“Comedy is defiance. It’s a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety. And it’s the laughter that allows hope to creep back on the inhale”
– Will Durst, American satirist
Comedy is something that brings out the simplest of emotions from within us – laughter. From the time of kings and their jesters to the days of Charlie Chaplin to modern day online streaming of stand-up performances and chat shows, comedy has been there forever. For decades, it has not only been used as a quick and easy entertainment, but also to address several social, political and cultural issues with an undertone of humour.
Comedians have been made subjects to outrage and resentment because of their bold manners and ‘audacity’ of making fun of serious issues, but they have thrived nonetheless, getting better in their objectives and intentions over the time.
Just like every other line of profession, comedy also has a strong and fierce cadre of LGBT comedians who are ready to laugh at themselves and at the society that raises many an eyebrow at them. They have no problem calling out their haters alongside delivering stellar performances in their shows or on the stage.
Here are 5 LGBT comedians who have held their own and slayed:
- BILLY EICHNER
From the very beginning, LGBT people are expected to maintain a low profile in public to compensate for their “condition”. It was especially a very hush-hush business on the television or big screen. But Billy Eichner threw away those popular conventional beliefs to the trash in his insanely funny comedy TV show Billy on the street. In each episode, Eichner questioned unsuspecting pedestrians about the pop culture. He called them out nonchalantly if they were ever being classis, racist, sexist or gender-biased, thus crossing the line of decency according to many. But he was never a prime-time, family show host with a high-pitched voice and excited tone. His forte was to face off with people’s stereotypes and he was pretty good in his job.
- WANDA SYKES
It is difficult for a person with dark skin to be appreciated and treated at par with fellow workers in the show business. Add to that a woman and a lesbian; you are pretty much done for. But Wanda Sykes proved herself to be an unapologetic and unstoppable contender. Well known for her oozing confidence, her fierce activism against Proposition 8 (which banned same-sex marriage in the state of California in 2008) and constant battle for homosexual marriage legalisation, Sykes proved to be as good a fighter as a comedian.
- ELLEN DEGENERES
A milestone in the coming-out-of-the-closet scenario of popular faces, Ellen DeGeneres is one of the earliest people who took the step in an era when it took a lot of guts. Especially for a woman trying to make her space in mainstream American television, it was a big risk on her part to come out on the Oprah Winfrey show and then later on her sit-com as her career and reputation as a TV actress and comedian was at stake. In later years, she shared her stories of fear and depression regarding the same on her own chat show, which is one of the favourites among the celebrities as well as the fans. But she also received her share of love and support from colleagues and fans for her work and the amazing person she is. She is currently married to another public figure, Portia de Rossi.
While presenting Ellen with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, the-then president of the USA, Barrack Obama gave an emotional speech about her undeniable contributions.
“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago……… What an incredible burden it was to bear, to risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often.”
- DEANNE SMITH
DeAnne Smith is a Canadian-American stand-up comedian who was first noticed in 2008 when she was touring her first full-fledged solo stand-up show. It received both critical and popular acclaim. She went on to win a number of awards both in her own country as well as abroad. Known for her cheeky and sarcastic ways of bringing forth the real deal of being a lesbian and everything else that comes with it as a package, she has also appeared in TV and radio shows. Her online articles and blogs are also equally hilarious.
- GRAHAM NORTON
One of the big daddies of television chat show, this man has been ruling the UK small screen for years now. There is almost no big or small name among the mainstream American-British showbiz celebrities who has not spilled out their beans on the orange couches of The Graham Norton Show. Cheerful, fearless and in-your-face, Graham Norton is as unabashed as it comes. From mock-flirting to friendly camaraderie with his hot and happening guests, he marvels at what he does best.
Even while describing his coming-out, he was in his usual chirpy self –
“I was working in this restaurant and everyone who started work there assumed I was gay and in the end there was nobody to come out to. So, it was very easy.”