David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Gays and Lesbians

Gays and Lesbians

• Jennie McNulty is both an out comedian and a defensive back for the California Quake women’s football team. She performs at military bases in Iraq and on Olivia cruises for lesbians and at other gay-friendly venues. While performing on military bases, she couldn’t delve deeply into gay matters when the military had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but she found a way to make a point: “I love doing the military shows. I have to do what I call ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ shows, so I just don’t bring up anything relationship-wise, but I’m decked out in rainbow gear from head to toe — Richard Simmons would look straighter than I do performing there.” Fortunately, she comes back to gay-friendly venues, so she says that she goes “from ‘don’t ask’ to ‘tell everybody’!” She loves the Olivia cruises because of all the lesbians who are free to be themselves. Of course, in the big cities gays and lesbians can be out and about, but in small towns, doing that can be much harder. Ms. McNulty says, “On the Olivia trips, you’re dealing with people who live in the middle of the country. I had one woman tell me she and her girlfriend had to practice holding hands, because they can never hold hands when they’re home. Those crowds are so amazing because everyone’s just on cloud nine — they’re totally free to be who they are.”

• On April 30, 1997, Ellen DeGeneres’ character, Ellen Morgan, came out in the one-hour episode of Ellen titled “The Puppy Episode.” The title of the episode was an in-joke: At a meeting to get ideas for episodes of the sitcom, someone suggested that Ellen’s character get a puppy — an idea that was rejected. The real-life Ellen also came out as a lesbian on the April 14, 1997, cover of Time with the words, “Yep, I’m Gay.” Lots of rumors preceded the coming-out, something that Ms. DeGeneres had fun with, at one time saying, “Yes, the rumors are true. We’ll be revealing that my character is Lebanese because she enjoys both baba ganoush and Casey Kasem.” At the time, comedian Rosie O’Donnell had not publicly come out of the closet, and she teased people by saying that she really liked Casey Kasem, and so “maybe I’m Lebanese, too.”

• Lesbian comedian Sabrina Matthews is very out. Sometimes, after watching her act, straight people will tell her, “I never met a gay person before.” Ms. Matthews replies by stating the obvious, “Yeah, you did — you just didn’t know it.” She is also an activist who doesn’t mind scaring straight people when they deserve to be scared. One day, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, she noticed a straight family with a father, mother, and young son and daughter. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but this particular father was pointing at and making fun of gay people. Therefore, Ms. Matthews snuck up behind him and whispered ominously in his ear, “How much for the girl?”

• Lesbian comedian Vicki Shaw once appeared in a club where the manager — a gay man — told her not to do jokes about gays, although her jokes were gay friendly. Meanwhile, he had not told the straight male comedians appearing with her not to do gay material, although their jokes were anti-gay. Ms. Shaw told the manager, “If I can’t do gay material, then they can’t do gay material. It’s those jokes that tell the redneck drunk that it’s OK to go out and hunt some queers. … if those rednecks are out in their truck looking for gays to beat up and you and I are walking down the street, guess who they’re gonna pick?” The manager allowed her to do her gay-friendly material.

• British gay comedian Alan Carr’s on-stage persona is very much the same as his real-life off-stage persona. Once, as Mr. Carr was about to perform, someone told him, “So I’ll just leave you 10 minutes so you can get into character.” Mr. Carr replied, “Pardon?” Mr. Carr is an out comedian, but he does not specifically talk about being gay in his act. His gayness is simply there. When he is off-stage, occasionally drivers will yell at him, “Faggot!” Mr. Carr says, “I haven’t been called that since I was at school, so actually I get all nostalgic.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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