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Comedy: Stand-Up, Gay Male  
page: 1  2  

Since San Francisco's thriving gay community was the cradle of gay comedy, it is perhaps fitting that one of the nation's best known gay stand-up comics has served on the city's Board of Supervisors, to which he was first elected in 1994. Tom Ammiano is a special education teacher who began his stand-up career in 1980. As stand-up was beginning to flourish around the country, Ammiano helped initiate a gay comedy night at San Francisco's Valencia Rose Cabaret, where he earned the nickname "the Mother of Gay Comedy."

He performed his popular political comedy in clubs and events all over the United States for more than fifteen years before running for city office. By 1998, he was President of the Board of Supervisors. In 2000, he came unexpectedly close to becoming the first openly gay mayor of a major United States city. Ammiano still performs at community events, and his sharp comic sense insures that his political speeches hold the attention of the crowd.

During the early 1990s, Canadian comic Scott Thompson became one of the best known gay performers in the United States, thanks to The Kids in the Hall, an outrageous sketch comedy show that appeared on various networks between 1989 and 1990. Thompson, the openly gay member of the Kids troupe, won a broad audience performing, often in drag, in skits that skewered middle class suburban values.

The Brampton, Ontario native followed his success in Kids with a stint as a gay assistant on the HBO comedy The Larry Sanders Show, and a role as an FBI agent in the 1999 film Mickey Blue Eyes, as well as with his own on-line sitcom ScottLand. Although some gays have criticized the broad comedy of the Kids skits as homophobic, Thompson insists his goal is to create gay characters who are three-dimensional and to increase gay visibility while resisting the establishment media's attempts to "sanitize" gays.

Other gay comics also formed performing troupes. Pomo Afro Homos, formed in 1991 by African American comics and writers Brian Freeman, Marvin K. White, and Djola Branner, brought a post-modern edge to gay comedy with controversial skits about the stereotypes and realities of Black gay life.

Funny Gay Males, originated in 1989 by Bob Smith, Danny McWilliams, and Jaffe Cohen (Eddie Sarfaty later replaced Smith), had a lighter tone, but still explored the gay experience with poignant hilarity. In 1995, the Males wrote down many of their routines and published them in a popular book titled, Growing up Gay: From Left Out to Coming Out.

Bob Smith had a major coup when he became the first openly gay stand-up comic to appear on The Tonight Show in 1994. Other well-known gay male stand-up comics include Frank Maya, David MacLean, Steve Moore, and David Sedaris (best known as a writer and National Public Radio personality).

Although the stand-up craze in the United States began to die out in the 1990s, stand-up remains a popular form of entertainment for those who need a bit of humor to help them through difficult times. At talent shows and open mikes at gay bars across the country, hundreds of gay comics take the stage to point out the foibles of both gay and straight society. A few of these comics have become well known in their communities, and fewer still have become nationally famous, but each has had a part in expressing the gay experience and making that experience more accessible to the straight world.

Tina Gianoulis

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arts >> Overview:  American Television, Situation Comedies

American television sitcoms have consistently reflected the presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, often in distorted and stereotyped ways, but occasionally in ways that acknowledge our humanity and complexity.

arts >> Overview:  Comedy: Stand-Up, Lesbian

Lesbian stand-up comedy provides an excellent example of how comedy can foster social and political awareness in both minority and mainstream communities.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.

arts >> Bourbon, Ray

Legendary drag performer and recording artist Ray Bourbon appeared in silent movies, vaudeville acts, Broadway plays, and, from the 1940s through the 1960s, performed across the United States in a gay nightclub circuit.

arts >> King, Michael Patrick

Writer, director, and producer Michael Patrick King has been creatively involved in a number of ground-breaking television series featuring gay themes and strong women.

arts >> Mapa, Alec

Alec Mapa has enjoyed success as an actor and on the comedy circuit. He is also an activist for glbtq rights.

arts >> Norton, Graham

A smash hit on British television, comedian and talk-show host Graham Norton has been out, proud, and outrageous from the beginning of his career.


Cagle, Jess. "Stand-up Kinda Gays." Entertainment Weekly 200 (December 10, 1993):18-21.

Freeman, Brian. "Pomo Afro Homos Present 'Fierce Love.'" OUT/LOOK No.14 (Fall 1991): 58-63.

"Interview with Jason Stuart." SHECKY! A Magazine About Stand-up.

Karvoski, Ed, Jr. A Funny Time To Be Gay: Hilarious Gay and Lesbian Comedy Routines, from Trailblazers to Today's Headliners. New York: Fireside Books, 1997.

Linebarger, Charles. "Gay Comics Step Out." Christopher Street 14.17 (March 2, 1992): 30-33.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Comedy: Stand-Up, Gay Male  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 16, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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