Judge Brett Cullum's gaydar went haywire thanks to this disc.
The kings and queens of comedy.
The idea of GLBT comedy is subversive. We have a group too-often laughed at flipping the unfair stereotype and making the jokes for a change. George Bush, the Christian Right, and Anne Coulter become easy, obvious targets, but the really telling bits come when the comics decide to shine the light on their own demons and closets. Outlaugh! has plenty of moments where the Right gets it mercilessly, but these comics laugh at their lifestyle just as readily. That's what makes this brand of comedy so much fun! It's a diverse group of the sexually spunky and politically downtrodden taking on the world on their own terms. Too often "fag" is used as a cruel punch line, but here it's a warm term of endearment as well as something to giggle about innocently.
In 2005 a gay improv group called The Gay Mafia and its leader Mike Player hooked up with comedian Jerry Calumn. They decided to put on a homosexual standup festival. For four nights in a donated theatre space in Santa Monica, they proved there actually were enough GLBT comics for an official showcase. Every night sold out, but unfortunately no lucrative television deal ever came about. A film was made from the highlights, and that's what we have for Wolfe Video's Outlaugh!. This is just over an hour of bits and jokes pulled together from the four-day festival. The humor revolves around politics, coming out, gay marriage, and gender roles.
The cast of comics is amazing. New York's lesbian comedienne Lea DeLaria headlines the show, appearing as a foul-mouthed, brunette Drew Carey. Also featured are The Gay Mafia, The Nellie Olsens, Stephanie Howard, Page Hurwitz, Andre Kelly, Bob Smith, Jason Stuart, and many others. With the film barely outlasting an hour, nobody gets much time and the pace is frenetic and hurried. I loved the hysterical bits by Karen Ripley, but found myself wanting more of certain comics and less of others. The beauty of Outlaugh! is everyone will have their own favorites, and if you don't like a comic they're gone within thirty seconds. The bad news is the wickedly quick editing doesn't let the comic performers grow on you as they work through their act's natural progression. If I have a single gripe it's that the bits leave you wanting to see an entire session devoted to some of the comedians.
The DVD doesn't offer much other than the hilarious highlight reel; supplemental material is given short shrift. There are no special features save for nicely done text bios of the comics and a slideshow (which often shows pictures from bits not shown in the film). Surely there were tons of extra footage, but we don't get anything added. The presentation is in standard television fullscreen and the video quality is decidedly low-tech and grainy. The stereo sound mix is clear enough, though it never has to deliver much other than performance dialogue. It's a historic disc to own because this is the only official chronicle of the first Outlaugh! festival, but don't expect anything fancy or in-depth. It would have been nice to have interviews with the founders and participants, but no such luck.
For the GLBT community, Outlaugh! is a rare opportunity to see a significant event for these comics. The festival has become an annual event, and Logo broadcast the second edition with Margaret Cho hosting. That has to be the mark of legitimacy since Cho is a married woman, yet somehow a gay icon thanks to the embrace of her San Francisco roots. Getting the notorious Cho involved has raised the profile a bit, and the broadcast deal with Logo has made the enterprise financially successful. Even though it's just a basic DVD, Outlaugh! looks at something special and unique. Fans of GLBT comedy should definitely track it down for a sample of the funniest queers doing what they do best—laughing at the world through a pink filter for the first time. They're here, they're queer, and they're funny! It's easy to get used to.
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