When a comedian makes an offensive joke, what comes to follow is fairly predictable. Some people are angry, others less so and, inevitably, there's a rush of defenders claiming at least one of two things: 1.) That comedy clubs are a safe space and 2.) that comedians, by virtue of their profession, should be able to say whatever they want. Okay, fine. Like Lindy pointed out last month, you can say almost whatever you'd like, but what about the notion that the comedy club should be a safe space?
Of course, there's a difference between what should be and what is. While the idea of a space where comedians can comfortably work out their material in relative peace is a pleasant one, it's not exactly realistic. Audiences have been hostile since cavemen first discovered the hilarity of seeing someone get hit by a piece of flying fruit and to this day there are rooms that are more friendly to one kind of comic than they are to another. But what about safety within the comedy community itself? Yes, racist and sexist jokes unfortunately run rampant, but that's not to say the cadre is without diversity itself. In fact, comedians from a variety of different backgrounds are currently enjoying mainstream success. That said, there is one group that, as recently pointed out by the New York Times, can't seem to catch a big break — where the hell are all of the successful, gay male comedians?
"With gays, we still don't have the first guy," said Dave Rubin, a gay comic who is the co-host of the Sirius radio show "The Six Pack," which often features gay celebrities. "Television likes their gay people as sidekicks on the Bravo network or as fashion experts. I'm just not sure how far we've come from one of my favorite Homer Simpson lines: ‘Marge, I like my TV loud, my beer cold and my homosexuals flaming!' "
Gay comedians do — no duh — exist, but unless you live in a major city and have the opportunity to hit up your fair share of alt comedy shows, you might be hard pressed to find them. The Times piece mentions a few names that could ring a bell (like Todd Glass, who only came out this year, and the ever-shrill Mario Cantone), but, unless you are big comedy nerd or spend a good amount of time listening to podcasts, most of the names brought up are still relatively unknown and have yet to find their mainstream audience.
Comedy and homophobia have been unfortunate bedfellows for ages with everyone from Lenny Bruce to Eddie Murphy to Lisa Lampanelli to Tracy Morgan getting in on the not-so-fun fun, however, if the massive success of gay female comedians Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres are any indication, the tides are slowly turning.
But still, what about the gay men? There are several gay male comedians who hover at the brink of success, but what is it that will push them over the edge? Exposure, for one thing. The more people watch them, the more we will realize how limiting it is for all of us to edit their perspective out of the comedic landscape. We might even discover that gay comedians — lo and behold — talk about more than just being gay. That they, too, are human beings with opinions on politics, family, airplane food and who drives one way and who drives another. And if they do talk about being gay? Big fucking deal. That can be pretty funny, too.
And, now, because talk is cheap, a short crash-course on some of today's best up-and-coming comedians (who also happen to be gay).
To be fair, Simon Amstell is massively popular in Great Britain where he first became known as a TV presenter (on Pop World and Never Mind the Buzzcocks) and produced two seasons of his own sitcom Grandma's House (which, if you have a few hours to kill, is well worth your time). Still, he's a practically unknown name in the U.S. and is currently trying crack the American market with his thoughtful and philosophic brand of comedy.
While you're expected to laugh with most comedians, you're not exactly expected to have fun with them. With Gabe Liedman, however, you have an absolute blast. A typical Liedman set expertly mingles wit and real life anecdotes with the absurd and seemingly banal, generally leaving the audience giddy and clamoring for more. And when you pair him with comedy partner Jenny Slate? The pair are unstoppable.
Eliot Glazer and Brent Sullivan
Eliot Glazer and Brent Sullivan are the duo behind It Gets Betterish (the webseries covered more in depth here). According to Glazer, It Gets Betterish has gotten very little interest from the networks, but the two plan on officially pitching it as a TV show this fall.
A key (and hopeful) quote from Glazer in the New York Times:
"In our culture it's acceptable to talk about women and men, or even women and women, but it's still seen by some as icky to talk about two men," he said in an interview. "But it's a generational thing. For many it's no big deal."
According to the Times, it's Adomian who has the biggest chance of becoming the first openly gay comedic superstar and it does indeed look like he's on his way. In addition to his recently released album "Low Hangin Fruit," he's appeared on Last Comic Standing and is a frequent guessed on the podcast Comedy Bang! Bang!, where he often shows up in one of his many brilliant characters.
Gay Male Comics Await the Spotlight [New York Times]