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Where Are All the Black Gay Comedians?

©SLP

British funnyman Stephen K. Amos, who only three years ago acknowledged the open secret about his sexuality, is an island. There are many successful black comedians. There are many successful gay comedians. There are not many successful black gay comedians. Speculate as you may about Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, and Eddie Murphy, the list of Amos’ kin comes down to, uh, Wanda Sykes, and that itself is a new development. Shirley Q. Liquor does not count. This explains why he’s not exactly thrilled with the state of gays in comedy today.

“Show me the other black gay comics who were talking about their experiences,” Amos tells Time Out. “I worry that if it doesn’t work out, then when’s the next guy going to get a chance? … You can’t not feel the pressure. When I first started most of my material was just about general stuff. When I started doing shows which were more about me, and race, I started getting critics saying: ‘Oh, we’ve heard him talk about being black and gay before, it’s all hack!'”

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On the stand-up circuit, gay comics get to traffic in gay humor. Straight comics have a much harder time with punchlines about sexuality (which is so ripe for exploitation), since they run the risk of coming across as homophobic. But the real money is made in the bigger entertainment industry, not stand up: touring, DVDs, endorsement deals, and televised specials. Black comics haven’t had a problem scoring these; Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle have done nicely for themselves. Gay comics, too; Ellen DeGeneres has hosted many an HBO special. So, too, has Ms. Sykes, and she is the rare exception of being black, gay, and a commercial commodity.

In Britain, Amos has enjoyed his own success. He’s toured and released his own DVD. But while he gets to make funnies about being gay, that’s not the entire shtick of his act. But he doesn’t hold back, either. And we’re grateful, because it could entice other gay comics to use their sexuality for jokes — to make things very open. Now, you won’t have a hard time finding an openly gay comic, talking about butt sex or girl-on-gir, at your neighborhood comedy club. They are, frankly, a dime a dozen. But that’s where their glass ceiling has been installed: at the bottom rung. Breaking out of that mold, especially when you’re black and gay, is extraordinarily difficult.

The industry is partly to blame (homophobia is rampant in comedy, you might have heard), but so too are gay black comics too fearful to be out, and make their sexuality part of their act. They risk alienating black audiences, straight audiences, and most importantly, entertainment executives who can make their careers.

When you hear about gay actors being advised to stay in the closet, you can be sure gay comics are being told the same.

TELL QUEERTY: Who are some of your favorite black gay comedians? Any that are reaching commercial success we missed?

NEXT: Watch Amos perform at The Apollo.

By:           editor editor
On:           Sep 4, 2009
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 31 Comments
    • Jonathan
      Jonathan

      There’s some deeply unfunny black gay dude who used to open for Margaret Cho… But yeah, definitely a dearth. Will Smith doesn’t do stand up but is definitely one of the funnier people on earth, if he counts (and who’s he fooling?).

      Sep 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John from  England(used to be just John but there are other John's)
      John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

      I love this guy. Saw him live…sooo good!

      Sep 4, 2009 at 1:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lloyd Baltazar
      Lloyd Baltazar

      Quelle Surprise. The Black community has a great deal of Gay acceptance that they need to work on. With the rampant “Down-Low” DL crisis (where an overwhelmingly amount of black men have children and wives yet practice homosexuality and gay sex in the closet)—-breeds self-hate and division among the Black Gay community. The Black Christian churches also play a big role in perpetuating the hatred of the “Black Gay Man”. Black people should internalize the discrimination they have faced for being a minority race and channel that energy towards being Black AND Gay in order for us to have more openly Black Gay actors, comedians and Models.

      Can you say Terell Carter?

      Sep 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Friday Forty
      The Friday Forty

      Where are the gay comedians, period? Ant is not funny, and therefore does not count.

      Sep 4, 2009 at 1:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      They were talking about the many gay comedians out there. But honestly, outside the gay community name me some really well known gay comedians that are still doing comedy. Suzanne Westenhoffer? Alec Mappa? I mean there really aren’t a ton.

      Sep 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shelby
      Shelby

      where are the successful white gay comedians?

      Sep 4, 2009 at 2:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ProfessorVP
      ProfessorVP

      I don’t know about all, but there is one located at Eddie Murphy’s house.

      Sep 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • afrolito
      afrolito

      @Shelby:

      Yeah….where are the successful mainstream white comedians????

      Sep 4, 2009 at 2:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MitchNYC
      MitchNYC

      How about the gay Asian and Latino comedians? Cho doesn’t count.

      Sep 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • afrolito
      afrolito

      And gay Indian, Middle eastern,……

      Sep 4, 2009 at 3:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stand Out
      Stand Out

      “Dime a Dozen”?

      Flat-out ignorance. There are NO high (or even high-ish) profile out comedians in my metropolitan area, and there are tons of straight comics at the local open-mics who exploit homophobic humor for easy laughs. You, are solipsistic.

      Sep 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cheesus
      Cheesus

      I love Shirley Q Liquor (drag, i know). Wanda Sykes too. You know its always the women who pave the roads first. The dark male queens will be out in force soon, dont worry.

      Sep 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • me
      me

      there are successful GAY comedians? where?

      Sep 5, 2009 at 2:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      The comedy industry and the music industry are two of the most homophobic industries out there, especially in relation to male homosexuality.

      Sep 5, 2009 at 10:09 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael
      Michael

      Seriously, there are no successful, gay comedians, let alone black, gay comedians. Two of my friends, one of them black, are very funny, gay comedians and, as of yet, not so successful. I love Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho, but come on! Bring on the actual gays!

