Comedy often comes from a source of pain. If you cannot laugh about it, then most likely you’ll cry – and who says you can’t do both? Throughout OUT on Stage’s first season, we see first-hand how the difficult experiences of being LGBTQ can provide comedy fodder.

It’s extremely difficult to review stand-up comedy, as a joke that makes me laugh may make you cringe or take offense. Therefore, I will provide a short description and critique of each comedian’s act, so that you can decide which episodes you are most interested in. Generally, the comedy is strong, and even the less skilled comedians succeed more often than not. My overall ratings range from okay to very strong.

HOST Zack Noe Towers – The host for the series and who makes jokes between transitions of the comics on each episode. He enjoys his fair share of dirty jokes, which often didn’t resonate with me. Having an improv background, I do relate to wanting to have a real-life ability to “wipe the scene” and start over, which he discusses.

“‘Out on Stage’ has been a real passion project for me,” comedian and host Zach Noe Towers said. “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.”

EPISODE ONE – VERY STRONG

Jared Goldstein – Most of his set addresses the experiences of growing up an Asian-Jew on Long Island, and his unfortunate racist experiences on the dating scene. His delivery is assured and he is not afraid to engage in self-deprecating humour about his own physical appearance. One of the most skilled comedians of the series.

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Jared Goldstein

Raneir Pollard –A Black comic, Raneir touches on issues of living as a person of colour in 2017 America, where these episodes were recorded. From a joke about not having a license to carry his guns, aka his bulging muscles (which are just for his fans on Instagram), to a joke about how we need more gay assassins, he too joins the comedy elite.

Kyle Shire – A massive rock of a man standing at 6’5, the gay elders called him down to fight on our side, and we can use more of this nerdy, yet sexually experienced dynamo of a comic. His jokes about initially not conforming to the stereotypes of gay people, but then turning around and proving that he is “super gay” are on point.

“Listen, man, I’m not just a friend of Dorothy. I’m that bitch’s emergency contact.” – Kyle Shire

EPISODE TWO – OK

Jonathan Rowell – A Mexican comic, he goes to some very dark places, including discussing his homophobic sister later responsible for stabbing her partner, and the “gay” deaths of LGBTQ youths in Chechnya, who were either killed by family or sent to concentration camps. While I won’t be one of those people taking to Twitter to expound on my disgust for this comic’s jokes (it is comedy after all, and those with thin skins need not apply) – I just did not find him or the Chechnya piece that funny.

Brendan Scannell – A comic who – depending on his mood – either enjoys or is disadvantaged by his twinkish looks, he spends some time discussing his youthful and, yet, mature attitude towards life. While I did not like his jokes about texting and driving (and his admission that he still does it), his knowledge of Mike Pence is worthy of some attention in these troubled times.

EPISODE THREE – STRONG

Gloria Bigelow – Finally breaking up the sausage fest, Bigelow is a Black comic who is not afraid to discuss the myriad of challenges facing lesbians of colour in today’s political climate, while also having a bit of fun as well. Her jokes about how being oppressed makes one an expert in oppressing others (an interesting take on Black homophobia); how bears are the subset of the gay population who just happen to love the buffet; and her incredulousness on how a straight guy friend of hers cannot tell who is more attractive, Obama or Trump (please) all hit their mark and then some.

“Yeah, that joke is intersectional as a motherfucker, right?” Gloria Bigelow

Anthony DeSamito – A lot of scattered jokes with minimal transitions dilute his ability to be memorable; however, his fresh take towards body image in the gay community is worthy of attention.

A.B. Cassidy – A butch lesbian comic who is able to see the humour in the rigid confines of gender, Cassidy, in a strong set, discusses, among other topics, how her parents precluded her from coming out, earthquakes in LA, her difficulties using public washrooms, and how she would have been disadvantaged on the Titanic. Well worth watching out for!

A.B. Cassidy Picture

A.B. Cassidy

EPISODE FOUR – GOOD

Jordan Pease – The vast majority of his set relates to his various uses of drugs, from weed to ecstasy. As I could not relate (but wondered if I should try an edible for the purposes of this review), many of his jokes disappeared in the ether for me. However, I do appreciate his novel Bible interpretation which I will not ruin here.

Chris Bryant – Bryant, hailing from the Bible Belt, certainly has faced his fair share of prejudice. His mother attempted to strike a bargain with him: if I accept you “being a gay,” you should accept me “being a bad parent.” Thankfully, he recognizes the humour and hypocrisy inherent in such conflicting situations. Bryant touches on many topics as well, including how having sex with him is like taking care of the elderly; how, like DeSamito in the previous episode, he tried, but failed, to arouse child predators when he was a horny teen; and finally, he caps off his set with a shocking anecdote of his trials and tribulations as a massage therapist. Another one to look out for in the future.

