As a standup comic, I am first and foremost a fan of comedy. So, when white, cis-het, ignorant men like Matt Rife besmirch the craft with jokes about domestic violence, excessive crowd work clips, and substanceless stage presence, I have no choice but to step in. I did not spend my childhood glued to my TV on Saturday nights and my late teen years getting sexually harassed – I mean, working – at a comedy club just for a bunch of losers to pronounce comedy dead by wokeness. Here’s a pro tip: If you hear a comic complaining about people being “too woke” to laugh at jokes these days, what they mean is they (or their ghost writer) are shit at writing jokes.
If the crowd work comedian siege on the internet wasn’t enough to radicalize you, perhaps the list of nominees for the very first Golden Globes stand-up specials category will. On this list is Ricky Gervais, who uses the “r” slur when referring to terminally ill children in his nominated special; Amy Schumer, proud Islamophobe and joke stealer; and Sarah Silverman, who recently got too high and defended genocide on Instagram (oops!). It’s such a shame comedy is finally getting the attention it deserves at award shows and we’re kicking it off with such a mess of a nominee list. Thankfully, Wanda Sykes, Chris Rock, and Trevor Noah’s specials were also nominated, giving good comedy a fighting chance.
Still, there remains a discrepancy between the public’s perception of modern comedy and the comedy that gives me child-like joy to consume. The difference, I have concluded, is the lack of visibility for diverse comics, and specifically queer and trans comics of color. In an attempt to bridge this gap that leaves me oh so frustrated, and to defend the sanctity of stand up comedy, I have put together a list of queer comedy specials available to stream. You’re welcome.
Wanda Sykes came out swinging at all of the absurd cultural moments we’ve experienced since her last special in 2019, including the pandemic, the January 6th insurrection, Black Lives Matter, and the rise of the Renaissance Faire (and no, not Beyoncé’s tour). As always, Sykes treats us to hilarious takes on things we don’t even think twice about and deliciously silly physical comedy.
When people complain that comedians can’t talk about sensitive topics anymore without getting canceled, I show them Robin Tran. Don’t Look at Me, and the rest of Tran’s comedy, is a masterclass in how to write smart, critical jokes about gender, sexuality, politics, and… Christopher Nolan films.
Charmichael’s third special is a beautifully intimate confessional, both to his audience and himself, providing him the opportunity to come out in front of a live audience. Rothaniel is the antithesis of a crowd work clip in that he uses audience interaction as a way to explore – and not create – moments of tension on stage.
Pyschosexual is another great example of a comic using crowd work to elevate their comedy rather than mine for viral moments while on stage. Booster wants his comedy to be digestible for all demographics, not just the ones he is a part of. To help keep himself true to his goal, he selects a straight white dude from the audience to check-in on throughout the show.
Sunny Laprade started doing stand up when she was 15 years old and filmed her debut special, Queer Enough, by 21 as part of her undergraduate degree. Performing to an audience, which included some of her classmates and school faculty, Laprade opens her set with a circumcision joke and closes it with one about 9/11.
Hair Plugs and Heartache is self-deprecating humor perfected, proving that there is a right way to use the “f” slur in comedy.