You probably remember Kathy Najimy as Olive on the television series Veronica’s Closet, Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act, and the voice of Peggy Hill on the animated television series King of the Hill, but this San Diego native’s entertainment career originally took off with The Kathy And Mo Show, a pair of off-Broadway productions with Mo Gaffney. (An interesting bit of early Kathy Najimy trivia is her appearances as a contestant on Family Feud back in the 1980s, and later on Gameshow Marathon, with Kathy and her family winning on both shows!) In addition to her numerous starring roles on stage and screen, Kathy is the co-creator and director of the musical revue Back to Bacharach and David.  And if all this didn’t already keep her plenty busy, Kathy works tirelessly as an equal rights activist. About to appear at the Opening Night performance of Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays on Monday March 28, Kathy took time out of a busy filming schedule to sit down and answer our questions about her very diverse career.


Hi Kathy.  You grew up in sunny San Diego, which makes you an actual native Southern Californian.  At what point during those early years did the acting bug bite you?

Well, I think I started thinking creatively from birth.  I acted in plays I wrote at school … made up skits and drama club with my friends, created pop bands at eight years old. I’ve been doing something creative forever, however I was rarely cast in things at school and didn’t make any money in acting until I was in my late twenties.  But I was great at making up my own projects with my friends! Not being cast by other people and not being included with other productions helped me to be more self-sufficiently creative I think!

A great example of “It Gets Better,” as it certainly did when you and Mo Gaffney created The Kathy And Mo Show, probably the first thing to put you on the showbiz map (not counting your prize-winning appearances with assorted other Najimys on Family Feud). Looking back at those Kathy And Mo Shows, what stands out most vividly in your memories?

We wrote The Kathy and Mo Show in 1980 on top of the roof of Mo’s apartment.   Our only rule was that we had to think it was funny and we had to write it for only us. We started out with small audiences. We produced the shows with the help of our friends and family only. 

And then the show took off!

We were both really surprised when we found audiences were interested in a two-woman feminist comedy show … but the time and the environment was ripe for comedy with a point of view.  

How long did you and Mo do The Kathy and Mo Show? 

The Kathy And Mo Show ran for almost twenty years and there’s a DVD out with our two HBO specials.  It’s one of the things in my career I’m most proud of.

Kathy in Sister Act and in Hocus Pocus

1992’s Sister Act was the first of numerous film hits that made America in general familiar with you as an actor, and then came Veronica’s Closet in 1997.  How did fame treat you after having been somewhat more “under the radar” in your early years?

Mo and I had an audience that was very specific. The audience was primarily feminist, gay and women, with a lot of straight men sprinkled in as well.  Then when we went to New York off-Broadway, we got our basic theater crowd. We were there for a while and it became a diverse and eclectic audience.  But when I started doing the big Disney films like Sister Act and Hocus Pocus, my fan base widened considerably! It encompassed a whole audience of the country in between Los Angeles and New York.  

That must have been a big change!

It was interesting because I was used to a very specific audience and then I was known by tons of folks at malls and airports … and their kids! It was wild.

One thing you and I have in common is our love for Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s music. How did you get the idea for doing Back To Bacharach And David?

I’ve loved Bacharach and David music since I was a kid.  I think of it as the soundtrack of my childhood.  I know where I was and what I was feeling during popularity of every song.  I met my best friend of over thirty years in the 7th grade.  Steve Gunderson opened me up to the world of Bacharach and David and we listened to it, we sung it we made plays with it. 

I know Steve from his theater work in San Diego, but didn’t know about your friendship or Bacharach/David connection!

We knew every word of every song!  As an adult … after I had made some films … Steve and I created Back To Bacharach And David, a musical review of their work from approximately 1960 to 1970.  The great years!  I directed, Steve did all the musical arrangements and put the show together.  

Where was Back To Bacharach And David first produced?

The show was really popular in New York off-Broadway, and then after Hal and Burt saw the show and heard Steve’s brilliant musical arrangements we were lucky enough to get involved with Mr. Bacharach and Mr. David for a West Coast premiere a couple years ago. It was thrilling!  They were supportive and fans of the show and it exceeded our wildest dreams.

Besides making people laugh, you’re one of show business’s most politically active performers. When and how was activist Kathy Najimy born?

I’ve always had a low tolerance for injustice. For women, girls, gays, animals …  So that coupled with my early feminist beliefs and the fact that I was rarely cast in school and in San Diego productions prompted me to write my own material. Develop my own way to be seen and heard. To this day my favorite, films, plays, etc. are ones with a strong point of view.

You’ve been one of the gay community’s fiercest, most respected, and best loved allies.  What was it that made you decide to commit to this particular cause?

Well that’s nice of you to say, Steven.  I always am thrilled when fierce and loved precede my name! Human rights, gay rights, women’s rights—all the same thing. It’s a dedication to the respect and equality of all.  It’s all under the umbrella of justice, fairness. I can’t help it. I’ve been a gay rights activist since 1970.  We really don’t have a choice do we?  If you are oppressed and I turn my back it will be right there sitting on my doorstep waiting for me.  

And now you’re part of Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays!

I’m thrilled to do my small part in Standing on Ceremony.  It is every citizen’s right to choose who they want to kiss, fall in love with … and if they choose, get legally married. GLBT folks pay taxes they should get full benefit of allhuman rights. It amazes me this is even a discussion. How is it anyone else’s business who another chooses to love and marry? Mind your own. Love is precious.

What was it that drew you to Standing On Ceremony?

I was speaking to my friend Stuart Ross and he told me about the evening in New York and I said,“That’s funny. I justfinished a short piece about Marriage Equality … today!” So I flew to New York and did my piece amongst some other great plays by amazing playwrights.  Then they moved the production here.  It is a powerful evening.  I’m happy to be able to do it when I can. 

How often will you be part of the new Los Angeles engagement?

I’m not sure I’ll be performing at all the productions but certainly Opening Night on March 28th—and they have fantastic revolving casts so you never know what great actors will be performing!

What can audiences expect from Standing On Ceremony that will make it a must-see event?  (It certainly is one for me.)

That sir, I will leave up to you to gift your readers with!  Great playwrights and surprising casts … dedicated to a cause that is so very important.

You’ve done so much varied work in your career so far. Is there anything you haven’t done that you just can’t wait for the chance to do?

Guest with The Pussycat Dolls.

Now thatwould be something to see. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing you in Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays on Opening Night and hopefully getting a chance to say “Hi” after the show. Thanks so much for taking the time for this delightful chat!

Thank you, Steven!


Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood. Through June 20. Mondays March 28, April 4 and 25, May 9 and 23, and June 6 and 20 at 8:00. Reservations: 310 855-0350

                                 Standing On Ceremony production photo (top right) by Chuck Green

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