Why I'm OK being "the queer one" on the comedy line-up
How a gig at the Edinburgh Fringe showed Chloe Green the power of being out.
“Do you want your sexuality to define your comedy?”
“You don’t want to be pigeonholed as ‘the lesbian one’, do you?”
“Isn’t it a bit obvious to make jokes about being gay?”
I’m a queer comedian, and the above are just some of the questions I’ve been asked since I started out in 2016. I used to respond – “Has anyone ever asked a straight comic if it’s ‘obvious’ to joke about being straight?” – but I got bored (and hella irked), so I took to eye-rolling or swiftly leaving the conversation.
However, after what happened to me during the Edinburgh Fringe this year, these aren’t questions I can gloss over any more. Because being a queer comedian has become more important to me than anything.
Let me set the scene. My friends and I took a comedy show to the Fringe; we’re five queer women and our show, The Lol Word (a thinly veiled shout-out to other lesbians, don’t hate me), was largely us larking about and honing our craft.
I also picked up spots in mixed-bill shows. You know the drill: sweaty pub basements, a ragtag assortment of comics covering everything from “the missus” to Donald Trump, and audiences of anywhere between two and eighty. Not a scene typically associated with existential breakthroughs.
On one particular night, I did my material about coming out to my family. I start by saying that I’m “a little bit gay” and throw it open to the crowd – “Give me a cheer if you’re also a little bit gay?”
The response varies, but tends to be fairly predictable. This time, however, a timid, solitary “whoop” floated above the crowd, immediately followed by furtive muttering. I squinted beyond the spotlight to see a young lad and his parents and brother, whispering frantically.
I asked his name –Joe – and I asked if that had come as news to his family.
He sheepishly replied: “Yes.” He had just come out to his whole family, right there and then.
The crowd was as astonished as I was, breaking into cheers, applause and disbelieving laughter. I was dumbstruck – I’d never even been heckled before, let alone played a starring role in someone’s coming-out story.
After the show Joe gave me a huge hug. He was on holiday, he explained, and had been trying to find the right moment to come out to his family (how a basement comedy show constituted “the right moment” remains a mystery). Totally earnest, he asked me what it was like to be a queer comedian. At that moment, it was the most privileged, special and badass thing.
I went to the Fringe thinking it’d be, well, a laugh. Instead it showed me how powerful comedy can be, especially for queer people. Representation and role models are vital for those searching for solace, solidarity or simply their own stories. Our stories demand to be told – not just for those telling them, but for those who might be listening. So no, I don’t mind if that defines my comedy. Obviously.