Gays are sure to giggle and guffaw Thursday, Aug 23 to Saturday, Aug 25 when Yuk Yuk’s plays host to Ottawa’s annual celebration of queer comedy.
This year’s Laugh Out Proud roster includes Canada’s comedy queen Carla Collins; the founder of Toronto alternative comedy event Bitch Salad
, Andrew Johnston; and funny man Ted Morris.
Johnston has been splitting sides for close to 10 years, and this will be his third appearance at Laugh Out Proud. As one of the “four employable gay comedians in Canada,” he says audiences can expect a set tailored to gays, something he admits he prefers over performing to strictly straight crowds.
“I know there’s going to be gays in the audience, so that opens up the reference level. I’ll actually be able to talk about gay stuff without having to ‘come out’ on stage or go over super basic shit like you normally have to do at clubs.”
There have been instances where playing to straight audiences resulted in more than Johnston having to read definitions form the queer dictionary. He recalls a recent set in London, Ontario, where audience members walked out simply because of his sexual orientation.
“Literally, it wouldn’t matter who I was or what I said. It was like a ‘no coloured people in here’ situation. ‘I’m not using this same drinking fountain as those coons.’ It’s like, what year is again?”
Johnston recalls another ugly night in Kitchener — “The thoughts ‘ugly night’ and ‘Kitchener’ go hand in hand,” he says — where he was blasted with homophobic slurs before he even took to the mic. But he says this type of discrimination isn’t common.
“I’m also not a shrinking violet. If I lose my shit, I lose my shit, and when I do it’s not like ‘look at that gay man yelling’; it’s like ‘look at that six-foot-one, 200-pound guy going ballistic.’”
The comedy crowds in Toronto have gone ballistic for Johnston’s Bitch Salad nights, which he started in 2007.
Originally meant as an outlet for female comics, the night of hilarity evolved to feature queer comics as well. Johnston says he’s seen so many audiences discount female comics before they’ve even opened their mouths, which is why he created the event.
“They actively think, ‘I’m not going to be interested in this no matter what she does; I’ve already made up my mind.’”
Carla Collins is one female comic no one can discount. The seasoned Canadian veteran got her start on the Weather Network before finding success as an entertainment host and performer. She has two television series to her credit: the sketch comedy show Chez Carla and the more recent reality show Carlawood. She’s released a comedic memoir, Angels, Vampires and Douchebags, and the blonde beauty is now forging a career as a full-time standup comic.
Collins says the biggest surprise that came with devoting herself to the craft of standup comedy was how quickly she fell in love with the art form.
“You’re always in trouble when you fall madly in love with something or someone,” she laughs, adding that the lifestyle that comes with the profession has made her life more reminiscent of a college student’s than a Hollywood starlet’s.
“Because it’s not nine-to-five, there is now a child in Africa who should be sponsoring me.”
Collins is as straight as they come but has long been a favourite with gay audiences, frequently performing at Toronto’s Flying Beaver Pubaret.
“I think I’d be a great lesbian; maybe not a lipstick, but definitely a gloss. I didn’t go through that phase in college, so to me the lesbian boudoir is like Narnia in there. There’s woodland creatures laying out your panties for you, and people are drinking rosé and talking Voltaire. I think it’s just magical.”
As for Collins’ recently wrapped series Carlawood, she says knocking over her mother-in-law’s ashes and the passing of her beloved dog Buster were, not so much highlights, but definite memorable experiences that were featured on the series.
“I have Buster’s paw tattooed on the left side of my body on my rib cage. We shrunk it down a little bit and we made it different colours, so I say it is Buster, but it kind of looks like a cat on Pride Day.”
Johnston and Collins are equally elated to be part of Capital Pride. Johnston, who you can catch in an upcoming web series with Jonathan Morton-Schuster, of MTV’s 1 Girl 5 Gays, jokingly admits that, to him, Pride usually means a lot of work.
“It means work and generally a lot of drinking and sexual hallmarks; also appreciation for remembering the past, acknowledging the present and looking forward to the future,” he says.
Collins calls Pride an awesome celebration, adding that she is repulsed by most American states’ stance on gay-marriage equality.
“I tell people, ‘The weddings are way better, dudes: way better music, fashion and food. Just don’t throw rice because the gay boys aren’t doing carbs.’ Why equality would be an issue in 2012 — it’s embarrassing,” she laughs. “Here’s the deal, bitch: I don’t even eat chicken, I’m vegan adjacent, so suck on it, Chick-fil-A. I don’t want your product.”