A least one or twice a month, I get asked to write about my experiences as a standup comic in the paper, and I always refuse. But I’m making an exception just this once … or twice.
So, if you don’t know, when I’m not in the trenches here at the paper, I’m a professional standup comic (my stage name is Larry XL … I’m tall). I love doing it and journalism doesn’t really afford one a livable income these days. So among journalism, standup comedy, Uber/Lyft driving, selling the occasional pint of blood and raiding ships in brazen acts of piracy in international waters, I keep the lights on and gas in the tank.
I’m a straight ally and a POC who performs all over the country and in Canada to a variety of audiences. Some comedians don’t have that luxury (or burden, depending on your world view). As a result, I view the world mostly from the fuzzy glare of lights from the stage or through the windshield of my car, which has more than a quarter-million miles on the odometer. Some people seem to think this makes my life so interesting and I have all this accumulated wisdom that I should write more about.
I don’t really see it that way. It’s mostly a never-ending mental slideshow of hotel rooms, interstates, stages (of various size and quality) and cups of coffee (also of various size and quality), punctuated by some moments of desperate reflection and horrific clarity along the way. It’s not that intriguing, but who am I to let an empty space that needs to be filled in the paper tell me otherwise? I’ll let you be the judge.
I generally perform anywhere for anyone who will have me on a show. Besides comedy clubs and casinos, I’ve performed at sports bars, gay bars, military bases, synagogues, swingers’ weekends and everything in between. Performing in the United States, a good chunk of the gigs I do are in Trump Country (i.e., mostly white, straight, blue-collar, Ford F-150-owning, Affliction-T-shirt-wearing, whiskey/Budweiser-drinking men and chardonnay/Coors Light-drinking women, happy to live and work two-four hours from the nearest major city). While I do some political humor and social commentary in small doses in my act, when it comes to these gigs, I bench a lot of those jokes. You have to pick your spots and, honestly, it’s not worth it deep in what could be hostile territory.
I’m also an avid gamer (board games, role-playing games, etc.) and a fan of most things nerdy and geeky in my free time. This year I was asked to put together a comedy show for a gaming convention in Columbus, Ohio (the champagne of Ohio cities, in my opinion). When I get a chance to put together a comedy show anywhere, I try to make the lineup diverse because a lot of times the shows are just too much or all of one thing — which is almost always straight white guys. So at the very least, I like to have a woman or another person of color on the bill, just so there is some variety. In this case, I instantly knew whom I wanted among the comics at this gamer-oriented show — a comedian and friend from Baltimore who is also a raging gamer fan, Violet Gray.
Violet hasn’t always been Violet. When I met her, she was Dorian, still a gamer geek and a comedian but, from all outward appearances, male. Violet is gender-nonconforming. Coming from the Baltimore/Washington D.C. comedy area, pretty much everybody on the scene accepted her name and identity change without question, hangups or fanfare, which is the way it should be. If someone is your friend and you respect them, you accept who they are and their choices — whether it be a name or identity change. It’s not that hard of a leap to make.
Comics are one thing. Audiences are another. Gaming conventions usually draw an open-minded and accepting audience, but you never really know, especially in red states. It’s always strange and disconcerting when you find out the fans of things like sci-fi or fantasy franchises such as “Star Wars” and “Dungeons & Dragons” get bent out of shape over characters of color or sexualities other than straight. I’m sorry, but the idea of racism in space really pisses me off. And the idea of racism and homophobia in imaginary lands where faeries, dragons, trolls, giants and unicorns are accepted and celebrated is even more asinine. In the case of this event, it probably helps that for the last few years, Columbus’ Pride Festival happens the same weekend of the game convention and the parade runs right by the convention center, thereby infusing the attendance of the convention with LGBT participants.
Anyway, Violet took the stage last Saturday night and went over like gangbusters with the audience, giving them hilarious takes on her adventures as a gender-nonconforming person of color inside and outside gamer and geek circles. Hopefully someday I can talk her into writing something or being featured in PGN. Until then, if you have a chance, check out Violet Gray live if you are down in the Baltimore/D.C. area, or listen to her podcast Laugh Finder, where she and other comedians roll the dice in role-playing games. For more information visit http://lfp.fakingitradio.com/ or on Twitter @VioletSilver.
OK, that’s enough out of me for now. Maybe next month, I’ll talk your ears off about performing in Canada. n