Featuring Jason Dudey, Sabrina Matthews and ANT, the Come Out Laughing comedy tour brings a power-packed gay stand up show to Baltimore’s Comedy Factory on Sunday, July 19. The three comics spoke withGay Life
about the tour, being out as a comedian, how gay comedy has changed and funnel cake.
An Interview with Jason Dudey, Sabrina Matthews and ANT
Featuring Jason Dudey, Sabrina Matthews and ANT, the Come Out Laughing comedy tour brings a power-packed gay stand up show to Baltimore’s Comedy Factory on Sunday, July 19. The three comics spoke with Gay Life about the tour, being out as a comedian, how gay comedy has changed and funnel cake.
Jason Dudey, who was raised in Baltimore, is a host and producer of Gay Up Stand Up. He has appeared on LOGO’s Wisecracks, OutLaugh Comedy Festival and this past year’s Last Comic Standing on NBC. His half hour special One Night Stand Up is airing on LOGO now.
How did the “Come Out Laughing” Tour come together?
I travel the country in mostly straight worlds. There are a lot of gay comedy events, but they’re all at special venues. I was like, why isn’t there a gay comedy event in a mainstream comedy club in this country? In New York City, Gotham has a gay comedy show. The Hollywood Improv has a gay comedy show and they’re great, but that’s New York and LA. I spend every weekend traveling the country in different cities and I’m like, Why doesn’t Denver have this? Why doesn’t Wichita have this? Why doesn’t Baltimore have this? And it’s good for everybody. It’s good to get the gays into clubs they normally don’t go to, so the clubs are happy. And, being a gay comedian, we’re a part of. It’s not like it’s 1976 and we’re at the bar down the street, enter through the alley and knock on the door three times. It’s like, why can’t we? And I’ve had the best response from the comedy clubs.
What I do in every city is call up the community center and say, “I’m going to produce this show. I’m doing all the work. The club has volunteered to donate money to the gay and lesbian center if you can send an email blast out. And, no center has said no.”
How long have you been doing stand-up?
I’ve been doing stand-up for 15 years and literally, in the last two years, It’s been my full-time career. It’s a hard business.
So, it’s not just in Baltimore that the LGBT community center is benefitting?
No. In every city, I find some organization that I can donate the money to. It feels better for me because people have given me a helping hand throughout my year. I don’t want to be the comedy tour that just flops down on a city and then takes.
Coming back to Baltimore, how is it performing to a hometown audience?
I think it’s going to be really different. With Facebook being as large as it is, so many people from my hometown, so many people from high school…. I’m sure my mom and dad have invited the entire Kawanis Club.
It’s going to be really fun to perform in the city where I came out of the closet. Having my first gay community and my ex-girlfriend and high school friends and my parents all in the same room is going to be hysterical. I don’t think all worlds have collided before.
What else besides the tour do you have going on?
I have a special called One Night Stand-Up running on LOGO. Last year, a lot of people saw me on Last Comic Standing. There’s going to be a lot of Dudey around the country this year.
I’ve heard more about gay comedy shows in the area recently. Other than venue choice, what sets your show apart?
It’s not a typical comedy show where there’s a guy that comes out and does three minutes and who’s the MC and then a feature act and then the headliner. All three of us do 30 minutes of material and the goal of this show is to be run at every club every six months and we switch out the comedians. That way the town gets used to it.
So this is an on-going tour?
Yes. The goal is for this to be every six months. Of course we’re starting on an off night, a Sunday night, but you got to start somewhere.
It is and I could not be happier to give money to the GLCCB.
An openly lesbian comic, Sabrina Matthews tours regularly around the world. Her credits include her own half-hour comedy special, “Comedy Central Presents Sabrina Matthews,” a starring role in the documentary Laughing Matters…More! (2006) and appearances on Comics Unleashed. Matthews was a semi-finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and she has appeared in television and film, including Margaret Cho’s Bam Bam and Celeste (2007).
You’ve been in the comedy world for a long time. Have you always been “out” as a comic?
Yes. I started at a place called Josie’s Juice Joint, which doesn’t exist anymore, in San Francisco, and it was managed by a guy named Donald, who is not alive anymore, sadly, but he was very committed to creating a gay performance space and he was also very committed to fostering gay performers who would then go out into the world and be openly gay performers in mainstream venues. A lot of people really benefited from that. Karen Ripley, Marga Gomez and Scott Silverman…. I could go on and on and on…. really benefited from that space and were sometimes able to quite nonchalantly move into mainstream venues with a pretty fair amount of built up skill and an expectation that we would be treated as equals.
Was the transition out of such a supportive venue difficult?
I don’t think comedy is particularly easy for anyone. You have to be extremely persistent to get into any venues at the beginning. You have to have very consistent performances. As long as you’re a regular there, you have to demonstrate the ability to get your fans in there and some fans like to hear sort of the same things over and over, but I would say creativity is very important because most people want to hear some of their favorites and new stuff every time they come.