      Sep 5, 2009 at 11:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • edgyguy1426
      edgyguy1426

      @Shelby: I think most of the successful white comedians went for the big dollar and developed their own sitcom, Ray Romano, Seinfeld,Belushi, etc., or went into the movies

      Sep 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • edgyguy1426
      edgyguy1426

      @MitchNYC: You mean like George Lopez or Mencia?

      Sep 5, 2009 at 1:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AlwaysGay
      AlwaysGay

      Margeret Cho is NOT funny. Besides that she has no problem using derogatory words for gay people (but not for Koreans or East Asians). There is no excuse for gay men to support her while not supporting actual funny gay comedians like Tony Tripoli and David Sedaris. Here’s a list of gay comedians:
      http://www.qcomedy.com/links.html

      Sep 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hephaestion
      hephaestion

      Successful white gay comedians? Ever heard of Ellen DeGeneres? Neil Patrick Harris? Suzanne Westenhoefer? Kate Clinton? Bob Smith? Ant? Lily Tomlin? Mario Cantone? Alec Mapa? Marga Gomez? The entire cast of “The Big Gay Sketch Show”? Scott Thompson? Scott Kennedy? Elvira Kurt? Bruce Vilanch? Vickie Shaw? Rosie O’Donnell? Sabrina Matthews?

      And successful gay Indian comedians? Vidur Kapur is fabulous!

      Sep 5, 2009 at 5:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hephaestion
      hephaestion

      Oh yeah – Jason Stuart has been successful in the US and Graham Norton may be the most popular comic in all of Britain.

      What pisses me off is the strident homophobia of “Saturday Night Live,” which seems to think there are no funny gay folks in America. They’ll never have a gay cast member. They seem to be owned by the Republican Party and Rupert Murdoch. When you mention “gay comedy” to them, all they think of is anti-gay jokes. They were cutting edge in the 70’s. Now they’re so far from cutting edge they might as well have Rush Limbaugh hosting.

      Sep 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alex Sarmiento
      Alex Sarmiento

      Terry Sweeney was the first and, to this day, only openly gay person to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live. One of the reasons why I don’t like SNL anymore, aside from the elitism and snobbery that have colored its comedy in the past few years, is that it’s extremely gay-phobic. While I haven’t heard of any out comedians on MadTV, the comedy is somewhat more gay-friendly.

      Sep 5, 2009 at 7:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • afrolito
      afrolito

      @hephaestion:

      When did Neil Patrick Harris become a gay comedian?? I think that might be news to him….and the rest of the planet.

      Ellen Degeneres is a talk show host who happens to be gay. Her sexuality has NEVER been a part of her comedy.

      Rosie came out as gay AFTER her rise to fame, not in spite of it.

      Has Lily Tomlin ever come out? If she has, it’s been decades after her rise to fame.

      The rest of the people on your list are a who’s who of the Z list.

      Sep 6, 2009 at 5:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AlwaysGay
      AlwaysGay [Different person #1 using similar name]

      Ellen’s sexuality has been apart of her act for years. It’s not the main focus though. Rosie O’Donnell, Mario Cantone, ANT, Bruce Vilanch among many others have incorporated their sexuality into their acts as well.

      Sep 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • traffick
      traffick

      Well there is also Tyler Perry.

      Sep 9, 2009 at 9:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ray
      Ray

      Karen Williams!

      Oct 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Keith Price
      Keith Price

      I am an out, professional comedian/actor with the best gig ever on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. I am in a position to make people laugh everyday, while I laugh as well. I am the first, out, African-American, on-air personality at OUT Q, possibly in the satellite radio business (still waiting on confirmation). People joke and call me the gay Robin Quivers. I am not mad, because she has a sweet career. It is great going into a job that laughter is a requirement. I am a lucky man.

      Oct 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Marvin
      Marvin

      @ Keith Price
      Keith I LOVE YOU on The Jolt! I like Larry ut I love you. You are a great addition to the show and a great spokesperson for the Black community when it is needed. Keep up the great work my Bear brother.

      Oct 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • comedydaddy
      comedydaddy

      @ Marvin
      Thanks for the love!

      Oct 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dontblamemeivotedforhillary
      dontblamemeivotedforhillary

      Gays used to be part of late night comedy writing teams which is still straight and male and often unfunny like SNL! If we ain’t working in TV, there’s no incentive to be poor and always on the road to be the last one booked and/or featured! A YouTube internet campaign might bring more gay people of color to a wider audience. I don’t see any of the successful gays mentoring the next generation – but, that always happens! I’d really like to know what a Gay Native American has to say!

      Oct 29, 2009 at 5:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lucious Conway
      Lucious Conway

      Fuller Moon is funny as hell. He’s not well known yet but he probably will be. I caught his act out in the sticks in Shreveport, Louisiana at a country western gay karaoke bar. He sings great too. And, what really flipped me out is he looks acts and talks like a Black Thug and talks about giving up the down low for the up high gay life. And, he sings in his act like Frank Sinatra. He is really amazing. But, I wonder if the thug thing is a character though. It’s hard to tell.

      Sep 10, 2011 at 6:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lucious Conway
      Lucious Conway

      Fuller Moon is funny as hell. He’s not well known yet but he probably will be. I caught his act out in the sticks in Shreveport, Louisiana at a country western gay karaoke bar. He sings great too. And, what really flipped me out is he looks, acts and talks like a Black Thug and talks about giving up the down low for the up high gay life. And, he sings like Frank Sinatra in his act. He is really amazing. But, I wonder if the thug thing is a character though. It’s hard to tell.

      Sep 10, 2011 at 6:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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