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Justin Sayre
Photograph: Ricardo NelsonJustin Sayre

Queer comedian and activist Justin Sayre prepares his final holiday edition of the Meeting*

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

With his wicked witticisms, ardent social activism and cultivated mid-Atlantic accent—he sounds like Lauren Bacall in a saucy mood—Justin Sayre is one of the most distinctive voices in the LGBT arts scene. Since 2009, he has shared hilarious rants and raves from the bully (but anti-bullying) pulpit of his monthly show, the Meeting*; he released a collection of them in September on an album called The Gay Agenda. The Meeting* will adjourn for good in May, but first Sayre is presiding over two holiday shows at Joe’s Pub. He chatted with us by phone from Los Angeles, where he moved in 2014 after 15 years in New York City.

For the unfortunate souls who have never been: What is the Meeting*?
It’s a comedy-variety show that celebrates gay icons and talks about politics of the day, centered around a meeting of the International Order of Sodomites, of which I am the chairman. The IOS is a centuries-old organization promoting the lives and legacies of the LGBTQIA community. Not a bad hand of Scrabble!

In the impending Trump era, what can that community do?
Well, I can tell you what I’ve been doing: I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people who were involved in ACT UP about how to get people involved and get actual physical bodies to places. Twitter is not going to work for us. We need to be in the streets again.

So why end the Meeting* now? Just when we need you most!
It’s been eight years and I’m tired! [Laughs] I’m very tired. But I feel like I’ve said what I needed to say, and I learned from Kiki and Herb that you bow out when you’re on top. And maybe we’ll come back in 10 years.
The Meeting* has always had a strong sense of history, which is something many gay people have taken pride in: being connoisseurs and guardians of past culture. Why is that?
I think a lot of people are looking for a little more grandeur, a little more height to their lives. So many people died of AIDS that we had a generation gap of information; I didn’t have some old queen handing me a copy of Maria Callas in Norma saying, “This will blow your mind!” [Laughs] So I’ve taken it upon myself to do that, because if you’re just looking at the last 10 years, you’re missing out on a host of things that can make you a better artist and person. And I think there’s a trend among gay people of taking what other people toss away.  

Let’s talk about the holiday edition. You’re doing two shows back-to-back?
This being our last year, I wanted to go a little bigger. We’ll have different guests and sketches for each one. It’s a marathon, really. And I think we provide an even-tempered Christmas show. A lot of Christmas shows are just happy and isn’t-the-world-wonderful. At the Meeting*’s Christmas show, you’re always a little like, “Well! That’s dark.” I think it’s going to be a fun night.

So many of the city’s Christmas-themed shows are by queer artists. Why do you think that is?
Well, there’s a camp quality to Christmas on its own: It’s the one holiday where you’re allowed to go over the top and people still think that you’re within your legal limit. But it’s also a holiday about family, and I think a lot of artists respond to that by validating the weird families that we as queer people have made.

What’s your favorite thing about Christmas generally?
Wait: Christmas Jenner?

No, no! Christmas generally.
Oh, good. I was very concerned for a minute that there was another one! Well, my Christmas used to be me going home and entertaining my parents for a little while and then at a certain point, I would drink a bottle of Bailey’s and watch Meet Me in St. Louis. So that was my favorite part of Christmas. And it still is!

The holiday edition of the Meeting* is at Joe’s Pub on Sun 18 at 7pm and 9:30pm. Guests at 7pm include Natalie Joy Johnson, Ari Gold, Kevin Smith Kirkwood and Angela Di Carlo; guests at 9:30pm include Nellie McKay, Justin Vivian Bond, Erin Markey and Carol Lipnik. Isaac Oliver and Amanda Duarte will appear in both shows. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

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