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It’s a great weekend for lesbian stand-up comics Dec. 9-11 at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase.
Headlining is the hilarious Elvira Kurt with a special guest appearence by local comic and Affirmations executive director Leslie Thompson on Thursday, Dec. 9. The hilarious Kate Brindle will be the emcee Friday and Saturday.
If Second City alumni and Comedy Central “Out There II” comic Elvira Kurt was in charge of the universe, adults would skip home from work, briefcases in hand.
Kurt, who is lesbian-Canadian, is also troubled by the hold technology has over our lives, specifically the cyborg-like evolution of the toothbrush.
Kurt tackles everything from childhood to her Eastern European immigrant parents to being a lesbian in her stand up act, all with the unrelenting energy of a six year old – and as adorable, too.
Performing with her is a thrill for Thompson. “I’ve seen her in person and think she’s really funny,” said Thompson.
Thompson has been doing comedy for the last seven years. “Minus two years I took off in the middle,” she said. “After I started here at Affirmations [it was] a little overwhelming. I didn’t think I had time to be funny. I don’t really have time now, but I just have to make it a priority.”
The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase is familiar ground for Thompson. “I used to work there all the time,” she said. She would like to start working there on a more frequent basis again so she stopped by to talk to the owner. “He really did say, ‘Well, I need to see if you’re still funny,'” she said. “So I’m doing a guest set [Thursday] so he can see if I’m still funny so the more people who come and laugh really loud, whether they think I’m funny or not, would really help my comedy career.”
That Thompson is still funny is a pretty safe bet. Not only has she been at it for seven years, but she’s worked with some of the best comics in the business including top lesbian comics like Kate Clinton, SuzanneÊWestenhoefer, and Karen Williams.
Which begs the question: why are so many funny comics lesbians? Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Paula Poundstone, Sabrina Matthews…
“I think part of it could be – I don’t know this as a fact and there’s no data to support this, it’s just my perspective on things – is that because you’re dealing with an issue that the majority of society is not you sometimes look to comedy to kind of ease the pain or get you through the stress and it just kind of evolves into that,” said Thompson. Plus, she said, being a lesbian gives her an additional aspect of life to cull material from.
Thompson’s had her ups and downs in the business. Her best show ever was opening for Kathleen Madigan at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle several years ago. “She always draws an amazing audience,” said Thompson.
The Comedy Castle was home to one of her worst experiences as well. “It was the night the second year in a row when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup and there were like eight people in the audience,” she said. “It was horrible.”
“Another bad show I did was at the Holiday Inn in Taylor and as soon as I said, ‘Then I realized I was a lesbian,’ you could have heard a pin drop,” she added. “Think about the poor innocent people: they’re traveling, and they’ve ended up at the holiday Inn in Taylor, so their night’s not going well anyway, and they go to the bar because there are eight TVs and they figured they’d pick up some sporting event, and instead they turn off the TVs, eyes focused on the lesbian in the corner. It was all bad.”
Thompson has received mainly positive feedback from audience members even though most of them are straight and most of her act is about being gay. Though once she was accused of being too political. “I was working right before the election and I got a little too political and so that didn’t go over really well,” she said. “I was telling people how to vote on Proposal 2 – I had a room full of like 350 people, how could I not tell them to vote NO on Proposal 2? But I need to separate that political part of being a lesbian from the comedy part.”
Laughter is a great educational tool, said Thompson. “After shows when big burly guys and their wives are coming out and they’ve had a few beers and they’re like, ‘Hey, you were really funny’ – they come up and shake your hand and that’s just really cool because they strike me as not a person that hangs out with gay people too much. So if I did a little bit of education and changed a little focus on what they think about gay people then all the better.”