Stand up comedy, especially in the UK is still dominated by heterosexual white men and despite woman and minorities starting to get noticed in the mainstream the balance is still incredibly weighted against anyone who is not a cis white male. The new ‘quota’ system put in place at the BBC meaning that panel shows have to include a certain number of female comics, has caused the industry to stand up and present a more diverse array of presenters and panelists, but even with people like Sandi Toxvig, Alan Carr and Joe Lynette hosting some major shows, there is clearly still a long way to go.
From stateside comes “Out on Stage” a brand new stand up comedy series that focuses solely on LGBTQ+ performers. Hosted by Zach Noe Towers (for whom this has been a passion project to get off the ground) the series is split into six, thirty minute episodes, each with three relatively unknown (at least in the UK) LGBTQ+ comedians. Towers is an LA based stand up and talks openly about the difficulty of being the ‘token gay’ in any line up and so along with Comedy Dynamics and Dekko has curated these season of voices that hopefully will showcases voices that are so often sidelined. He says “What an incredible experience it’s been to bring together such a gorgeously funny group of queer comedians. Each and every person featured in the content has such a unique perspective and I’m thrilled that we’re being given a platform for those hilarious voices to be heard.”
Across the episodes, there is a very eclectic mix of styles which manages to flow and connect due to Towers’ natural charm and ability to cleanse the pallet between each performer. One highlights is Kyle Shire (episode 1) a Chicago based ‘bear’ who is the first person I can remember since Mel Brooks who could draw belly-laughs from Nazi material and who is fighting for feminism by aggressively objectifying straight men.
Another stand out comes in Episode 3. Gloria Bigelow, a black woman with “LLE” or “Low Lesbian Esteem” who rackets through the struggles of being a ‘non obvious lesbian’, the coming out to her mother and the inability to be with white women, in a short but laugh a minute set that could easily have gone on for the full episode.
Comedy is, of course, incredibly subjective but I found the quality to range quite dramatically with clear stand outs along with performers who didn’t manage to get much of a titter from me at all, that said Out on Stage is a fantastic collection of comedy which should cater for a broad taste with this eclectic mix of personality and voice ether you like story led comedy, one liners or just plain in your face.
As much as enjoyed working through the series, deep down I could’t help but feel sad that this kind of narrow field of curation is needed in order to be seen and heard as an LGBTQ+ comic. Hopefully this can draw attention to a need for more gay voices in the genre and push comedy to a place where this kind of series is not needed anymore.
© Harry Richards 2019
Watch the trailer here.
You can access the series via Dekkoo (a subscription channel with a primary target audience of gay men) here.