By Jami Smith
Originally published on Advocate.com September 27 2013 7:00 AM ET
After months of culling submissions, eight finalists were selected and traveled from all over the country to compete live in Chicago on Tuesday night for the top honor of being America's funniest queer comedian. Playing to a packed house at Zanie's Comedy Club, each comedian was given eight minutes to win over the crowd and the judges. The competition was stiff and the votes were close, but only three winners would take home the cash prizes and bragging rights.
Here are this year's picks in the first annual Stand Out: National Queer Comedy Search (quirky bios provided by the comedians):
Maggie Faris is known for a ceaselessly cheerful personality and seemingly endless series of quirky, intelligent jokes dissecting our fears and social barriers. With light-hearted material that forces the audience to laugh at their insecurities and prejudices, Faris shows that we are all equally goofy human beings. Faris is the winner of several comedy competitions, including the Gender Showdown — the first woman to win the title featuring an impressive list of past competitors including Louie Anderson and Roseanne Barr. Additionally, through competition, Faris won the coveted role of public address announcer for the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team, leading to an appearance on ESPN’s Cold Pizza, as a result of her unique style and memorable game announcements. She appeared two years in a row on NBC's Last Comic Standing, and won both the Silver Nail award and Funniest Clip of the Year at the Aspen Comedy Festival in 2011. Curve magazine named Faris one of the Funniest Lesbians in America.
Casey Ley is a San Francisco-based comedian who often hears, “Hey! You’re that funny gay comic, aren’t you?” He longs for the day when people will recognize him as just a funny black comic. Ley’s comedy has been featured nationwide in clubs from L.A. to N.Y. and festivals such as the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Ore. and the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas. In San Francisco, Ley is the host and creator of the weekly comedy game show "Mayhem Trivia" at Dr. Teeh and the Electric Mayhem and the monthly stand-up show "This Feels Wrong." His comedy has appeared on NPR and he was voted the Bay Area’s best comic by readers of SF Weekly in 2012.
Raised by a wild pack of Jews, otherwise known as her mother and two siblings, Dana Goldberg's tongue-in-cheek edginess is why she continues to collect loyal fans in cities all over the world. Goldberg’s comedy has been seen in 27 states and seven countries. She has performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas produced by TBS and HBO, The San Francisco International comedy competition, and the Gay and Lesbian Comedy Festival in Dearborn Michigan. She's headlined at clubs such as The Improv, The Laugh Factory and the World Famous Comedy Store. Goldberg recorded her comedy special “One Night Stand Up” for LOGO at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and she was voted “One of the Top Five Funniest Lesbians in America” by Curve magazine. Apart from her hilarious stand-up performances, Goldberg has also helped to raise more than $1 million for the Human Rights Campaign and more than $50,000 for HIV/AIDS organizations across the country to help support education and prevention. She has shared the national stage with President Obama, Jane Lynch and the cast of Glee, Lady Gaga, Kathy Griffin, Portia de Rossi, Judy Gold, David Brenner and Kathy Najimy. As the youngest child in a single-parent household run by a Jewish mother in which two of three kids are gay, she helps keep most of the comedy venues and half of the psychotherapists in the country in business.