Queer comedians are set to make their mark in the New Year for straight and LGBT audiences alike with their latest projects.
Out Minnesota-based comedian Maggie Faris recently released her second live comedy album, “A Dingus Among Us,” after spending the last few years using her considerable comedic charm and likability to win numerous comedy competitions across the country and earn praise along the way from Curve magazine and The Advocate. She even beat out Tig Notaro to win both the Funniest Clip of the Year and the Silver Nail award at the Aspen Comedy Festival.
“I have a total Fargo accent but besides that, I don’t think there is anything particularly Minnesota about the CD,” Faris said. “The first album was just an archive of jokes. I had this backlog and I wanted to get them down in history so I could keep writing more and more. [For] the second one, I feel like they’re more polished jokes.”
Another queer comic on the move is Jaboukie Young-White, who is making his Philadelphia debut Jan. 13 at Good Good Comedy Theatre. Young-White recently made his late-night standup debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and was also named one of Rolling Stone’s “25 Under 25.” And he recently appeared in the comedy film “Rough Night” and will be seen in the upcoming Netflix series “Set It Up.” He currently writes for the Netflix series “American Vandal” when he’s not posting humorous observations for his massive Twitter following.
Young-White said he knows the difference between being Twitter funny and being funny and entertaining in front of a live audience.
“Luckily I had been doing standup for about a year or two before I got a Twitter following,” he said. “I was more so tailoring my voice to Twitter than trying to create a voice out of Twitter. I started out thinking of comedy as like a stage/standup performer and Twitter came later. It’s a back-and-forth symbiotic relationship.”
Young-White said his influences as a comedian and writer come from a wide range of styles and mediums.
“I was always a comedy nerd,” he said. “I love pretty much any sitcom. I was really into ‘Dharma and Greg’ and ‘Chappelle’s Show’ and watching older standups like Richard Pryor and stuff on ‘Comedy Central Presents.’ I’d memorize jokes and tell them back to my friends. I was pretty eclectic. I just pulled from wherever I was seeing comedy.”
Speaking of Chappelle, we asked Young-White what he though of the recent controversy around the comedian and his two most recent Netflix specials where he jokes about transgender people and one of Kevin Spacey’s accusers.
“If I were to go back and try to gain influence from people that have been correct on every issue at every time, I would have no influences,” he said. “People are learning as time progresses. I personally am just trying to speak on my experiences. I really don’t find it necessary or even valid to speak on others’ identities or experiences just because I don’t have as much insight as they do. So I’m just willing to talk about the things I know about, which I wish more people would do. It’s a pretty complex issue.”
Both Young-White and Faris said they believe mainstream comedy audiences are more open-minded to openly gay performers today than in recent years.
“I do a lot more performing for mostly straight crowds, normal comedy-club-going folk, but I have somewhat of a gay following as well,” Faris said. “Our community is sprinkled in there somewhat, which is always nice, and I feel like it’s been growing the last few years. I’ve always wanted to have a representation of our people following my comedy. I feel like it’s also that I’m out there to kind of educate straight folks a little, to just be out there and be gay and have folks see it. I’m still just a regular comedian and sometimes I talk about stuff and sometimes I don’t. But that’s why I love to do it.”
“Some of the funniest [comedians] I know are queer people of color,” Young-White said. “There are so many voices out there that are really changing the game, even beyond talking about being gay. They’re actually shifting what it means to do stand-up and what the form looks like. It’s really cool because five or 10 years ago, we only existed in the margins of comedy outside of punch lines or Wanda Sykes. That was the only representation we had. It’s nice to see a lot of queer voices come out.”
Faris and Young-White also addressed how they handle the growing specter of how to and when to work politics into their humor.
“I feel like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” Faris said. “I’ve never been a huge political comedian. I’ve mostly been about silliness and playfulness. But I still talk about a little and I sneak in what I can sneak in without trying to polarize the room. It’s my goal to have people enjoy themselves for an hour and have everyone no matter what they believe to just relax. That’s my goal ultimately but I do try to sneak in some agenda items here and there.”
“If you are a person of color who is queer and doing comedy, I think just in the act of doing comedy I’m going to immediately be politicized,” Young-White said. “I live in a society where my identity is politicized. I would definitely say that there are parts of my act that are political but it’s not like I’m front-to-back criticizing Trump. I’m not really doing that.”
Jaboukie Young-White performs 7, 8:30 and 10 p.m. Jan. 13 at Good Good Comedy Theatre, 215 N. 11th St. For more information or tickets, visit http://goodgoodcomedy.com/jaboukie/.
Maggie Faris’ latest album, “A Dingus Among Us,” is available now. For more information, visit http://extrememaggie.com/.