You know, the comedy community, as large as it is, is pretty small. There are dozens of comics I know who are in the closet, still, in 2008. Or, they just don't put their sexual orientation in the act, because it simply doesn't matter to the stories they tell. Wanda Sykes is one of the few people on the planet whom I am aware of as a lesbian comedian who just didn't have any reason to talk about it in the show- and now she is.
She has become an OUT performer because of the recent election issues, and she made that perfectly clear in her Las Vegas show this past week. I can think of women who are on stage and television now who just won't make that announcement because even today, in 2008, it affects their careers. That makes me heartbroken.
The world I grew up in was very tolerant of gay folks, and my dad worked as an electrician on a club called Buddies in Boston, so I got to meet people like Divine when I was still pretty young. I was never told "gay" was abnormal. I was never told "gay" was bad.
A friend of mine has a daughter who was in the playground with two boys who were ranting- at age 7 and 6- that gay people were not going to heaven. Fortunately I don't believe in heaven, but if I did, I know it couldn't exist without my gay pals. But, this little girl took a stand and told the boys that LOVE is what makes a good parent. She was awesome for saying so. And, her mom is awesome for letting her daughter KNOW that people are who they are- genetics do what they do- and love people regardless.
Wanda came out to a crowd who only knew her from Tracey Ullman's shows, or the Wanda Sykes Show. They didn't see her at any weddings, nor did they see her talking about Prop 8 on television. They just were there to see a woman who makes them laugh- and they didn't judge her announcement as a betrayal, nor did they leave the show. They DO NOT CARE because she is a funny person. She is a PERSON, and she's a funny one. Period. No one struck her with lightening for telling the truth, and no one started to hate her comedy just because she isn't heterosexual, (nor white, nor male). She is a funny lady.
If only we could have been that smart during the elections this year. If only there were enough smart people saying "I may not want to vote for people because it all seems the same- but I will vote for the Bills and Laws that matter to me." There weren't smart people who said, "Wait, YES means I don't want rights? THAT is silly." There weren't enough smart people who said, "EVERYONE matters in this country, no matter their orientation, age, country of origin, and ability to physically do things." I don't like the word "race" because I always thought we were the Human Race, and homo sapien doesn't split up into genus of homo sapien hetoro, and homo sapien homo. It just genetically reads Homo Sapien.
Wanda made a few hundred people laugh. She makes a few thousand people laugh. And, she is now admittedly part of another minority. Not just female. Not just black. Just gay. That's how some people will see her now. And that is not what comedy is about. Comedy is about the common tragedy we all face, and the ability to see the absurdity throughout it all. It is about the common issues we have as human beings. Sykes knows this, and now she faces those who are unclear that we are people first, and titles second. (or tenth, or thirtieth)
It was a blast walking up and down the Pro-rights Rally in Las Vegas yesterday. (Pictures at picasaweb.google.com/gimpyratcat, under short bus in Las Vegas Rally.) It was a blast seeing people who care about people. It was a blast being one of those people. And, I'm honored to know that Wanda Sykes, comedian, is now Wanda Sykes, GAY comedian, because she just opened up her common issues to the group of folks fighting hard to be heard. She is heard. That's a huge step forward.
If only we could all be so honest.