From insights on aging, to being an honorary lesbian, to advice for queer youth, Alan Cumming takes time from his cabaret show schedule to talk with Jenny Block about all that and more

Alan Cumming on stage in his cabaret-style show, ‘Alan Cumming Isn’t Acting His Age’

JENNY BLOCK  |  Contributing Writer

Alan Cumming is not acting his age. I’m not passing judgement; that’s the name of the cabaret-style show he brought to Texas this week before making his way with it to New York City.

Jenny Block backstage with Alan Cumming

Author Jenny Block with actor Alan Cumming backstage at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall in Houston after Cumming’s show there earlier this week. Cumming performs two shows tonight at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas.

He’ll be performing here at the Moody Performance Hall for two shows on tonight (Friday, March 8) after his shows in Houston at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, and in advance of his show in San Antonio at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater on March 9.

While in Dallas, Cumming said he’s excited to hit one of his favorite spots in town, the Round-Up Saloon.

When I asked what audiences can expect from Alan Cumming Is Not Acting his Age, he answered, “It’s an evening with me and my band. I sing songs, and I tell stories based on the theme — aging. It’s my thoughts on that and some funny things and some not funny things, some provocative things,” Cumming said.

It struck me as an intriguing topic for a show, since most of us aren’t looking forward to the prospect of aging. I asked him why he thought that was.

“Well, that’s one of the things I talk about. I’m fascinated by why we have decided that something that is inevitable is the worst possible thing that can happen to us,” Cumming said. “It’s like creatively visualizing something in a negative way, and I don’t understand it.

“And I just think that we’ve got — as a culture, we’ve got a very bad attitude towards aging and about just sort of not seeing the value of it and also only equating beauty with youth. I find that that’s pretty boring actually.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I told him that, as a woman of a certain age, I found that quite depressing. And that reminded me that I had heard he doesn’t believe in trying to beat the clock with things like plastic surgery.

So, I asked him if that was indeed the case.

“It’s not for me,” he said. “Not at all. I wish we didn’t do it. I mean the thing about it now is that so many people do it — and not just plastic surgery but also Botox and fillers and all these things — that actually if you are natural and don’t do it, you look like the freak. And I think it’s a really fascinating thing.”

Cumming said he often jokes saying, “I’m going to be the last person on American television who has not had Botox. And I said that recently in London when I was on tour with a show, and this girl said to me, ‘I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, Alan, but you look as though you have had Botox. Look, that’s how good you look.’ I was like, ‘Uh, thank you. I think.’”

Cumming’s resume boggles the mind. His talent and experience include television, film, theater, cabaret and radio, as well hosting, producing, directing and writing.

It would not be an overstatement to say he’s done it all, with work that include GoldenEye (1995); Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997); Spice World (1997); Eyes Wide Shut (1999); Burlesque (2010) and, of course, his current work in The Traitors (2023-).

That last one, he said, came completely out of left field. Classic Cumming, he embraced it nonetheless.

The Traitors has been really amazing, actually. And I think in a funny sort of way, I realized that one of the reasons why my life has gone the way it has is that I’ve kind of stayed open to things and to the possibility of things and said yes to ‘Okay, I’ll go and live in this country,’ or I was able to do that and I just sort of stayed open in real life and in my career. And I think this is another example of it,” Cumming said. “I’m having this crazy experience now with this show that everyone’s going nuts for.”

Cumming said when he was first approached about doing the show, he didn’t understand why they would come to him. He said that at the time he thought, “That makes no sense all.”

But once he understood the why, “Then I kind of got it, and I really embraced it, and I dived in. And it’s been a really great thing for me. It’s another sort of lesson or reminder that how important it’s to stay open to things and don’t close yourself off to possibility,” he said.

I was curious if he had imagined this life for himself when he was growing up and wondered what he thought the 12-year-old Alan would think if he could see him now.

Cumming said, “I don’t think my 12-year-old self would recognize me. There’s nothing in my life now that corresponds to anything I thought was going to happen to me when I was 12. And just the fact that I live so far away from where I grew up, and I have this career on another continent — I didn’t even come, hadn’t even visited America until I was 30.”

The trajectory of where he was headed, he said, was completely alien to where he landed.

“There’s no sense to it at all. I dunno what he would think. He would just think, ‘Who’s that?’” he said. “I’ve been talking a lot these last few days about being an outsider. and I’m an outsider in America, and I’m an outsider in my own country, too, in Scotland.

“And I think it’s an interesting place to be. It gives you a fascinating perspective. But yeah, I think that’s partly why there’s no kind of correlation to what I thought my life was going to be like to the way it is now.”

When I asked Cumming if there was anything still on his bucket list, personally or professionally, that he hopes to do in the not so distant future, his answer surprised me. “I don’t think like that,” he said. “I don’t have a bucket list. I think bucket lists are a really terrible phenomenon actually.

“I think if you want to do something, go and do it. Don’t wait until you might die. It shouldn’t be something you do before you die. Go and do it.

“I stay open, and if I want to do something I’ll go and do it. I also am open to working with people who are new and young and people that are not in my field. I think that’s much more interesting to me than sort of having a list of things that you want to tick off before you die.”

As a long-time lover of The L Word, I couldn’t help but ask him about his experience on the show which, in so many ways, was so ahead of its time. I was intrigued by what his experience might have been like, especially considering the incredible team of writers and actors and producers with whom he worked.

To my delight, his experience was just as marvelous as I had hoped.

“It was really great. It did feel like that. It felt like it was a time when women and queer women were having a place at the table that they hadn’t had before,” he said. “And with the fact the show was such a big hit and sort of changed people’s perception of what being a lesbian could be, and I dunno, it did feel really great.”

He recalls going to a bar in New York called the Starlight, which, sadly, is no longer there. He went in and the doorman said, “‘I’m sorry, it’s lesbian night.’ And he looked at me and went, ‘Oh, Alan, you’re an honorary lesbian. Come on in.’ And I went in and of course it was the screening of The L Word,” Cumming said.

“It’s funny now, whenever I go in the world and people say to me, “Oh, I loved you in The L Word.’ I always say, ‘Oh, so you saw me getting fucked up the ass by a lesbian with a strap on?’ And they’ll go, ‘Yes! Yes!’ They don’t even blink an eye.

“Clearly, that was the most memorable part of my experience there,” he joked.

Because he has come to our less-than-LGBTQ-friendly state, I was curious if he might have some words of encouragement, particularly for the younger queer set. Not surprisingly, Cumming did not disappoint.

“If you’re feeling lost, if you’re feeling that this future is scary, please remember that there’s people older than you who have been through it a bit, who managed to get to a place where they’re strong and have the lives they want to live,” Cumming said. “We have your back, and you’re loved, and we will look after you. And also, if you’re feeling lonely and isolated, queer people have a really great scent for finding their tribe. You will find your people.”