BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
ROYAL OAK – Did you hear the one about the political activist who became a stand-up comic?
PFLAG national board member and Great Lakes Regional Director Mike Neubecker has.
At 7:30 p.m., on May 10, Neubecker will be telling jokes onstage at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak.
He hasn’t quit his day job.
“I want to take a message to the mainstream community,” said Neubecker.
Life as a parent of an LGBT child is the focus of his routine, he said.
“The reason I want to do this – there’s a crowd we’re not getting to. I figure, if I go to the comedy club I’ll reach them,” he said. “They want to laugh, so that’s job one. But in the process they’re seeing an out and proud dad.”
Neubecker studied stand-up comedy through a course taught at Mark Ridley’s. Next week’s show will be his graduation performance.
When it comes to jokes, there’s a difference between meanness and pushing the envelope, he said.
“Beginning comics like to go to the homophobic stuff or potty humor, because they think it’s an easy way to get a laugh,” he said. “If you’re trying to put somebody down to get a laugh it’s mean. I don’t put people down.”
Neubecker said he performs positive humor.
“What’s funny? There’s a twist – that surprise where you think things will come out one way and it comes out another,” he said.
His wife Janice Neubecker said she and her husband enjoy playing practical jokes on each other.
Once, Janice and her brother climbed into the family attic, while her husband stood beneath the pull-down ladder leading up to the space.
The siblings had prepared a pair of shirt and pants that matched what her brother was wearing.
“I said, ‘Watch it, you’ll fall down the stairs!'” she said.
Then they threw the stuffed clothing at her husband.
Their prank gave him a scare – followed by a big laugh, she said.
If Neubecker needs any advice about performing his routine, he won’t have to look far.
Leslie Thompson, executive director of Affirmations Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Ferndale, has appeared as a stand-up comic at the Comedy Castle more than 100 times, she said.
“I do almost all openly gay comedy,” she said. “I totally talk about stereotypes.”
LGBT folks aren’t the only ones laughing at her jokes.
“Last year I came in second at a statewide comedy competition – Michigan Comedy Survivor,” she said.
Laughter is a good way to get your point across, she said.
“It educates people and lightens it up,” she said. “People think, ‘I’ve never met a gay person’ and then after they hear me they think, ‘I’ve met one who’s not a motorcycle-riding, truck-driving, tool-wielding dyke.”