The WestCo Cafe has been the site of many a raucous show, as well as many a disco. But on Friday, it was the site of the Queer Comedy Show, a performance put on by an amalgam of Open House, Isaac Gotterer ’19, and Emma Freeman ’19.
Last Friday’s show was the fourth iteration of the Queer Comedy Show, which began two years ago thanks to Lauren Langer ’16 and Johnny Lazebnik ’16. Gotterer and Freeman both performed in the first rendition and have taken on the responsibility for keeping the show alive ever since.
The typical stools or plastic chairs characteristic of a Second Stage show were absent from the Queer Comedy Show, allowing the audience to sit on the floor with the performers, who sat in a group not far from the stage. This seating arrangement was evocative of story time in elementary school and the sharing of the comforting experience of sitting around and listening to one another back when classrooms had rugs and circle time. The informality of the affair was fitting for the philosophy of the Queer Comedy Show, which welcomes newcomers and helps usher queer-identifying students into the world of comedy.
“Over a dozen people have done stand-up for the first time [in this show],” said Gotterer. “And they rocked the house.”
One of the first-time stand-up performers was An Pham ’21. Pham’s set was comprised of tangents about gay ghosts and long distance relationships.
“I think the show is something that’s funny and silly and a great time, but also there’s a certain level of vulnerability that comes with performing,” Pham said. “Not only is it some people’s first time doing stand-up, it’s some people’s first time doing stand-up about their queerness. That takes self-awareness, like knowing what your boundaries are.”
The intersection of queer identity and comedy is an important meeting point for the directors of the show, since, despite the proliferation of spaces for students interested in comedy at the University, these spaces aren’t always open to more marginalized communities.
“One reason Emma and I keep this event going every semester is because there are so many voices that aren’t always heard in the comedy scene at Wes,” Gotterer said. “So we want to dedicate a whole night to those voices.”
Inclusive and welcoming, the Queer Comedy Show is the perfect environment for queer- and trans-identifying students to explore their humor as it relates to their identity. Performances ranged from a PowerPoint presentation about being bisexual on Tinder (by Katie Shewfelt ’20) to hilarious accounts of being queer and coming home for the holidays.
The comedy world as of late has been less than inclusive—or safe, for that matter—marked most prominently by the Louis C.K. sexual misconduct scandal, which only serves to emphasize the way that comedy and entertainment industries can be exclusive and oppressive. The Queer Comedy Show, however, offered a refuge by presenting a side of the comedic realm that was inclusive, heartening, and celebratory of marginalized identities.
“I’ve seen some of the best comedy at these queer comedy shows, and I’ve never seen or had a more of a supportive audience,” said Gotterer. “Every semester the energy, love, and laughter in that space is crazy and amazing.”
As an audience member, I was touched by the level of support that the performers gave each other throughout the show and by the openness of the audience toward each performer. I could feel the beauty of shared experience throughout the room, not to mention the excitement of new experiences that fresh-faced performers brought to their sets. For those who did not get a chance to perform this year, Gotterer emphasized that there will be many more opportunities.
“We’ll be having [another show] next semester, and the semester after that, and the semester after that,” they said.
Occupying an important space in the Wesleyan comedy scene, the Queer Comedy Show is rightfully here to stay and will hopefully continue on with their mission of creating a loving and supportive place to be funny.
Stephanie Ades can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.