August 15, 2012

Awareness Must Be Raised

The New York Times alerts us to an overlooked crisis:
Gay Male Comics Await the Spotlight
By JASON ZINOMAN 
COULD James Adomian become the first man to break through as an openly gay stand-up star? 
The thought popped into my head as he performed last month in front of an almost entirely male audience at the Rockbar, on Christopher Street. In a hat, with a confident, wry smile and a thin mustache, Mr. Adomian, whose debut album “Low Hangin Fruit” (Earwolf) was released on Monday, is a casually handsome ...

and so forth and so on. 

Yet, there have long been out gay male comedians -- collecting stereotypes for my 1994 National Review article "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay" was helped along by watching gay stand-ups on TV. A retired gay male comedian named Bob Smith writes in to point out: Hey, I was a star back in the day!
It would have been nice if the reporter did a little research. The NY Times gave a rave review to my HBO special on July 14, 1994. I appeared on The Tonight Show, The Late Late Show, Politically Incorrect and Tom Snyder. There is a whole group of out gay male comics who were out in the 80's. My HBO special is still played on HBO. I have ALS and had to stop performing in 2010. This article is shockingly uninformed.

In fact, I remember Smith's HBO special. I liked his melonballer joke. From the NYT:
TELEVISION REVIEW; How Many Gay Comics Does It Take to Do 2 Shows?
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: July 14, 1994 
Gay and lesbian standup comics are not exactly new to prime time. ... Mr. Smith is no doubt more accessible to general audiences. As an amiable, sort of boy-next-door type, he chats easily about growing up in Buffalo, in a very conservative Roman Catholic family. He plays with stereotypes that, of course, are molded from truth. He says that he knew early on that he was a gay kid, slyly confiding that "my treehouse had a breakfast nook." Even as a Boy Scout, he swears, his Swiss Army knife had a melon baller and a garlic press.

Likewise, the omnipresent Ellen Degeneres is, obviously, a lesbian, and Eddie Izzard, a major stand-up star, is a transvestite. And a famous stand-up once got arrested with a transvestite hooker in his car, but maybe he just forgot to wear his glasses. 

But, if you draw a Venn Diagram of superduperstarness, homosexuality, maleness, and outness, you evidently don't find anybody in the intersection of those four circles, so Awareness Must Be Raised. 

Granted, stand-up comedy is a brutally competitive field requiring a notoriously thick skin and constant low-budget travel. If there aren't a lot of extremely funny gay male stand-ups, maybe it's because it's easier for a gay male to get ahead in more attractive careers, such as acting. Maybe what stand-up comedy needs to stop being so discriminatory against gays is more casting couches.

One unasked question is whether gays are losing their competitive edge because they have become such a sacred cow in contemporary America that they are getting soft from lack of criticism. For example, the tone of this article sounds like it's written about competitors in the Special Olympics rather than about competitors in one of the most unforgiving fields in entertainment.

46 comments:

bjdubbs said...

If some author named a fictional lesbian "Ellen Degeneres," would that be considered hate speech?

Anonymous said...

The Franfurt School presses on

Anonymous said...

In a hat, with a confident, wry smile and a thin mustache, ..

Ouch! That makes it sound as if he was otherwise naked. Mind you, in NYC anything is possible.

Anonymous said...

Ellen Degeneres doesn't count, as she is not funny. Having said that, an openly gay comic would be horrendous, because his entire act would center around his sodomistic lifestyle; nobody wants to hear about that.

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

I went to Catch A Rising Star in New York in the mid-90s and the headliner was a gay comic from the South named Jim David. He was pretty good.

Funniest exchange I remember:

He asks some foreign tourists where they're from:
"The Netherlands."

JD: "You ever been to New York before?"

Tourists: "No."

Asks the crowd: "Oh some first timers! Where can we send these guys?"

Crowd: "Harlem!"

JD: "Harlem? I think the Dutch influence has waned a bit."

You had to be there.

