Never has one man in a towel done so much for so many. Comedy writer, standup comedian and all-around local hero Paul Bellini is taking on a whole new stage when he launches an LGBT comedy-writing course this January at Humber College. The hilarious alumnus of the Kids in the Hall TV show (both as writer and a mute character dressed only in a white bath towel) is no stranger to education, having taught several classes through the Second City training program, but never one specifically geared toward queer folks.
“We have a training centre in Chicago that had something like it,” Bellini says. “There’s a gay man named Andy Eninger who advertised that he was doing an LGBT comedy workshop, so I figured if he can do it, I can too. I took it to the head of Second City in Toronto, and his eyes lit up. We did it just before Pride.”
The workshop proved a success, prompting Bellini to eye a more in-depth program that would examine the history of LGBT comedy and help students build acts that embrace their orientation.
“Second City is wonderful, but it’s a training program,” Bellini points out. “Humber College has one of the best comedy courses in the country, but they’ve never had an LGBT one. I figured it could be an interesting niche market.”
So what does this creator and performer hope to impart to wide-eyed supplicants ready to sup at the Bellini font of knowledge? “I do a history reel of gay comedy, but there’s very little,” he says. “It’s mostly William Haines and Paul Lynde. I talk about my experiences on Kids in the Hall and the rise of gay standup in the ’90s, with people like Elvira Kurt. Then I have exercises that I give them, like writing a gay version of a big movie. Someone did Jaws where the shark was giving blowjobs.”
Bellini will also encourage students to be upfront about their sexuality, as he and Scott Thompson were when they started on KITH more than 20 years ago.