I know that there are some venues that make it difficult for gay comics to come in and what I don’t like is that there still seems to be a mentality that there has to be a gay comedy night in order for a gay comic to work there. I wouldn’t say that that’s true across the board. There are venues that will have a gay comedy night that will very readily book gay comics into their mix normally. The more variety that’s on a bill the better. I think clubs even do better if they have gay comics in their rotation.
Do you see that happening more frequently?
Have you been to Baltimore before?
I have a couple of times. I think I performed at The Hippo a long time ago. I’m usually right when I remember something, but there’s that one chance in a hundred. If there’s anything comedians have a lot of, it’s self doubt. Even though a non-comedian would probably say, “Oh, yeah. It’s the Hippo.” A comedian has to be like, “Uh. I don’t know. There’s the slightest chance that I might be wrong…. I’m probably wrong.”
You’ve also done some acting. Has that been challenging in a different way than stand-up?
It’s actually hard in a different way. The parts that I’ve played are basically people that I might have been. I’ve never had a part where I had to do an accent or I had to play someone who looked or walked or spoke a lot differently than I do.
It’s difficult because all of the actors that I really admire and the most complimentary things that I hear actors say about each other are that they’ll really pay attention to what the other actors are doing in the scene and that’s kind of hard. I’m used to paying attention to what an audience is doing all the time, but I’m reacting as myself, whereas when you’re acting, you’re paying attention to the other people in the scene, but you’re also reacting as someone who is not exactly yourself…or maybe very far from yourself.
Who’s the funniest person you’ve ever worked or toured with?
I love Greg Proops. I think Margaret Smith is a fabulous writer. I like Sue Murphy, Kathleen Madigan. I love working with ANT. He is a lot of fun. He manages to beat up the crowd and make them know that he loves them all at the same time. And I always like watching Jason. He and I have been friends for a long time so he’s quite the charmer on stage and he’s a lot of fun to hang out with. In terms of gay comics, Vickie Shaw is always great. And Elvira Kurt.
I’m fairly funny and I’m usually working with fairly funny people, so I’ve actually seen a lot of really great comics. What’s also fun is watching someone for a whole week. If I really like a comic, I’ll probably watch every one of their shows if I’m working there for a week.
Other than this tour, what are you working on now?
I have shows in Michigan and I’m doing SisterSpace in the Delaware Valley. I just moved cross country back to Virginia, which is where I’m from. It’s a lot more relaxed here. So, what else do I have going on? I hang out with my family. Go to the beach. Try to write some jokes.
This show is a real treat though. It’s a really good line-up with great variety. It’s three different styles from three different people who are really good comics and also get along well.
One of the more well-known comedians of our time, ANT is a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Tyra Banks Show. The only comedian to appear on all five seasons of NBC’s hit series Last Comic Standing, ANT is currently host of VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club. His stand-up DVD, ANT: America’s Ready and comedy CD Follow My Ass! have been very successful and his daily video blog “The ANT Colony” is rated as one of the top 10 celebrity blogs. You can check it out at www.antcomic.com/blog.
I’m so happy to be talking to someone from Baltimore.
Thanks for taking the time out. I know you had a busy day. Have you been to Baltimore before?
I have. I’m from the East Coast, originally – New Hampshire. I did some time in Massachusetts. I did some time in New York. I’ve traveled extensively up and down the Eastern Seaboard because those are my people.
Ok, the basics. How did you get your start in comedy and how did you become known as ANT?
I was fired from American Airlines. I was drunk at the improv one night and heckling. They said, ‘Can you do a better job?’ I tried it and I got bitten by the bug and I kept going.
ANT is short for Anthony.
Most people know who ANT is. What do you attribute your success to?
Okay. That’s simple.
I would say I’d attribute my success to hard work and a lot of it to people who gave me breaks. I was told my entire career, ‘You’re a gay comic. You’re not going to get very far. You should really go back in the closet.’ But there were certain people along the way that always said, ‘Just be you and success will always follow if you’re true to yourself.’
Have you always been “out”?
No. I was actually in the closet in the beginning. Do you want to know who actually gave me my best piece of advice? It was Don Rickles. I was bombing on stage every night…twice a night. One night Don Rickles was at the improv and I bombed. There was more bombing going on on that stage than all of Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam combined. So, I get on stage and John Rickles approaches me and asks, ‘What the hell was that?’ You know, I was already feeling crappy about the set at as it was.
He said, ‘What are you doing up there?’
I said, ‘I’m trying to do stand up.’
o he asked, ‘Who’s Marcy?’
‘That’s my girlfriend.’
‘You’re a fagola. The audience knows everything there is to know about you in thirty seconds. They’ve got you in a box. Get in their box! If you don’t get in their box, they’re not going to trust you. They won’t believe you.’
So the next time I got on stage, I got in their box. I talked about Mark, who was the person I was dating, and I got laughs.
I’m so proud of Wanda Sykes for coming out.
Wasn’t that exciting?
That was a good one because she’s current and it wasn’t like the Village People…forty five years later, they come out of the closet and we’re like, ‘People on Mars knew you were gay guys.’
Do you feel like things have changed for gay comics over the past five or ten years?
