I recently had the pleasure of performing in a big comedy show. It was, to be specific about things, a gay comedy show.
Deep thinker that I am, this got me considering the notion of “gay comedy.” What is gay comedy? Does such a thing even exist? And if so, is it something that should be embraced by me or anyone else?
What’s different about a “gay comedy show”?
First of all, we’re there.
Let’s face it — most comedy isn’t all that funny to most queers. If we’re lucky, it’s irrelevant. More often it’s hurtful. At times it’s downright hateful.
It’s no surprise that queers aren’t flocking to see live comedy. So when a show is labelled “gay comedy,” we assume that it will be for us and not at our expense.
Funny thing is, most of what goes on at a gay comedy show isn’t all that gay. Sure, there are comics still trying to get mileage out of tired clichés like “next thing I knew, she was at my door with a U-Haul!” but most of us have far more to talk about.
In fact, most gay comedy shows I’ve attended featured comedy that would appeal to a far wider audience than your average chucklefest.
I kind of like that. I kind of like having this secret club that most straight people foolishly have no interest in. It’s like having a giant delicious hot fudge sundae but convincing your little sister it tastes terrible so you can eat it all yourself.
“Oh, this? No, you wouldn’t like this. It’s very gay. Not for you at all.”
Is there even such a thing as “gay humour”?
I don’t know. What would that be? Comedy that speaks to gay audiences? In-jokes? Recognizable frames of reference?
Well, what’s wrong with that? Straight comics do it all the time. However, I can’t remember the last time I saw an ad for a “straight comedy show.” Because, of course, such entertainment is supposedly universal.
Here’s the deal: universality is a crock of shit. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as comedy that appeals to absolutely everyone.
I generally find that proponents of universality live in very tiny universes. There’s nothing wrong with work that appeals to a certain segment of society; let’s just not call that segment of society the universe.
This year I also performed at the famed Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. It was nothing short of mind-blowing to be in a venue that has been presenting and supporting the work of queer artists for over 20 years.
I would love to have such an institution here in Vancouver. We could spend a lot of time watching queer performers and discussing whether or not it’s “gay art” ad nauseam.
I’d love to be sick of this debate. I’d love to have the chance to choose to be a queer performer for predominantly queer audiences and have a recognized respected place at which to do so.
Any wealthy gays out there interested in sinking a small fortune into such a dream, please contact me immediately.
See, I don’t mind being called a queer comedian.
I have more hesitancy around the label comedian than I do queer. Calling myself a comedian feels like a bold, brash move. I still need to take a deep breath before I say that word.
It takes a confidence I don’t always have to announce that I think I’m funny. It’s not like saying I’m a dentist. Once you’ve gone to dentist university (or whatever is involved) you get a diploma and get to say, “I’m a dentist”.
No one says, “Oh yeah? Well, if you’re so darned dentisty, why don’t you take a look at my bicuspids?” At least I hope they don’t.
But there’s no equivalent degree, no plaque to hang on the wall that gives me the right to claim I’m funny. To some I am; to some I’m not. I’ve never heard anyone take this view of dentistry.
Being queer, on the other hand, is pretty cut and dried. No, I don’t have a diploma in that either, but I feel pretty confident that the label fits.
I don’t create work that I think queers will find funny. I don’t create work that I think straight people will find funny. I just do stuff that I find funny and hope to God that someone else will laugh too.
But the fact that I am queer informs the way I look at the world and the things I have to say, same as any other artist is influenced by who they are and where they come from.
I am a queer (deep breath) comedian.
Do I do gay comedy? If it makes you more inclined to come see my work — sure. If it makes you less inclined to come see my work — your loss. More sundae for the rest of us.