Funny girls and boys:

LGBT comics shine in At­lanta’s com­edy scene

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DYANA BAGBY psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

New gen­er­a­tion of LGBT comics shine in ATL

A les­bian, a bear and a drag per­former walk into a popular Ital­ian restau­rant on At­lanta’s hip Edge­wood Av­enue …

There’s no punch­line, ac­tu­ally, but in­stead a fairly philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sion of At­lanta’s com­edy scene, the gay com­edy scene specif­i­cally, and what the fu­ture holds for com­edy in the ATL.

“Com­edy is very se­ri­ous. It’s a sci­ence. It’s psy­cho­log­i­cal. And if you get very in tune with it, it can be spir­i­tual,” says Brent Star. Star is known through­out the city for his out­ra­geous drag per­for­mances in blond afro wigs, thigh-high red high-heeled boots and skimpy at­tire as well as stand-up rou­tines where he prides him­self on mak­ing peo­ple laugh about the mun­dane, such as Red Bull and, on this par­tic­u­lar day, Noni’s fries tossed in Parme­san cheese.

“Oh, I like them tossed,” Star says with a lilt in his voice.

Star, Ian Aber and Julie Os­borne are at the fore­front of At­lanta’s gay com­edy scene and will be star­ring in the “Loud and Proud: LGBT Com­edy Showcase” on Oct. 9 at Laugh­ing Skull Lounge. They do the jobs for the laughs, but be­ing funny is a re­spon­si­bil­ity they take, yes, se­ri­ously.

“Vis­i­bil­ity has to hap­pen with gay comics in the main­stream scene,” says Aber, who hosts nu­mer­ous open mic and com­edy shows in metro At­lanta in gay and straight clubs nearly ev­ery night of the week with his company ABear Com­edy. ABear Com­edy is pre­sent­ing the LGBT showcase along with Laugh­ing Skull Lounge.

“Part of that [vis­i­bil­ity] helps so when a new guy comes along and we’ve paved a path … we have a seat at the ta­ble,” he says. “When I have a bad night, at least I can say I rep­re­sented. And when I go out­side the Perime­ter and they look at me like I’m an alien … it’s when they laugh de­spite them­selves. They try to re­sist you be­cause you’re gay. But then you catch some­one laugh­ing—oh, that’s pre­cious. That’s like carbs to me now.”

Os­borne says she quit her cor­po­rate job some three years ago to chase her dream of be­ing a stand-up comic. She also pro­duces and hosts com­edy shows, in­clud­ing the popular “It’s That Time of the Month” show at My Sis­ter’s Room.

“We all know there were so many LGBTQ co­me­di­ans out there al­ready be­fore us. We def­i­nitely ap­pre­ci­ate the peo­ple who came be­fore us. But for some rea­son the uni­verse chose us at this time to be the face of gay com­edy,” Os­borne says.

Aber quickly fol­lows up by say­ing he used to watch and ad­mire At­lanta’s openly gay comics in the 1990s, but the scene then was so small and room for in­clu­siv­ity was nearly nonex­is­tent. In 2014, times have changed for the bet­ter for LGBT peo­ple, and that in­cludes co­me­di­ans.

“We’re the new gen­er­a­tion,” Aber says.

BUT SE­RI­OUSLY, COM­EDY IS FUNNY

Play­ing for straight au­di­ences with straight co­me­di­ans means deal­ing with the racism, misogyny and ho­mo­pho­bia common in com­edy, Aber ex­plains.

“You do have to have a thick skin. The open mic nights are like the com­ment sec­tions of the in­ter­net, so you can’t be of­fended about it,” he says.

Those who say they aren’t racist or stress they are gay al­lies but then get on stage and say some­thing anti-gay and racist are ac­tu­ally just set­ting up bar­ri­ers for them­selves to any kind of comic suc­cess, Aber adds. “I mean, come on, try harder,” he says.

Star said his first love was theater be­fore he tried stand-up, adopt­ing the stage name Brent Star as part of his stand-up act. He then be­came part of At­lanta’s drag scene, keep­ing the name Brent Star, to help him ac­cept him­self as a gay man. Now he’s re­turn­ing to his com­edy roots and pok­ing fun at what he sees around him.

“I used to get very of­fended when peo­ple joked about the stereo­types of black peo­ple steal­ing or straight peo­ple mak­ing fun of gay peo­ple. But com­edy taught me to have a thicker skin even more so than the drag world,” Star says. “In a way it’s very ther­a­peu­tic for me and it’s made me a stronger en­ter­tainer and per­son.”

As the faces of a new gen­er­a­tion of gay com­edy in At­lanta, Os­borne, Aber and Star per­form in front of straight crowds. In April, Aber booked a show with the Sweet­wa­ter 420 fes­ti­val that in­cluded mostly gay co­me­di­ans with a few straight comics thrown into the bunch “so the au­di­ence could col­lect them­selves,” he says.

The show, in front of some 300 het­ero­sex­ual hip­sters, was a huge suc­cess, Aber adds. It went from be­ing slightly gay to flaming ho­mo­sex­ual, with Star clos­ing, and the au­di­ence laughed and cheered.

“The au­di­ence never had to de­cide to ac­cept us as gay or not. They just ac­cepted funny,” Aber says. “This was a defin­ing mo­ment for me in com­edy in At­lanta. One of big­gest com­plaints I hear is, ‘You’re gay, we get it.’ We’re funny, pe­riod, and we’ll talk about be­ing gay.”

There’s a mis­con­cep­tion by some about com­edy that co­me­di­ans don’t care if the au­di­ence laughs. Not true, says Os­borne.

“We want you to laugh,” she says sim­ply. “If some­one says they don’t care if you laugh, that’s bull­shit.”

TIME FOR GAY CO­ME­DI­ANS TO SHINE

LGBT co­me­di­ans have been around since the first open mic, but the les­bian, the bear and the drag artist say now is the time to shine.

Any­one in­ter­ested in do­ing stand-up is en­cour­aged to seek out open mic nights and even seek out Aber, Os­borne and Star for guid­ance. Aber says he sees his role as a com­mit­ment to com­edy and build­ing a scene where 20-30 LGBT comics can make a liv­ing in At­lanta and even move on to big­ger ci­ties such as Los An­ge­les and New York.

The scene is miss­ing a trans­gen­der co­me­dian, he adds, and there are nearly end­less chances dur­ing the week to find a place to per­form and work on your act.

One of Star’s first per­for­mances was out­doors, in front of Java Mon­key in De­catur, in full cos­tume. When you start out, you can’t say no to a gig, he says.

Jay Leno re­cently said the fu­ture of com­edy rests in the hands of LGBT co­me­di­ans, Aber says. That’s a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take se­ri­ously.

“Les­bians and gays have al­ways been funny. Now we are tak­ing our­selves se­ri­ous enough to do standup. It’s our sea­son,” Star says. “Do­ing this LGBT showcase is our rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the scene wel­com­ing us. It’s time for us to be in­cluded in the walk of fame of com­edy.”

Brent Star (far left), Ian Aber and Julie Os­borne rep­re­sent the new gen­er­a­tion of LGBT comics in At­lanta’s renowned com­edy scene. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)

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