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JENNY JONES: Where the Girls Are

Anyone who has seen Jenny Jones’ nightclub act Girls’ Night Out knows there’s only one qualification to enjoying the show--you have to be a woman. For the past two years, the L.A.-based comedian has barred the doors of her performances to men--even male members of the staffs of the comedy clubs where she appears. Her theory, that women are much more themselves when there are no guys around, has proven true during Girls’ Night Out, where audience members willingly confess how long it’s been since they’ve shaved their legs and whether or not they’ve had breast implants.

Jones’ ability to get strangers to open up is bound to come in handy during her new syndicated television talk show, “Jenny Jones,” which she talked about with Lauren Lipton.

How did Girls’ Night Out begin?

I toured with Englebert Humperdinck for about a year and a half, and I kept getting consistently good audiences. I realized that women really relate to women comics, and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a women-only pajama party kind of thing. The only credit I take is for thinking it up. I just set the opportunity, and we talk, and everybody participates. They just entertain themselves. There’s something about my personality, I guess, that makes people open up.

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What do you think it is?

I think a lot of comedy comes from anger, but I don’t have any of that. Because I don’t have anger, I don’t bring it up for other people. Everybody who leaves Girls’ Night Out leaves feeling great. The same thing with my talk show: We have fun--that’s the aspect of Girls’ Night Out that comes into the talk show.

So is the talk show for women-only audiences, too?

Not necessarily. It is a highly female audience, but that’s who is showing up.

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What do you talk about?

We’re doing “Beauty Over 60,” we’re doing a show on tipping--who to tip and when--which was my suggestion. We talk about relationship stuff. We do a lot more audience involvement that you’re probably used to seeing.

Do audiences really get personal, even knowing they’re going to be on TV?

I think they forget they’re on TV! I tell the audience that they’re my co-hosts. It’s a very fun, relaxed show to be in.

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Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Of course I am a feminist, everybody working on my show is a feminist, but I don’t call myself that because the word has an angry connotation. I don’t label myself anything. What we need is a new word for feminism--maybe I’ll do a show about that.

Do you have control over what topics you discuss on the show?

I go into the all meetings with the producers, and I’m fairly vocal about what I’m comfortable with. We are trying to stay away from the shock stuff. I consider my two years of Girls’ Night Out the best media research you could do, and my audiences have told me they’d like a change of pace from sensationalism--no more topics like lesbian nuns.

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How is working on “Jenny Jones” different from working on Girls’ Night Out?

I am a bit too honest at times. When you have a national talk show, I’ve been told, you have to tone it down a bit.

Such as?

We were doing one show--something about orgasms--and I said oh, let me tell you about having my first orgasm. They (the producers) said, “You can’t say that!” So I held back. I guess you don’t want to come on too strong at first. After I’ve been on the air for a year, though (laughs)....

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Tell me about the one Girls’ Night Out when a male reporter snuck in dressed as a woman.

We were doing the show in Pasadena. We were discussing pet peeves, and one woman in the audience said, “My pet peeve is that there’s a man over here wearing a dress!” I didn’t want to say anything, because one other time during a show I accused an audience member of being a man, and it really was a woman. It was mortifying, absolutely mortifying, and from then on I vowed I would never say anything unless I actually saw body parts.

This reporter worked really hard! He actually shaved his knuckles, he got a manicure. After the article came out, he said guys were calling him up and asking for dates.

Why did he go to all that trouble?

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He wanted to see why Warner Bros. would give me a talk show based on something they’d never seen. No man (from the studio) had ever come to Girls’ Night Out--instead, they were sending in secretaries and wives and female executives.

How do you feel about the prospects of being a star?

The biggest change for me so far is that I’m used to doing everything myself, and now there are all these people that do things. I feel like an empress! I’m not used to it. I feel like I should be doing the booking and seating the audiences and moving the chairs ... it’s a strange feeling to let go of that control.

“Jenny Jones” premieres Monday, and airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on KNBC and at 10 a.m. on San Diego’s KNSD.

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