Much comedy is timeless, unlike the comedy world’s homophobia and transphobia of yesteryear. While some comics still crack homophobic and transphobic jokes onstage, comedians and audiences are changing, thanks in part to such out comics as Matteo Lane and Todd Glass.
I last saw Lane – the young and mustachioed New Yorker who enjoys wearing tank tops like the one he wears on the cover of Fugues this month – at Montreal’s Comedyworks nightclub in 2016. His impromptu reading of Cher’s tweets on her 70th B-Day were priceless! And in 2012 comedy veteran Glass publicly came out at the age of 48, proving the old axiom that one is never too old to come out. Then he wrote all about it in his 2015 bestseller The Todd Glass Situation: A Bunch of Lies about My Personal Life and a Bunch of True Stories about My 30-Year Career in Stand-Up Comedy. Both comics are blazing a trail to Montreal for the 36th edition of the Just For Laughs Festival, which runs July 11 to 29.
As an out comic, how welcoming is the comedy world to queer comics?
MATTEO LANE : Very. I feel like I have been accepted. I have encountered nothing but kindness and open arms. I am lucky being queer is not seen as a problem. People are increasingly interested in things we have to say and aren’t threatened by me talking about my life onstage. They may not know gay people personally, but by the end of my set, straight audiences realize we are more alike than they thought. This is the message I try to convey through humour.
Todd, you are in a unique position: you’ve seen how the comedy world treats queer comics from both perspectives, closeted and out, especially behind the scenes.
Todd Glass : I think the comedy world is changing for the better. When I was younger, it could get overwhelming because some out comedians I saw only talked about being gay. But they broke a lot of ground for people like me. Although I have been out to my parents since the age of 30, I was unable to do what these out comics did because of the times. I publicly came out in 2012 because I had become too comfortable living that lie. I knew my life could be better. I saw a lot of young kids being pretty brave and I thought it was time. Everybody said it would get better. Everybody. Ellen (DeGeneres) said it. And it’s true – it is better now.
Do you feel like you’ve blazed a trail for older queer comics?
MATTEO LANE : I never thought of it that way. I just wanted to be onstage and tell jokes. It doesn’t matter if you’re green and from Mars, just work hard and tell funny jokes. As for queer trailblazers, I think Mario Cantone is a trailblazer and does not get the credit he deserves. He was unapologetically out not only at a time when gay people were hated, but also dieing (of AIDS). He really put himself out there. I also think Tom Glass is a trailblazer because coming out is different for everybody. Not everybody comes out at the same time and Tom Glass (publicly) coming out at age 48 is an inspiration for men his age who couldn’t do it before and now realize they can. It’s a whole different experience.
Todd Glass : No one comes out at the same time. Everybody comes out when they are ready. I can privately help LGBTQ people who are struggling, but nobody wants to be pushed. What I find shocking is straight parents who say they are open-minded but don’t think it may be their kids who are gay or transgender. These parents need to walk the talk and treat these issues in their own homes sensitively so that their children can feel that they can trust them.
I assume most of your audiences are predominantly straight. How do you break the news to them that you’re gay?
MATTEO LANE : I use to come onstage and sing in a falsetto! It’s funny because people are confused and it breaks the ice. Now I just walk onstage and say, “I’m obviously gay” and then I just move on. But I have to address it. If you have a missing arm, for instance, if you go up onstage and not talk about it for 15 minutes, people are going to ask, “When is he going to mention the arm?” If I go onstage and start chatting, people will ask, “Is he going to mention it?” I also do because I am proud to be gay.
Todd Glass : It’s like 35 years ago when you had a Saturday Night Live sketch of a black and white couple dating, the sketch had to be, “I’m black and your parents are visiting from out of town.” Then you reach a point where you have to have a sketch that gets past that, where race has nothing to do with the sketch. The couple is just a couple. That’s how I deal with my sexual orientation – I talk about it for 3 or 4 minutes and move on. One of my biggest fears was I didn’t want it to become my identity. I never thought it was the most interesting thing about me.
Your thoughts about Montreal and Just For Laughs.
Todd Glass : JFL is a joy! I always have a good time in your city.
MATTEO LANE : I love the city because – this is so American – it’s Europe in North America. My family is from Italy, I love the European vibe in Montreal, and my French is very Italian. The food is very good and Montrealers are hot. Everybody is good-looking. I’m also friends with (Montreal comedian) Tranna Wintour, so I’ll get to hang out with her and enjoy your beautiful city.
Montreal is famed for its amazing gay male stripper bars. Have you been yet?.
MATTEO LANE : I went to one a couple years ago with (out comedian) James Adomian, and I hope to go again this summer!
Todd Glass : You just reminded me of when I was 18 working in comedy clubs. This place in Wildwood, New Jersey, had male strippers in one room and a comedy club in the other. All the straight comedians would go over to the male strip club because they were comfortable with their sexuality, and then the male strippers would come over to watch our comedy shows. But I never went to the strip club, and I probably wanted to go more than anybody. I was scared shitless. I am so much happier since I came out. No more lies.
MATTEO LANE : The first comedy record I bought was by Ellen DeGeneres. I was nine-years-old. I didn’t even know she was gay! She dealt with so many assholes across America when she came out of the closet. For me doing comedy in the straight world today feels normal, but for queer comics back in the day – I think “How the fuck did they do it?” I love Ellen. I am grateful for her and other out comics who have made a difference.
Matteo Lane co-stars in The Ethnic Show at Club Soda from July 11 to 26.
Todd Glass stars in his self-titled solo show at Mainline Theatre from July 23 to 28. He also hosts The Todd Glass Show at the Hyatt Regency on July 27.
The Just For Laughs Festival runs from July 11 to 29. For more information and tickets, visit hahaha.com