A new comedy series on Dekkoo, a gay-centric subscription-based streaming service, Out on Stage, is offering a rare platform for LGBTQ stand-ups and their fans.
"I don't think comedy is an easy field for anyone, but it can sometimes be especially difficult for those of us with unique, diverse voices," says Zach Noe Towers, host of the all-queer comedy series. Towers previously hosted The Elite Daily Show on Verizon's streaming platform, Go90.
"We're a much smaller percentage of the population, stage time can be harder to come by, and oftentimes audiences aren't as willing to give us a chance. It's so important to have this kind of representation available."
While Dekkoo has its own Amazon channel and is also available on iTunes, Google Play, AppleTV, and Roku, Out on Stage will likely benefit from being produced by Grammy-winning production team Comedy Dynamics (the team behind Hulu's hit, There's... Johnny!). The series stars a diverse group of out comics including Jared Goldstein, Raneir Pollard, Gloria Bigelow, Anthony Desamito, Janine Brito, and A.B. Cassidy. We caught up with three fan favorites.
Irene Tu (left) was born in Chicago but now makes her home in San Francisco, where she's been named an "artist on the brink of fame" by the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the "Bay Area's 11 Best Stand Up Comedians" by SFist.com, and one of 20 "Women to Watch" by the public radio station KQED.
"I'm sure it would be easier to be a straight white guy in comedy -- and in life in general -- but I don't like to focus on that," the Asian-American comic says. "I just try to remember that I need to work twice as hard."
Tu has opened for W. Kamau Bell, Judah Friedlander, Hari Kondabolu, and Aparna Nancherla; and appeared on Take My Wife and Funny How? Having performed at numerous festivals (including Clusterfest, Riot L.A. Comedy Festival, and Outside Lands Music Festival), Tu says, "My favorite venue is a packed comedy club or a popular independent comedy show run by comedians. But the weirdest place was probably in a living room for a woman's birthday party -- which only consisted of her and two of her friends!"
"Being a queer woman of color impacts my stand-up in every way that I can think of," says Bigelow, who previously appeared on Last Comic Standing, Laughing Matters, Hot Gay Comics, Fierce Funny Women, and Wanda Sykes Presents Herlarious. "Identity is such a big part of being a comic.... who I am, doing what I do says something. In other, more practical ways, it gives me material -- I mean, come on, Black lesbians camping?" Bigelow says, referencing a venue she once performed at. "What's not to love about being in the woods with a bunch of lezzes?"
Then again, she adds, "What's not to love about being on a cruise with 3,000 gay men and my mother?" Bigelow says her favorite venue is "wherever I'm going next," but "the weirdest is this one time I did a small, very tiny synagogue of a vice-principal of a school where I worked. It was out in the Rockaways on like a Tuesday and everyone was over 55 and most of them had on tracksuits. I remember sitting in the back before I went on thinking, What have you gotten yourself into? And, of course, we had the absolute best time and I got a lot of hugs when I left -- all consensual."
The author of The Persuasive Pundit blog and a piece in the anthology Here Comes the Brides! Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, Bigelow says "In essays or in my memoir writing, I think I'm probably -- for lack of a better word -- mushier" than onstage. But in both venues, she says, "I'm usually trying to figure something out, [to] make sense of something."
Jordan Pease (above) got his start as one of the youngest paid regulars at the Laugh Factory. He went on to star in the VH1 comedy Walk of Shame Shuttle and write jokes for NBC/Universal. Pease now hosts I Can Make That and produces One of Everything and Chef Walk & Talk for the YouTubeTV channel Tastemade.
A blogger with HuffPost, Pease says, "Writing is my true passion. As much as I love performing and doing stand-up, creating stories with characters that break boundaries using humor is what I love most. Not to sound like a cliched piece of garbage -- or Taylor Swift -- but my stand-up is very much a page of my pleasure notebook.... My jokes are inspired by my own mishaps and absurd personal experiences, timed to be said aloud onstage."
Pease performs at comedy clubs and festivals worldwide, and says, "There's something about performing and crushing in a square-red state that gives you the highest of adrenaline rushes. I think it's because you walk onstage thinking, This audience is going to judge the absolute shit out of me just because I like the taste of butthole - and then 20 minutes later they're falling in love with you. I love performing in Boise, Idaho, for that reason -- and obviously for the cheap food, hotels, and beer. It's like the entire city is on an everything-must-go sale!"
A season regular on AwestruckTV's A-hole Parents alongside Jason Biggs, Pease says "of course" being queer impacts his comedy. "It fuels me like gasoline -- or in my case, Tito's and soda. Believe it or not, if I see my name on a set list full of straight white male comics, it lights a fire under my ass to kill harder, write bolder, and take more chances onstage. I love being the variable - but being a variable comes with this risk of performing for an audience that might not understand your sense of humor or lifestyle. But that's the thrilling part. Saying 'Fuck 'em!' and getting onstage anyway because you represent a community of people that's worth fighting for."