Out on Stage: The Series

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 17, 2019

Host Zach Noe Towers
Host Zach Noe Towers  (Source:Dekkoo)

Gay streaming service Dekkoo and Comedy Dynamic present the first season of "Out on Stage: The Series," a groundbreaking stand-up comedy show with an all-LGBTQ lineup. Diversity is the word as a total of 18 comics — plus host Zach Noe Towers — take to the stage, with three comics appearing on each of Season One's six half-hour episodes.

As with any group, some of these talents stand out — sometimes because of their jokes and timing of course, and sometimes because of their personae. Gloria Bigelow doesn't hesitate to take both race and sexuality by the horns, lamenting that because she's not an obvious lesbian, "I have to work extra hard to be discriminated against! I mean, let's be real; not too hard. I'm still black and a woman." Mexico-born comic Anthony DeSamito offers a slightly sinister set, in which he probes some deeply un-PC waters ("Am I the cure for pedophilia?" he wonders, recalling unsuccessful attempts as a teenager to get older men interested in him). Brendan Scannell plays to his slight resemblance to "Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood, mocking his own stature and affect with, "This is a hobbit's journey I cannot complete." But in a sudden biting jab he swings into political terrain, exclaiming, "Speaking of bigots — Mike Pence. Flawless transition. Comedy is beautiful."

Gloria Bigelow on Dekkoo's "Out on Stage: The Series"
Gloria Bigelow on Dekkoo's "Out on Stage: The Series"  (Source: Dekkoo)

The Trump-Pence administration is, of course, a subject fit for the release of laughter, given the deep uneasiness their occupancy of our government's highest offices imposes on our community. In a show where the gags are built around age-related anxiety, body image issues, encounters with casual bigotry, difficult childhoods, familial rejection, STDs, dating apps, destructive stereotypes, and anti-gay persecution in places like Chechnya, the machinations of our own government in the wake of the 2016 elections fits right in. These episodes were recorded in 2017, and so the looming anxieties of the Trump-Pence era are especially deeply stamped into these performances.

Lesbian comic A.B. Cassidy takes to the stage to riff on being constantly mistaken for a man: "Most comics get to come out and tell a joke, but I have to come out and basically have a gender reveal party." Worse, she relates, she's mistaken for a straight man; she turns a gag about being beaten up by drag queens into a comment of transphobia and the current hysteria around who might be using which restroom: "I'm like, please don't kick me! My bladder is also full! I can't use public bathrooms like you!" In a later episode, Asian-American lesbian comic Irene Tu echoes those experiences with a routine about going to the women's room only for an occupant to look pointedly at the sign on the door and announce, "This is the women's room." "I know. I can read... a drawing," Tu seethes in exasperation.

Brendan Scannell on Dekkoo's "Out on Stage: The Series"
Brendan Scannell on Dekkoo's "Out on Stage: The Series"  (Source: Dekkoo)

HIV-positive comic Casey Ley takes to the stage to talk about losing out on a job writing for a game show "to a woman of color who has more experience than me, which is called..." Slight pause. "...justice. Right? That's the world we've been fighting for. I just thought that since Trump was elected, we were not doing that anymore."

Chris Bryant, in his act, references his Canadian boyfriend, saying, "I was his meal ticket; now he's, like, my escape plan... a Canadian passport is, like, the new big dick."

But politicians come and go; classic comedy tends to focus on those things that never seem to change, like the relationship between homophobia and rural America. Joe Dosch, hailing from South Dakota, imagines a travel ad that invites vacationers to visit his state and "be a 10 for a week!" Family is another reliable source for gags; Jared Goldstein, who is both Asian and Jewish, delivers this gem in a perfect deadpan: "At least twice a day a woman says to me, 'I wish you weren't gay.' " His response? " 'I wish you weren't my mom.' "

Zach Noe Towers delivers a couple minutes of patter between the acts, offering a (frankly, sometimes much needed) palate cleanser and scoring some of the series' best one-liners. Relating how a trick requested of him to "Torture me after I come," Towers retorts, "I'm not looking for a relationship." In another segment, talking about an audition to appear in a training video on sexual harassment for the police department, Towers reflects, "I'm confident I can play straight — but, like, CW straight."

The good news is that, with this series, he and his guests don't have to.

"Out on Stage:" The Series" is streaming now on Dekkoo.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.