Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Queer comics converge on Winnipeg

'We're recruiting, so drink up, fuckers!'

'FELLAGIRLY.' Elvira Kurt is among the gay comedians at this year's CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Credit:

Winnipeggers are used to being the butt of jokes.
Starting tonight, we might hear a few jokes about butt plugs.
Hopefully, the punchlines at this weekend’s CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival will be funnier than that.
Fortunately, that’s all but guaranteed, thanks to the scores of queer comics who are descending on the city from all over North America.
Some of the names you might recognize include Elvira Kurt, Trevor Boris and Bob Smith, the first openly gay comic to appear on The Tonight Show. But there’s plenty of new talent coming to town, too, including Vancouver’s Darcy Michael and Comedy Central’s Tom Steffen.
The theme for the comedy festival’s Friday Night Super Gala is Queer as Jokes, emceed by Kurt. The next day, queer comics are hitting the stage again for a panel discussion on gender issues in comedy, hosted by trans performer Meryn Cadell.
(Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thompson was supposed to come to the comedy fest, too, but “due to illness, won’t be able to attend this year’s festival.”)
Here’s a run-down of the hot gay line-up…

Darcy Michael is a self-proclaimed “dirty faggot” who likes to come out slowly to his straight audiences, then startle them with lines like “We’re recruiting, so drink up, fuckers!” For this weekend’s gay crowd in Winnipeg, he’ll probably gush a lot about his real-life husband: “We decided to throw away our dreams and ambitions and go through life bitter and married.” Michael is still in his 20s, but he’s already hit the stage at Montreal’s Just for Laughs and recorded his own Comedy Network special.
Diane Flacks is known to some as a “happy-go-lucky tomboy turned grudging earth mother,” thanks to a recent Xtra article about her one-woman lesbian-mom show Bear with Me, which premiered earlier this year in Toronto. Besides writing and performing, Flacks also pens a regular column on parenting issues for the Toronto Star and contributes poignant but hilarious stories for CBC Radio’s Definitely Not the Opera.
Trevor Boris is a superstar in the teen girl world, thanks to MuchMusic’s Video on Trial. But long before that, he started cultivating a gay fan base by informing crowds, “I broke up with my girlfriend because she works a lot — and I’m gay.” Boris likes to tease the straight guys in his audience by asking, “Have you ever been this close to a gay man’s penis?” The twisted twink from Selkirk, Manitoba is fresh from recording a US comedy special called One Night Stand Up.
Jonathan Wilson and Ed Sahely performed improv together on the CTV show Not to Be Repeated. They both have film resumes with cool gay cred: Wilson starred in the queer coming-of-age comedy My Own Private Oshawa, while Sahely performed alongside Mariah Carey in the camp classic Glitter. One of their favourite improv games has this undeniably queer title: Trissa Insists on Buff Men Only Serving Her.
Elvira Kurt is the mistress of queer comedy in Canada, having come out as “fellagirly” (her unique, one-woman combo of butch and femme) in the early 1990s. Since then, she’s won Funniest Female Comic at the Canadian Comedy Awards, performed on the Tonight Show and written for Ellen. Kurt likes to joke about her travels as a standup. “It’s easier to be gay in Kansas City than a vegetarian,” she says. “People say, ‘We don’t care what you do in bed as long as you eat our beef!'”
Clare Lawlor co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in the hit Winnipeg Fringe show Hey Hetero! with the writer of this article. She loves bringing lesbians and chickenhawks together with laughs like this: “I’m walking down the street and I see this totally cute dyke. Short hair, baseball cap, nice skin, and a great smile and I’m all ready to give her the lesbian nod when I realize she’s a 12-year-old boy.”
Bob Smith likes to be known as the world’s first mainstream gay comic, since he was the first openly gay comic to perform on the Tonight Show as well as the first one to have an HBO special. “I made my carefully worded coming out at Thanksgiving,” he tells audiences. “I said, ‘Mom, would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual?'” Smith also likes to imagine what gay wedding announcements would look like if they were brutally honest: “At the parents’ request, there will be an open bar during the ceremony.”
Meryn Cadell is a trans performance artist who teaches at the University of British Columbia. In his previous life as a woman, he made music with members of the Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rhodeo and Rheostatics, and scored a Top 40 hit called The Sweater. Cadell is now faced with the tough assignment of moderating an unruly band of queer comics during Saturday afternoon’s Gender Panel. (Watch for a full report on in the days ahead.)
Tom Steffen enjoys the “beautiful irony” of subscribing to Out magazine, but getting it every month in a plain, unmarked wrapper. Describing his stand-up set as “highbrow observational comedy,” the Minneapolis native and self-proclaimed “make-out guru” shot to US prominence as a contender on Comedy Central’s 2007 Open Mic Fight Contest. (Take note that Steffen is performing at the Thursday Night Gala, not the all-queer events on Friday and Saturday.)