As the power dynamics of the comedy world shift towards balance, inclusivity and creativity, NYC is once again pumping fresh blood into the scene. Whether it's Joel Kim Booster dominating stand-up stages, Sydnee Washington owning one of the best comedy podcasts in NYC, or Bob the Drag Queen reigning on RuPaul's Drag Race, LGBTQ comedians of color are redefining the industry, one dope set at a time. Get to know these acts before they become superstars.
LGBTQ POC Comedians you should know
Where you can see him: He uses his titanic voice to belt high-camp standards at A Gay Show for All People on December 28 at Littlefield and at Basement Social at Chipped Cup monthly.
Favorite joke: “Nothing shakes you like coffee. I got fucked by a trenta.”
On industry changes: “The world is changing for the better. The hateful ideas we’re seeing flare up are old; but how we radically accept one another is completely new. It feels like the Wild West, with a lot of fresh terrain for us to make the rules. There’s a new sheriff in town and he wears heels and Fenty beauty makeup!”
Where you can catch her: With her best buddy Marie Faustin on their weekly podcast The Unofficial Expert and at their show Hot Box Comedy at Et Al on December 27 at 8pm.
Favorite joke: “You can’t just date someone for their personality. Last time I dated someone with a great personality, I ended up having sex on an airless air mattress. Why am I having sex on a crumpled up piece of paper? I deserve more, like...air.”
On dual identities: “On most forms I'm checking two boxes, and their stories aren't always the same, especially when I don't present as a 'lesbian' (whatever that means), but I'm always black. I've honestly had to field more jokes about my sexuality than my blackness in comedic circles. When I first started comedy, I was dating men (literally a phase, I mean it was a 10-plus year phase, but as I learn more about myself I understand it really was a phase). Now, I'm dating a woman and we've been together for over three years. There was kind of a fun hazing process—from gay and straight comedians alike—to make sure I was really here for the gays and not just for the jokes. Now, as I've found myself going on more auditions and expanding into the world of television, I'm super aware that I'm a black woman because for whatever show it is, they're only going with one black woman. We’re the seasoning. The diversity quota has been filled at that point. I know so many talented black, female comics and there should be space for all of us.”
Where you can see them perform: In the new Funny or Die film Soojung Dreams of Fiji on Amazon Prime.
Favorite joke: "There's a stereotype that all Asian people look alike. Actually, I'm the only Asian person. I just move very fast. And I'm always listening."
On the challenges of casting: “It’s really trendy to produce TV and film about trans people right now, but the cis folks who are producing don’t know that much about trans people. I’ve gotten a ton of offers to play characters that are trans women, because people don’t understand that I’m not one. I’ll audition for roles that are for trans men, which is much closer to my lived experience. But people don’t think I present masculine enough. Most people don’t have the vocabulary to perceive you the way you are. I don’t want to do this thing that people tend to want from me, which is to play a nonbinary character over and over again. That’s not as affirming to me as being able to step into all these genders and do them justice, which is what being nonbinary means to me.”
How you know him: He stole the show from Nick Cannon on season nine of Wild ’n Out, in which he debuted as the show’s first openly gay man. He hosts the series OK, So Here’s the Thing! on Instagram.
Favorite Joke: “I really want to be a revolutionary but I don’t think I’m necessarily equipped. I’m what you call oppressively jaded. Meaning I’ve been oppressed for so long I’m dead inside, it just doesn’t affect me as much anymore. Like when I was younger if someone called me a ‘faggot’ I would fall apart, cry and breakdown. Now if someone calls me a ‘faggot’ I’m like, ‘for sure, are there any opportunities or scholarships available, maybe a diversity initiative I can take advantage of?’ Because yes I’m gay, but I’m also poor. Help me, damnit!”
On casting challenges: "I think the juxtaposition of my sexuality and race creates an unique experience, because on one hand I feel like I don’t necessarily fit the image of a “Hollywood Black Man,” which is straight and masculine, nor do I fit the image of a “Hollywood Gay Man,” which is white and flamboyant. I live in this gray in-between area where I never know how I will be received. I will say that most of my progression in the industry has come from me presenting myself or something that I’ve created, not necessarily from auditioning. On paper I’m seen as a risk; they are like, ‘a double minority, no thank you!’ And I feel like I have to constantly show or prove myself before anyone thinks I’m worthy of their time. I’m the character they never knew they wanted/needed. But once I have people on board the Dewayne train they are usually hooked on this charm, fat ass, and shining personality."
