There is a wealth of humor to be found in the struggles of our lives, as Judge Sandra Dozier discovers with this performance piece.
Loud, Proud, and Live…
Coming out to friends and family is never a cakewalk, but it can be even more intimidating when you are a performer that has to rely on public opinion and support to earn your bread. Coming out Party features openly gay stand-up comics talking about their experiences and their coming out. They do it with humor and heart.
Facts of the Case
Seven comics get up on stage and do their thing. The topic: being out in America.
Rene Hicks: She's black, she's the daughter of a minister, and she used to be in Roller Derby. Oh yeah, and she's gay. "Black and gay? That's like giving the Ku Klux Klan a two-for-one coupon!"
John Riggi: He makes his living in TV (he was the executive producer on The Larry Sanders Show) and is a writer. When talking about people he used to hang with, "They're not homophobic per se, just homostupid."
Bob Smith: He does a little of everything, most noticeably putting in a stint as a writer on MAD TV. "No matter what anyone says, you can't quit being gay. I know, because I've tried the gum and the patch."
Dan Renzi: Best known for being on MTV's The Real World, he very much likes to tap dance in his spare time, "because my parents hate it!" His parents would often tell themselves, "Our son isn't gay—lots of little boys have tap dancing recitals in the driveway!"
Jackie Beat: Widely known for his drag queen persona, he appears here as a man. "I'm sweating like Madonna the day the movie reviews come out!"
Sabrina Matthews: Fond of flannel and short haircuts, she wonders, "Does lipstick have some nutritional value I'm not aware of? Is that how drag queens get so tall?"
Terry Sweeny: The first openly gay cast member on Saturday Night Live performs here after several years of behind-the-camera work as a writer and producer. "They always say you can't meet anyone in a bar, but that's not true! I've met hundreds of men in bars!"
Themed comedy can often fall flat or be too preachy, but the comics involved with Coming out Party manage to avoid this altogether. I wasn't crying with laughter, but I found plenty to laugh about in each segment. This is good comedy that just happens to be about the Lesbian/Gay experience. There is a wide sampling of styles here, from the veteran crowd-charmer Sabrina Matthews to the edgy, politically incorrect humor of Jackie Beat. Hicks wants to change perceptions with her humor; Sweeny wants to share the wisdom of a long and happy life; Riggi delivers a powerful story that had me unexpectedly misty-eye; Smith delivers reliable jokes with expert timing; and Renzi makes like he's just sitting down to coffee with a couple of good friends, ready to tell them a great story.
These segments do not make light of the joy and pain associated with Coming out, but they do make it easier to talk about it. The message: we're okay with being gay, it's not a taboo subject, and there are people going through the same thing day after day—talk about it.
The video presentation is above average for the typical concert or stage performance venue. Shown in widescreen, the picture is clear and bright, with robust colors, and not too much darkness or shadow to saturate the color palette. Sound is higher quality than you might expect for stage recording. The stereo mix is predictably balanced in left and right channels. It can be a little over-loud at times, but there is no hiss or crackle, and very little reverb, even at louder volumes, and that is welcome.
Extras are plentiful—four deleted scenes from four different comics, a short outtakes reel, some clips and film from a West Hollywood gay Pride Parade, static Cast & Crew bios, and trailers. I thought Sweeney's "Three ways to tell if your date is gay" deleted scene was hilarious, and should have made it in. I'm guessing it was taken out due to the slightly ribald flavor of the punch line.
As to the language or frankness on this release, I really felt it was fairly tame. It's not something I would show to kids under 15 without giving it a glance first, but there are only a few instances of the f-word, a couple of "cock" references, and one reference to a sexual act that was pretty much just described to the point where the guy unzipped his pants. The focus is primarily on talking about the feelings of uneasiness, relief, anger, connection, and whatever else surrounds being out for these comics. Aside from some revealing honesty about what they were thinking, there isn't much to be squeamish about.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My chief complaint is with the extras. I really would have liked to see a brief featurette on how this project came together. Although I'm sure they don't want to call attention to it, every comic who got on stage for this movie is making a statement about being out in America, and I wanted to hear more. A featurette should have been the first thing on the list of proposed extras. Next, how about filmed performer bios? Thoughts before or after the performance? I wanted to hear what they thought of the project. Otherwise, I am generally pleased, but felt a couple of the deleted scenes should have been in the movie itself. Still, getting them in the form of extras works for me, too, so this is only a minor bother.
I enjoyed Coming out Party. It did not feel like I was being preached to or made to feel like an outsider due to the focused material. Instead, these are all people I'd like to know in real life (especially the instantly likeable Sabrina Matthews), and who talk to the audience as if they are old friends discussing issues important to them. Plus, I laughed my ass off for (nearly) all of it. Good stuff.
Coming out Party is declared not guilty on all accounts, not that there's anything wrong with that.
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