Queer Young Comics Redefine American Humor

This is not the finish line. For gay men in entertainment, there’s never been a finish line, never a time when you couldn’t take the yardstick used to measure how far you’ve come and flip it to see how great they are still below parity. Gay men can connect with Booster’s stand-up act to such an extent that when they meet him, some of the more borderless ones will enthusiastically grope him (this makes him extremely uncomfortable; if he please don’t). But other audiences have a long way to go, he says. “I see a lot of stand-ups all over the country when I travel, and it’s crazy how our existence is still used as a punch line. The idea of ​​homosexuality is still a lot of fun for a lot of people.

Large parts of the industry also haven’t moved past casting decisions that might have seemed fresh 20 years ago, but not now. “I’m always here to audition for stuff,” says Matt Rogers, who lives in Los Angeles, and “it’s always mostly assistants or [the heroine’s] best friend being like, ‘Girlyou wear this?'” On his next show, Rogers will play “senior partner – it’s very clear he’s do not the helper. …It’s a good idea to make him aware of the stereotype and watch him relate to it.

Despite all the progress that has been made, the days when talks like this would have been unimaginable are still recent enough to remember, and dark. “I think about Terry Sweeney a lot,” Yang says. Sweeney, now in his early 70s, was a trailblazer who made his mark before the characters in this story were born – in 1985, when he became the first gay man to be hired as a regular cast member of “Saturday Night Live”. Sweeney was “the gay”; he “had a moment”; and his impersonations of Joan Rivers, Nancy Reagan, and (that was another time) Diana Ross might have made him a star in a new era of “SNL,” or America. But Sweeney came into the limelight during the AIDS crisis, at a time when the demonization of gay men was on the rise, and the show essentially quarantined him, treating him like a drag oddity. It lasted one season.

“I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived a week,” Yang said. It seemed “so shocking that there was a gay man on ‘SNL’, but it always seemed like the writing staff thought it was so shocking. … Sometimes I walk into that dark place where I think : ‘Have we [moved beyond that]? Do people see me as this new thing on the show – that I come in, do my weird little song and dance and then leave? I do not think it’s true. I’m obviously in a much better situation than him. But I think of him very often.

We are no longer here. We’re not even where we were ten years ago when Torres, still trying to find his voice as a performer, started doing open mic parties not knowing if he would face hostile audiences. or not. “Then, years later,” he says, “I get asked to do a gay-only open mic. And I was just like, ‘Oh my God, are there enough budding queer comedians to have their own open mic?’

“I don’t want to say ‘I knew them when’, but they’re all people I’ve seen grow and develop,” Yang explains. “I hope what emerges from all of this is that we have all charted our paths to some version of flourishing or success or finding our own voice. I know I’m just spitting out all these serious sound bites, but I guess I’m just saying there’s such a community of people out there who all care about each other. And I hope it will continue. »