In 2011 we can tune our HD digital cable TV sets to Comedy Central and see an out gay or lesbian comedian doing a stand-up routine on pretty much a daily basis. Many, even though they are very open about their sexuality, are accepted in mainstream comedy clubs to perform in front of predominately straight audiences. They get filmed for television or even get their own shows on the channel. They don’t hold back either! Just like all of the best comics, they work from their personal experience.
Out gay comics have been performing stand-up in bars and smokey nightclubs and comedy clubs for years. Mainstream acceptance didn’t come easy. The roads for people like Susan Westerhoven, Wanda Sykes, Tom Ammiano and Kate Clinton were paved on the backs of many who toiled in the dark bars and small auditoriums of obscurity before them. Oh, they paid their dues as well, but it’s been far easier since the turn of the century than it was in 1970!
In 1997 Ed Karvoski Jr., a stand-up comedian, penned the book, A Funny Time to Be Gay which documents the development of gay and lesbian comedy with a focus on the years from 1970 into the 1990s. He interviewed 32 openly gay and lesbian comics working in the industry at the time included the interviews in his book along with copies of some of their routines. You’ll find a several old favorites here and a few who are still performing who were in their early years at the time he was writing the book.
Some of the routines served up in Karvoski’s book are legendary. You’ll laugh out loud. Some are a bit dated and feel a little flat given that the book is 15 years old and the fact that a stand-up comedy routine is an aural thing that doesn’t always translate well to the written page. Overall, it’s still a very funny book that will give you great insight into the evolution of the LGBT comedian.