I saw him again a few years later either on a Comedy Central or HBO special. Not a household name, but seems to have made a go of it.

Anonymous said...

"For example, the tone of this article sounds like it's written about competitors in the Special Olympics rather than about competitors in one of the most unforgiving fields in entertainment."

I bet that line is funnier than anything this guy says.

Anonymous said...

"Likewise, the omnipresent Ellen Degeneres is, obviously, a lesbian, and Eddie Izzard, a major stand-up star, is a transvestite. And a famous stand-up once got arrested with a transvestite hooker in his car, but maybe he just forgot to wear his glasses. "

Steve, transvestite =/= transexual.

No one in his right mind looks at Eddie Izzard and thinks that he is a female or is trying to look like/pass as a female.

They look at Eddie Izzard and think "why is that eccentric English heterosexual dressed up like that?". Eddie Izzard describes himself as a lesbian trapped in a man's body, which is also how a lot of other straight men (who are not transvestites) jokingly describe themselves.

The fetish for wearing female clothing doesn't make a man a homosexual or a transexual. It doesn't necessarily mean the man in question wants to be a woman or is attracted to men.

Izzard not being a homosexual or a transexual is part of the joke. The clothes don't make him look female and aren't intended to; that's not what transvestism is about. The clothes in fact are ludicrously non-female when you put them on Eddie Izzard.

On the whole Eddie Izzard's act is pretty-non gay once you get over the transvestism stigma. His comic mind works just like a heterosexual's comic mind works, because he IS a heterosexual comic.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how many openly gay male stand-up comics there are in general. Canada has a prominent comedian called Scott Thompson who in addition to playing various TV and movie roles, has done stand up comedy. It stands to reason that there will be many other lesser known ones.

Anonymous said...

amazing the things the NYT finds itself to be concerned about...
palestinians? nope. Christians under muslim rule? nope.
The american middle class? nope.

Anonymous said...

I read the New York Times every day and it has gotten to be the Homosexual Gazette. Has there been a management coup there?

Anonymous said...

This is like those clueless Looking for Latino Representation in ___ articles that Steve lampoons sometimes where the writer just picks a topic out of a bag without knowing much about the subject.

Anonymous said...

Regarding GLBT peoples, Steve----

Are you going to do a post on the lesbo "frat house" scandal in Janet Napolitano's office? Seems that the girls gave a hard time to straight men and seems people are on the case of Napolitano for giving her unqualified gal pals jobs.

Seems the lebians aren't flying under the radar.

Let's! said...

"One unasked question is whether gays are losing their competitive edge because they have become such a sacred cow in contemporary America that they are getting soft from lack of criticism."

I'm pretty sure they still get a lifetime's worth of, um, "criticism" between ages 13-18.

Anonymous said...

Maybe The Old Gay Lady should change its name to the New York Blade.

Anonymous said...

What do you call two gay Irishmen?

Gerald Fitzpatrick and Patrick Fitzgerald.

Anonymous said...

http://www.gaycomic.net/

Is gayness funny?

Anonymous said...

"This is like those clueless Looking for Latino Representation in ___ articles that Steve lampoons sometimes"

My reply, whenever people complain that Latinos are under-represented in Physics Club/Robot Wars/Math Olympics/figure skating/cross-country skiing/(insert any activity that requires talent and determination here) is, "Well that's easily solved. Why don't they just sneak in?"

Whiskey said...

The more female oriented a place or business or what have you is, the more gay Gay GAY! it becomes. The NYT is all gay, all the time, because it is read mostly by White upper class women who besides their Oprah love their gays. As do most women. Gay is what most women wish non-Alpha males would become.

Dan said...

Steve,

You can probably imagine by a lot of my hilarious comments I did stand up at one time. I once opened for a comic from Philly in my hometown of DC and I of course killed but he was even funnier (if you can believe that). After congratulating him he mentioned how he was going to spend his 75$ payday. Keep in mind he drove down from Philly. This was one if the funniest guys I've ever seen live and he only paid 75 fn dollars.

