Great comedians make you laugh and think. Great comedy stays with you long after the laughs have subsided. If you’ve seen Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix comedy special “Nanette,” you’ll understand what this means. Gadsby singlehandedly raises the bar for comedy, putting it out of reach for many other stand-up comics.
“Out On Stage” (Fathom Events / Comedy Dynamics), which is being shown in theaters for one night only on July 24th, shortly after “Nanette” began airing, will suffer by comparison. True, it features a multitude of comics, not just one. But the main similarity is that “Out On Stage” touches on several of the same themes as “Nanette.” There are jokes about straight people, transgender people, lesbians, homophobia, and coming out. However, not a single one of the comedians featured in “Out on Stage” can match what Gadsby accomplishes and in the same way she achieves it.
To be fair, a few of them – including Raneir Pollard, Kyle Shire, Jonathan Rowell, Julian Michael, and Irene Tu – bring a fresh perspective to topics ranging from dating and relationships to stereotypes and body image. One of the biggest problems is comedian “host” Zach Noe Towers, who simply isn’t funny. The interview scenes, of which there are far too many, bring things to a screeching halt. Also, a segment of HIV jokes is more than a little questionable. Another issue is that director Samuel Brownfield’s theatrical version of “Out on Stage” is supposedly meant to whet our appetites for a forthcoming TV series of the same name.
Unfortunately, none of the comedians in “Out on Stage,” representing a broad swath of ages and backgrounds, is on the same level as say, gay comic Matteo Lane. Lane is not only funny and smart but can also sing opera and is sexy AF. Even sadder is the early 2018 loss of groundbreaking gay comic Bob Smith, to whom every LGBTQ comic, including those in “Out on Stage,” owes a debt of gratitude for his TV appearances in the early 1990s. Rating: C.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbook GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008).
He has work forthcoming in the anthology Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.