Breaking Down Barriers In The World Of Comedy (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Breaking Down Barriers in the World of Comedy

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So today we've been hearing all these stories of outsiders right? People with their noses pressed up against the glass as they observe or hope to break into another scene, another place, another world. And with the guys that we'll meet next, they feel like they've been outside a very particular world. The world of stand-up comedy.

MR. CHRIS DOUCETTE

00:00:23
I did this comedy show in Baltimore, it was super fun. I was onstage 30 minutes, totally great. Get onstage, husband and wife walk by me, wife says to the husband, yes, I liked all of the comics, except for the gay one. She runs to the restroom, husband comes up to me later and is like, dude, I'm so sorry about that. It's nothing personal. She just doesn't approve of what you do in the bedroom. I was like, okay, you mean eat cookies and Hulu videos? Because quite frankly, I'm not too proud of that myself.

SHEIR

00:00:56
This is stand-up comic, Chris Doucette.

DOUCETTE

00:00:58
Besides, I did not think anyone could see me. Why, what else have you seen?

SHEIR

00:01:03
Chris is one of the hosts of "Gaylarious," a new once a month stand-up show at Riot Act Comedy Theatre, John Xereas' recently opened club in downtown D.C. I recently sat down in the Green Room with Chris and his co-host, Zach Toczynski, to find out how all the "Gaylarity" began.

DOUCETTE

00:01:20
You know, I had met Zach about five years ago in Washington D.C. doing stand-up comedy. And we'd been doing the circuit for, like, about two years when we thought, we want to have a night of our own where we could select the comics that we would laugh at and that the gay community would laugh and anyone who just likes fun, crazy, ridiculous, over-the-top comedy would laugh at. And so on 14th Street, back in the day, "Gaylarious" was born.

SHEIR

00:01:46
And so how has it sort of evolved and changed? You've moved venues obviously?

MR. ZACH TOCZYNSKI

00:01:49
Yes, when we first had it, it was a very small club, this little thing in a basement. We were out there, like, handing out flyers in the streets, like, telling people who we were. We were pretty much the only two gay comics in Washington D.C., combining forces and bringing other gay comics into D.C. to showcase, having a room where you know you're going to have funny stuff that everyone's going to have a good time with.

MR. ZACH TOCZYNSKI

00:02:09
So that club closed down and then when he re-opened years later, Don was, like, okay we have a huge theater, over 300 seats, do you guys want to do your night? And Chris and I were both like, yes, let's do it. And then we thought about, like, oh, my god, how do we fill 300 seats with gay people in D.C. who won't even go out just for, like, you know, free drinks. How are we going to do this? We worked our tails off and we've done two shows and I think they've both been really successful and I think it's mainly because the talent that we've been bringing has been really funny gay comics and gay-friendly comics.

SHEIR

00:02:42
What does that mean, gay-friendly?

DOUCETTE

00:02:44
When we were putting together the show, you know, a gay-friendly show is a show that is free of a lot of the homophobic, misogynistic kind of crap that you hear every night in stand-up comedy today. And so you come to a show like "Gaylarious" and have a great time and be ridiculous and over-the-top and silly and it's not about being politically correct. It's not about being a gay rights activist. It's just about being crazy and fun and funny and having a good time without having to be homophobic and misogynistic and all that kind of stuff.

SHEIR

00:03:14
And earlier, Zach, you said that you two were, like, the only gay comics in Washington. Why have gay comics kind of been on the outside?

TOCZYNSKI

00:03:23
I really don't know. There are other inspiring gay comics that are out there but a lot times people will then think, well if I'm gay I'm going to then be in a certain bracket where I'm only going to get certain gigs and I won't be able to play certain rooms. So I might as well not talk about my sexuality and then do more of a bland, here's what comedy's all about and here's where jokes that should be.

TOCZYNSKI

00:03:44
I'll go -- if I go onstage and I tell jokes, I could tell really funny jokes, but I am who I am. And people are going to wait and be like, okay, I want him to talk about being gay, talk about being gay. If you're not going to talk about that, it's -- it becomes awkward and odd and obvious.

DOUCETTE

00:03:59
And, again, it's not the most gay-friendly environment. Like, stand-up comedy is a rough and tumble, old-boys network, straight white guy, 18 to 34 year old crew and it's a very social crew. And so if you're in the mix of stand-up comedy, it's not the gay-friendliest industry to work in.

SHEIR

00:04:14
What kind of crowds are you hoping to attract? Are you hoping just the gay community, are you hoping people will come from outside the gay community as well?

DOUCETTE

00:04:21
The best crowd is a mixed crowd, like, younger people, older people, straight people, gay people, people with cell phones -- actually, no, that's the group of people we don't want to perform -- Zach, please leave the interview. But the best audiences are mixed audiences and it's because we bring a really diverse crew of comedians and so they're black, they're white, they're straight, they're gay and they don't rely on stereotypes and clich├ęs and stupid stuff.

TOCZYNSKI

00:04:49
But, like, by doing this kind of comedy -- and I always say this, whenever I go to, like, a straight room or there's straight people in the audience and I'm onstage and they laugh and they relate with me and afterwards they come and give me a hug. I've, like, broken so many boundaries down that I'm, like, being activist without making signs and, like, I don't have to go on protests.

TOCZYNSKI

00:05:06
All I have to do is go tell jokes and make people like me and then we become friends and they forget the fact that I'm gay and they're straight and we just have new friends. It's, like, really simple, I think. It's so simple. If only everyone had talent like us, it would be so amazing. But they don't so don't worry, we'll take care of it.

TOCZYNSKI

00:05:24
And an element that we're going to add to the show is that we're also going to bring in up-and-comers or new comics, people that are just breaking into the comedy that are gay and lesbian comics. They're going to come and do, like, a five or seven minutes. We really want this to be not just all the fancy comics from New York City coming in or, like, you know, Chris and I, who are world famous.

TOCZYNSKI

00:05:46
We also wanted to be open for the newbies to come in and so we're going to feature like a newbie or two every month of new comics that are -- that we think are blossoming here in D.C. Chris and I are becoming the Mrs. Garrett and, like, ushering along -- I made that reference, I did, to a new comic. I was like, I'm kind of like your Mrs. Garrett. And he's like, who's Mrs. Garrett and what's "The Facts of Life"? And I was, like, oh, my god, I'm so old. I'm, like, you are never performing in this town ever. (unintelligible) the Mrs. Garrett's.

SHEIR

00:06:15
Now, I can't get the song out of my head.

DOUCETTE

00:06:17
(singing) You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.

SHEIR

00:06:23
So good, so good. Well, Chris, Zach, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.

DOUCETTE

00:06:30
Thank you.

TOCZYNSKI

00:06:30
Well, thank you. This was great. Normally people aren't interested in us and we love NPR for that.

DOUCETTE

00:06:35
No one's ever talked to us this long before so this is -- congratulations, you win the prize.

SHEIR

00:06:46
That was Chris Doucette and Zach Toczynski, creators and co-hosts of "Gaylarious," at Riot Act Comedy Theater. Their next show is on Wednesday, November 2nd. For more information, you visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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