitsch stars from William H. Macy and k.d. lang to Meat Loaf and Eartha Kitt, has garnered her a loyal following of viewers eager to laugh and think at the same time. Each week offers a forum for disparate guests to discuss a particular theme in the entertainment industry--such as the influence of show business on the news or whether gay performers should come out. Imagine a kinder, gentler Politically Incorrect without Bill Maher's constant references to the Playboy Mansion. …