I have identified as a member of the LGBTQ community since I was 12 years old, and have been lipsyncing showtunes since birth, but only recently have I begun to identify as a comedian. Perhaps my relative newness to performing made me feel like I did not have the right to claim “comedian” as a part of myself. But during “There’s No Place Like Home: A GLBTQ Event,” an improv show that took place last month at the Magnet Theater, I performed in a show that celebrated both of those identities, as well as honoring my other social identities and histories. As a performer and student of comedy, my preference lies in identity-infused or -inspired comedy, humor that acknowledges people’s backgrounds and experiences and either makes it the centerpiece of the show or keeps it as an important side plot.
When organizer Andrew Fafoutakis invited me to be in the cast for its inaugural show, I was excited, nervous, and in need of Wikipedia. The show’s title, “There’s No Place Like Home,” referenced The Wizard of Oz, which I knew was an important cultural artifact for many members of the LGBTQ community (particularly White men), but it did not particularly speak to me. I worried if I would fit in with a cast with whom I presumably shared a common identity and experience. Would I be the only woman? Would everyone be White? (Also, would I be the shortest person there? The most femme?) But Andrew let me know that he intentionally sought out comedians from multiple theaters and racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, age and gender identities. He said: “After all, one of our universal symbols for our community is a rainbow.” This mix of performers made for comedic alchemy, featuring well-known improvisers and up-and-comers (like myself), with a mix of very openly out performers and those in different parts of their identity forming processes.
The show was one of the funniest shows I have ever been a part of, with a hilarious scene between two competitive exes volunteering at The Trevor Project, a family that yelled in monotone, and a butterfly expert called a lefrodologist. Some of the scenes directly evoked LGBTQ themes, while others barely mentioned it. Like The Wizard of Oz itself, which helped shape the landscape for queer people in the U.S. through its multi-level themes, our LGBTQ identities informed the landscape of our performances, without being the sole focus of the scenes. My favorite part about improvising is the relationships formed on stage between scene partners, and the relationships portrayed at “There’s No Place Like Home” represented the broad range of the queer spectrum. And yes, I was the shortest person there.
Improv scenes often fall into the “you had to be there” category of storytelling, so I will spare the minutia and encourage those of you CherryGRRLs in New York to attend this month’s show on Monday, February 13 at 10PM at the Magnet Theater at 254 West 29th Street.
For more info visit: The Magnet: http://www.magnettheater.com/index.php OR the Magnet Theater Blog Post: http://www.magnettheater.com/blog/theres-no-place-like-home-a-glbtq-event-january-16th/
Emily Schorr Lesnick is a comedian, substitute teacher, and a recent graduate of Macalester College, where she studied identity, comedy, and social justice activism. Her writing has been featured on Splitsider, Funny Not Slutty, The Mary Sue, ComedyRants.com, Guffaw MN, LilVeggiePatch, Hello Giggles and The Huffington Post. Her biggest accomplishment remains renaming her high school Gay-Straight Alliance GLOW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever). Follow her on Twitter @ESchorrLesnick.