I think it’s getting harder. Consolidation is not helping them. I also think that fragmentation in the marketplace is not helping them. I think why I’ve had so much success also to add to my answer before, I’ve mainstreamed myself. I’ve always been sort of out there with straight comics, so I never actually looked at myself as different until the movement started and then I was sort of part of this group that really….never accepts me as their own either. I think that if you’re a gay comic and you only play gay venues—only gay cruises, only gay clubs—you’re going to have limited success because we’re only 10 percent of the population.
How did you hook up with Sabrina and Jason for this tour?
They hooked up with me. Jason called me and said, ‘I’m a new comic. I’m trying to create my own break. I want stage time and I want to get paid for it. You have a name. They’ll give you the night. Can I use your name and will you come along for the ride?’ I said, ‘Will it help you for real?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’
My job on the planet is to help you succeed…. Wouldn’t it be great if you looked back and saw a hundred hands of people helping you achieve your goals and when they look back, they see a hundred hands. This world would be such a better place.
Who’s the funniest person you’ve ever met?
My mother. She’s the funniest person I’ve ever met in my entire life and she doesn’t even know she’s funny. Two days ago I was closing an escrow because I’m refinancing one of my houses. So, my name, ANT…the banks want my birth certificate. I had it amended and my mother holds it. I called and said, ‘Mom, I need my birth certificate. Fax it to me.’
She goes, ‘Okay, but it’s my only copy, so fax it back.’
So I fax it back and she goes, ‘How did I get two copies?’
Oh my god, mom.
he wasn’t feeling well, so I call the other day and go, ‘How are you feeling?’
‘What did the doctor say?’
‘Some things are private. I don’t have to tell you anything.’
‘Did he give you anything?’
‘So you’re depressed.’
‘Who told you?’
What else have you been working on?
Obviously the stand-up tour. I have a talk show that’s in development that I have a pilot for that looks like it’s going to go. Then I have this other project. I’m on the upcoming season of America’s Next Top Model. But I’m not a model.
I was hoping you were a model, but what are you?
I am showing the girls how to work the red carpet, how to introduce celebrities and how to be around famous people without making a fool out of yourself. It’s the most eye opening thing in the world. I used to always defend models and say, ‘You know, they don’t open their mouths. You’ve never spoken to one. Don’t insinuate or spread the rumor that they’re stupid because that’s not right.’ One of the exercises is that I had to be a drunk celebrity and they had to interview me on a press junket…. This girl starts talking to me and asking me questions and I’m a drunk celebrity and I fall of the stool and land on the ground and she just sits there. She doesn’t even flinch and she keeps asking me her next question. ‘Hello?! I feel to the floor. Come offer me assistance and stop asking me the next question.’
‘So, where do you think the success of that movie is going to come from? Hello? Why are you on the ground?’
It was just so crazy.
Does it make the show?
Yeah. It’s going to make the show. Tyra Banks and I are good friends. She is gay people’s biggest ally. I’m not even kidding. You would think it was Oprah, but it’s really Tyra Banks. She hires more gay people than anybody I’ve ever seen.
What else do you want our readers to know about ANT?
I love funnel cake and if you bring it to the show, I will forever be in your debt. I like it with strawberry and honey…. I love funnel cake and I don’t even know why and I host a weight loss show…. I was in Provincetown Mass. headlining at the Arthouse Theatre and they have fried dough there. I was in love.
I will definitely let everyone know.
Why do libraries let you check out books on suicide? They’re not coming back.
When does CPR stop being life saving and start being necrophilia? Where’s that line?
I’d like to know. Wisconsin just passed a law making it illegal to sleep with dead people two weeks ago.
I’m totally serious. Florida just toughened their laws on adoption for gay people. They so don’t want us to adopt. I can’t even adopt a highway.
Do I get funnel cake now?
You don’t even know. I’m obsessed with funnel cake.
My mother watched that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She goes, “They had it easy.”
I have a child in Montana. Why do you ask? Well, a lesbian couple asked me to donate, so I said I would. Isn’t that nice?
How old is the child?
Two. We have an agreement. They wanted to use me as a donor, but we said that only if something bad happens to them do I step in. Two parents is enough. When you get three…. And it’s about their opinions are different on raising kids than mine are. My opinions are, if you want to try something, go try it. Don’t say no to experiences. Play in the streets. It’s fun. Watch for the big yellow buses though because they sneak up on you…. I would really love a funnel cake.
I’ll make sure you have a funnel cake on the 19th.
If you say that and there’s no funnel cake, I’m going to be depressed. If there’s a funnel cake from you, you’re my new best friend and I’ll give you anything you want in the world…under five dollars.
You had me excited for a minute. The funnel cake will probably cost more than five dollars.
It probably will, but you will have my undying love and affection….and your intern too. I love you guys. Funnel Cake. Strawberry and honey with powdered sugar. Delish!
Come Out Laughing is at Baltimore Comedy Factor (2 shows 7 and 9 p.m.) on Sunday, July 19. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB). For tickets and additional information, visit www.baltimorecomedyfactory.com.