Not sure if he was gay but he did blow me in the bathroom for 25$. So there's that.

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...

We have a lesbian stand up comic in the UK. Rhona Cameron. Only one problem, she isnt funny, not even a tiny bit amusing. She appears on TV a lot but usually as a talking head. Her funniness is referred to but not experienced, its always happening off-stage somewhere quite beyond the reach of any recording apparatus.

Ive wondered about selling t-shirts: 'Rhona Cameron. Not funny - official.'

Her constant TV exposure has to be some sort of unofficial lesbian AA at work.

Anonymous said...

I find over the top flamboyant/flaming gays hilarious. Not always because of pc reasons or even them trying to be funny. But they, like jews, tend to be above average intelegence and humor. I still don´t like sodomy despite this, and don´t get why people who enjoy gays all of a sudden approve of sodomy.

Larry, San Francisco said...

What about Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. They were pretty funny. Although I guess they weren't really gay just "Confirmed Bachelors".

Rasputin said...

Isn't stand-up to a large extent about *dominance*?

Sure there's the joke part, but there's also shutting down hecklers and controlling the mood of the crowd. And the increased tendency of people to laugh at the jokes of those higher in status themselves is also wellknown enough to be a trope.

That might partly explain why lesbians and blacks are more common among comics than say gays and asians.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Meaney is gay...

Anonymous said...

Weird, I've heard Adomian a half dozen times on Comedy Bang Bang (the major Los Angeles comedy podcast) and had no idea that he was gay. Strikes me more as a high energy improv comic than a straight (no pun intended) stand-up but he does seem like a fairly funny man and I wish him success.

Don't understand why he should be hyped as the breakout "out" comic, though. I never got the sense that there was a noticeable paucity of gays in stand up.

Anonymous said...

Goodness, 50 years after Paul Lynde and gay comics still deserve articles? The Times really has become a tribal newsletter.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

I read the New York Times every day and it has gotten to be the Homosexual Gazette. Has there been a management coup there?"

For what it's worth, the NYT building was just hit by lightning.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

We have a lesbian stand up comic in the UK. Rhona Cameron. Only one problem, she isnt funny, not even a tiny bit amusing."

We have a similar such person in the US - Margaret Cho - who has never said anything funny, despite - ostensibly - being a comedian.

Actually, quite a few stand-up comics aren't really funny at all.

Bobcat said...

I've listened to a lot of James Odomian's comedy on podcasts such as Comedy Bang! Bang!, Who Charted? and Doug Loves Movies, and if you didn't already know he was gay, you would never know based on what he talks about. He's not effeminate, and his gayness seems completely incidental to his personality, which is perhaps one reason the NYT author focused on him.

That said, I haven't listened to Low Hanging Fruit, and he may talk about it a lot more in that.

Anonymous said...

Sandi Toksvig Not funny in Danish or English but a host on the BBC.

Susan Calman Sample joke the internet did not exist before 2005. Or does the wedgie believe that?

Who knows who cares about this marvellous comedian.

Sue Perkins Rhona Cameron's former partner also a non-funny comedian.

Anonymous said...

Rip Taylor? Of course, he is clearly very repressed and closeted, so it's hard to tell:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQN3Augv2PA

CrankyProfessor said...

Umm - Rockbar is hardly a venue for breaking out. It's a gay bar (notice the street address -- it's one of the few survivors in the W Village) with REALLY loud music.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey has stated on this forum before that "White Women HATE HATE HATE gays!" Yet now they "LOVE LOVE LOVE gays!" Apparently, White Women decide what they LOVE or HATE based on what Whiskey wants them to feel at the moment?
Now, if only he'd feel they were loyal & at one with their Men...

DCThrowback said...

Louie Anderson is gay. Of course, when you end up playing Vegas full time, it's easy to get forgotten.