Where you can see Jon perform: He serves drag and drama at Cabernet Cabaret on December 6 at Club Cumming, at the Exhibition at the Public Hotel on Saturday December 9, and at Lloyd Night every Wednesday at UCB East.
Favorite joke: “‘What will I be when I grow up? Does God accept me? When I am at my breaking point, will anyone be there? This is too much thinking for one day, I’m going to take a nap.’ —Excerpt from my journal when I was 14 years old.”
On casting challenges: "Casting emails all ask for, like, a ‘caucasian Male, Late ’20s to ’30s, funny but natural, good-looking but not sexy.’ Unfortunately, that’s not me, because I look 17 and am very sexy (honestly why would you want to be...not?). It’s a small example of the largely homogenous (and stale) media representation we still live in and a reminder that I don’t want to spend my life waiting for ‘sickeningly thin androgynous ethnic teen to mid-’20s, can fake modern dance.’ I’ve learned to just put up my own ideas that celebrate the stupid and beautiful things I love. There’s nothing to lose and it’s very satisfying.
Where you can see Calvin perform: Hosting Ed Sullivan on Acid every Monday at 9pm at Freddy’s Bar.
Favorite joke: “I just took a walk of shame, although it’s New York City so it was more of a walk of shame to a train of shame to a transfer of shame to another train of shame to a bus of shame to a final walk of shame. It was two hours of shame.”
The LGBTQ POC comedians he looks up to: “I’m always drawn to performers who are unfiltered and honestly themselves onstage. I was and still am a huge fan of Margaret Cho and I love her energy onstage. Marga Gomez is another amazing comedian and it was such a treat to get to perform with her when I was in San Francisco during Sketchfest. Marga is a comedian who doesn’t pull any punches and talks about her experiences with such intelligence and good humor."
Where you can see her: She created digital video content for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and produces for her YouTube channel Queso Digital, and performs on Mondays with Chico Splits at Magnet Theater.
Favorite joke: “Yes, I’m a queer Latina, but I’ll be the first to say I definitely have resting colonial man face.”
On her experience as a POC creator: “Not…great? I’ll never be the beautiful straight woman model type, and I’ll never be treated like one, but that just motivates me to work that much harder and be that much funnier. I’m thankful I was born in a time to have shows like Master of None, She’s Gotta Have It and Glow that are looking for people that look and sound like me.”
Where you can see her: Killing it on At Home with Amy Sedaris, hosting Sundays with Ana every first Sunday of the month at Starr Bar, and at Wards of Merkin at Littlefield on December 15.
Favorite joke: "I bet the little girl from Monsters, Inc. is so hot now."
LGBTQ comedians who inspire her: “Lots of local comics like Patti Harrison, Julio Torres, Cole Escola, Lorelei Ramirez, Amy Zimmer, Peter Smith, Max Wittert and John Early, just to name a few. They're just so funny, unique, and endlessly talented. They look at the world in such a different way. And then to top it all off, they all work so hard—always making new work, trying out new material. It's very inspiring.”
Where you can see Elsa: At Twisted Lipstick on Friday December 8 at Sir D’s Lounge and at her monthly show Affirmative Laughter at the LGBTQ Center starting in January.
Favorite joke: "Black people have a holiday similar to Hanukkah where we like to gather the family and light candles. You might have heard of it. It's called 'Unpaid Light Bill.’"
On breaking into the mainstream: "Being a QTPOC performer has taught me to go where I am celebrated. Breaking into mainstream comedy clubs can be a challenge if you aren't a basic white guy or a cartoon character depiction of gayness. But there's a push for more diversity in entertainment so rather than keep trying to sit at the mainstream table, I've learned to make my own tables."
Where you can see him: Co-hosting Comedy at Stonewall on Saturday December 16 with Chrissie Mayr.
Favorite joke: “When women sleep around, they're called sluts. When gay men do it, we call that networking!”
His key to standing out: “Be memorable. There are thousands of comics out there, what differentiates you from them. Find that niche that works and go with it.”