Stephen Guarino Will Eat You Alive

By Jami Smith

Originally published on Advocate.com November 22 2011 5:00 AM ET

With successes in improv, sketch, and stand-up, actor
Stephen Guarino is a rare comedy triple threat.  The Big Gay Sketch Show
veteran fills his dance card with cameos on ABC’s Happy Endings, stand-up appearances, and directing his own big
gay productions.

Guarino dishes to The Advocate on why he doesn’t need a script and how to land a role by being the
most insane person at the audition. 

The Advocate:
On
Happy Endings
you play an insanely flamboyant gay bestie. You’re doing that stereotype better
than anyone out there right now.

Stephen Guarino: I’ve
cornered the market on that. What’s good about that show is that if you catch
the first episode, Casey Wilson’s character is bored because she’s friends with
a boring gay guy, who is Adam Pally’s character. So the show is smart because
they set me up as the gay that you would hate, like the ’90s gay, who is really
out of fashion right now. I think that’s really smart. Then, ironically, it
ended up working, and they liked it, which is why I now recur on the show. It
was a nice social comment at first, but it kind of turned the myth true that
the bad gay is the fun gay.

Derek is so hyper. 
How do you amp yourself up to play him?

I don’t eat and then I have a lot of Red
Bull and coffee and I just make sure that the writers are OK with me doing
whatever I want because my entrances are all fucking insane. There’s so much
improv on the show. I don’t think in the first two episodes that I said a word
that was on the page.

The line “Slut, come help me out of this split!” makes
me pee a little.

The whole reason that came up was because
in the audition I was against six or seven of my friends for the role, and my
default when I’m nervous is to eat everyone alive. If you’re a receptionist in
a casting office, I’m going to be warming up with you. You are part of my show.
When I went in to audition, I was so crazed — knocking chairs over — and I
ended up doing a split on the boardroom table in front of all of the writers to
punctuate the end of my audition. Then I just started screaming — “Booked it!
Booked it!” — like an asshole and then ran out of the room. I didn’t even wait
to say goodbye. I just left. And
it worked. Then I got to the set on the first day, the split was the first
thing we shot.  

Do you get a lot of straight women asking you to hold
their ta-tas? Not a bad gig, in my opinion.

Ha. Yeah I get a lot of people who
recognize me from the show now, which is nice, and it’s always girls. Never gay
guys. I don’t know if gay guys are watching Happy Endings.

You’ve found success from almost all outlets for comedy:
improv, sketch, stand-up, acting. All that’s left is a reality show based on
your life. What would that look like?

Oh, my God, It would be terrible because
I’m so fucking boring in real life. I think I save it all up for these parts. I
live in the servants’ quarters of Orson Welles’s old house. I don’t even have a
microwave. All I have are a couple of DVDs of old Robert Altman movies from the ’70s.

You had a lot of great characters on The Big Gay
Sketch Show
. What was the writing
process like? Did you come to the table with character ideas or did the writers
play to your strengths?

Basically at the beginning of each season, we all come in and pitch
for a few hours. I probably pitched 12 different sketches and maybe six or
seven of them were characters that I do. Writers will gravitate to ones they
are attracted to. They’ll present their version of it and then you give your
input. It was the best show that no one watched, just like 7th
Heaven. 

Do you think there’s room for another gay-themed comedy
show on television?

Maybe if it cost $5. I mean,
ours was so expensive. RuPaul’s show is a one-camera setup, one person being
paid while everyone else is being hired as a local. Our show cost half a
million an episode. It just wasn’t sustainable on that channel.

You’ve been out since you were 15, which surprised me
because we’re about the same age and both from Florida. I wore a softball
uniform under my blouses, and even the boy who dressed like Madonna wasn’t out.
How did you manage it?

I think I just lucked out with a small
window of time between ’90 and ’93 when it was suddenly fashionable to be
alternative. Grunge was on the scene, so anything different was hip. It was
popular for jocks to have boyfriends, which sounds insane. We had a group
called the Lake Mary Fags and it consisted of skaters who took pride in being
bisexual. They’d have boyfriends to impress their girlfriends. It was very in
vogue.  

This is a magical place in Florida that I never
discovered.

It was totally outrageous. We had a lot of
gay kids who were very popular. It also didn’t hurt that my best friend Tanya
was super popular. She looked like Mariah Carey and was really fashionable. She
was my prom date, so we lucked out. I had no childhood problems at all. My
parents are overeducated, Waspy, bored Bostonians. They didn’t blink an eye.  

Same SexTacular! UCBcomedy.com
Watch more comedy videos from the twisted minds of the UCB Theatre at UCBcomedy.com

COMEDIAN STEPHEN GUARINO 2 390x (COURTESY) ADVOCATE.COM

You just finished shooting Bear City 2. Can you give us a spoiler?

More high jinks, a lot of new characters, a major cameo by Kathy Najimy
as my mother, and just a really thoughtful, interesting twist at the end. The
movie has been just a huge success. It’s the first gay independent film I’ve
done. I had been asked to do a couple and waited, but I thought this one really
worked. It’s such a niche subject that they hit on the head. It’ll hit the
festivals in Outfest in summer of 2012.  

Have you gotten a lot more offers now from the bear community?

Absolutely. I have about 4,000 Facebook
requests from bears.  

Then I’ll be sure to mention that we did this interview
shirtless.

Perfect.  

What’s next for you?

I’m currently assistant-directing the new CBS
Diversity Showcase. They take 14 of the hottest black, Latino, Asian, and gay
comics and put them in front of the industry. I don’t know if you know this,
but gay is now considered a color. They just added that to their diversity
package: white, gay people. I did the showcase in January and won the prize of
getting a six-month deal with CBS to develop my own show. They are trying to
diversify and get more gay characters on the air. I didn’t get the show, but it
started a good relationship with them, and I am directing the new showcase. I
also directed a stage production of the movie Showgirls in L.A., but in drag. You can go to ShowgirlsInDrag.com to find out when to
see it.