Michael McDonald, who was great on Seinfeld (gay waiter cameo on the Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat episode) and was the longest employed cast member on MadTV is rumored to be gay. Strongly rumored. But he as never come out despite his almost female mannerisms. He also has several Comedy Central specials. I personally think he is quite funny. Kudos to the commenter who mentioned Scott Thompson, a great player on the underrated Canadian "Kids in the Hall". And yes, like Eddie Izzard and Monty Python before them, dressing and playing female roles were done (mainly) by the male comedians.

BTW, anon @ 8:31 won the thread, with DanfromDC picking up the silver.

pat said...

I had a Brother-in-Law who tried to be a stand up comedian. He wasn't gay, indeed the family became worried about him because of his children. When his third kid was on the way it was clear that he didn't make enough money at stand up comedian and disk jockey.

He made most of his money just playing records at private parties - not a big ticket career that. He tried to branch out into what he thought would be the more lucrative world of stand-up.

I never saw his stand up routine but it apparently wasn't too good. But then amazingly he found a career that that made him rich. He became a motivational speaker for weary sales teams.

He now travels first class and stays at resorts. He has a big house and nice cars too.

Apparently motivational speaking uses the same talents that comedians use but it's a much more certain gig. Maybe the gay guys have likewise figured this out.

Albertosaurus

Frank Winston said...

Todd Glass came out a few months ago on the Marc Maron show. He doesn't count?

I guess a gay standup needs to be as famous as Seinfeld or Louis CK or it doesn't count.

I suppose Jack Benny wasn't "out" in the contemporary sense, but did the word "out" even mean anything in the 50's?

Frank Winston said...

Now that I read the article I get it. What the author of that piece wants is not an openly gay comic, but an openly gay comic who goes on and on about being gay.

In other words, "out" isn't good enough anymore. A gay who is out is too normal at this point. A gay must also be a gayist to really count these days.

Frank Winston said...

My guess is that a Jack Benny could never have been outed in the 50's, because even if he wanted to be the conversation would have gone something like this:

Jack (to his publicist): I want everyone to know I'm a homosexual. There might be some people out there who can't figure out I'm a homosexual, so I want it to be in print!

Jack's Publicist: Jack, nobody cares. This is America. The public doesn't give a shit if you're a homosexual. You're an entertainer!

Jack: They better START giving a shit! I want to be known for sucking cock, not just for being funny.

Jack's Publicist: But, Jack, isn't it BETTER that nobody cares one way or the other whether you suck cock?

Jack: I want to live in an America where people DO care if entertainers suck cock.

Jack's Publicist: You've been hanging out with Lenny Bruce again, haven't you?

hot august nights said...

with a transvestite hooker in his car, but maybe

Well, you don't have to be gay for this to happen. I try to hire real girls but a TV got into my car once in Oakland. Took quite a bit of strength to get him out, too.

not a hacker said...

his entire act would center around his sodomistic lifestyle

His HBO special could be titled after a line Erica Jong used in Fear of Flying: "last dollop of shit."


DCThrowback said...

The reason why Todd Glass doesn't count is because Todd Glass is completely unfunny.

It's actually a running joke on Tosh.0 that his skit is the most unfunny thing on the show.

What greater protection for Daniel Tosh's flank...

Clutch cargo cult said...

Paul Lynde and CNR, that was a time when adults understood the truth about these men but made no fuss about it. Neither did the gays. No demands for "equality", just leave us alone. Those two had more dignity then any gay now.

Anonymous said...

http://www.forbes.com/real-time-billionaires/

Billion here, billion there and soon we're talking of real money

Anonymous said...

Margaret Cho is married to a dude and used to date Quentin Tarantino and Chris Isaak. She's never been a lesbian, she just reinvented herself as a fag hag after her sitcom crashed and burned in the 90s. She also used to be very funny, back when she made fun of her Korean mom and born again Christian surfer brother.

Grande Young'un said...

I always thought gays were just funny in being gay. Who thought they would need affirmative action in being entertaining?

Anonymous said...

Isn't Daniel Tosh gay?

He certainly seems to be pretty successful both as a stand-up and as the host of Tosh.0.