Joe Dosch – Not as memorable as I would have liked, his jokes on people in LA automatically being 10s in his home state of South Dakota, brought a little smile to my face. Furthermore, the manner in which his choice of sport in high school – wrestling – backfired, is a lesson in mortifying embarrassment.

EPISODE FIVE – VERY STRONG

Casey Ley – A comic living with HIV, he showcases that one can live a full and successful life with the condition, but that there is still a lot of stigma and unease to overcome (including, if I’m not mistaken, within the studio audience itself – however, the audience does seem to gel with him as time goes on). While some of his jokes may be groaners, he provides a remarkable example of talking about topics that people usually cross the street to avoid.

“Remember that time I told you I was gay? Well, I’m a lot gayer now.” – Casey Ley

Julian Michael – Another remarkably strong set, his delivery is very relaxed to the point where you feel as if he is a friend confiding in you about his interracial marriage to a white man in a divided America. His ability to laugh at his own jokes shows that he enjoys his own material, which is always nice to see. Definitely one who deserves a Netflix special or five billion.

“I would never leave my guy because he’s white, I wouldn’t do that, but I am fuckin’ him face down more.” – Julian Michael

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Julian Michael

Irene Tu – Not an Asian teenage boy on stage, this wise lesbian comic is able to point out the absurdity of gender norms in much the same way as Cassidy in Episode 3, but with a lot of biting one-liners. She discusses her childhood and addresses how she deals with menstruation with confidence and self-deprecation. Again, not to be missed.

EPISODE SIX – GOOD

Janine Brito – Looking like a senator’s son, Brito delves into some difficult topics such as a prior abusive relationship with relative ease. Her stories about her childhood and her joke about eating Activia out of a fleshlight are extremely memorable – and again, she comes across as a friend you’d like to have in your corner.

Eric Hahn – Hahn spent too much time talking about his body and the aging process for my liking, but I am sure that there is an audience for this. I just did turn 30, so I have to come to terms with this myself, anyways. I did smile at his joke about being one of the seven tops in L.A. (even though I’ve never been to L.A. in my life) – he is mandated to drop whatever he is doing and top you if you ask.

Daniel Webb – Hisdeliveryohmygodistoofastformytiredbraintokeepupohmygod. Perhaps, it was his delivery, but I had trouble relating. However, I enjoyed his joke about turning the corner in Amsterdam with your parents, finding yourselves in the red-light district, and having your dad ask a prostitute for directions.

CONCLUSION

Representation is important in these divisive times. If comedy comes from pain, there is a lot of pain to go around in America right now. The episodes were recorded in 2017, and while the humour is not outdated by any means, I am interested to see more present takes on LGBTQ issues as well as the constant stupidity demonstrated by the Trump administration.

I would be interested in seeing a format more like Just for Laughs, complete with comedian interviews or some analysis of how each builds their set – just for a change of pace than just having Zach Noe Towers be the transition between each comic. This could help LGBTQ comedy become more mainstream as it could encourage LGBTQ individuals to feel more confident stepping forward and trying their hand at comedy. (I have.) Comedy can be a great way to tell your story – and, contrary to popular belief, it need not be uproariously funny, but can be bitterly funny as well, like a good dramedy on television that makes you cry more than laugh.

I would like to see more diverse representation, including that of trans comedians on this show, as well as openly bisexual comedians. If there is any difficulty finding these comedians (there shouldn’t be, if shows like The Bisexual are any indication) – open casting calls can be announced on the show itself. I have also been told that a Canadian comedy episode is enroute, so that is exciting news!

In short, this is a flexible program – meaning that if you don’t like a comic, there’s another one afterwards you might like. And as you watch, you come to appreciate that we are all in this together – if you prick us, we bleed – we just bleed in rainbow colours.

This series can be found on the Dekkoo streaming service, and was provided to TheBuzz for review consideration. Watch the trailer below.

About the Author

Michael McNeely is a 2nd year law student; entertainment and accessibility critic; filmmaker; and aspiring actor. He enjoys meaningful representations of LGBT folks and those with disabilities in the popular media, and is waiting for the day where nuance, instead of stereotype and prejudice, is the norm. Michael is deaf-blind, meaning that he enjoys the presence of subtitles and other accessibility features.