If you’ve been to any of the weekly open mic nights in the city, you know that sexist, racist and homophobic jokes are inevitable. There’s always going to be that one alpha male who mistakes narrow-mindedness for humor. Or, as local stand-up comic Alejandro Morales puts it, “There’s a lot of douchebag comedy out there.” Having jumped into Philly’s burgeoning comedy scene in 2009, the New York native has already proven himself to be a rather proactive member. In addition to starting Camp Tabu, the monthly, queer-friendly comedy showcase, Morales, 30, recently performed for the third straight year in the Gayborhood Games’ comedy competition. “I’m like the Susan Lucci of that thing,” he laughs.
Now Morales is busy helping put together Philly’s first ever QComedy Fest, along with local improv comedian Ralph Andracchio, president/co-founder of NightlifeGay.com, Bruce Yelk and Philly Improv Theater founder, Greg Maughan. In perfect timing with LGBT History Month, the week-long festival kicks of this Sunday, offering a different queer-friendly comedy show each night.
Morales is organizing four shows, including Camp Tabu's first anniversary event and a special edition of the weekly drag show, Sinful Sundays, hosted by the Goddess Isis. “It’s not called the Gay Comedy Festival because I wanted to stay away from it just being gay,” Morales explains, adding that they’ve invited a sprinkling of their straight comedy allies to perform. Besides the campy entertainment one might normally expect, there will also be nights devoted to comedic storytelling, sketch and improv. “Having a gay audience come see gay people improvise, I think it would be it easier for them to relate and get into it,” says Andracchio, who currently performs as part of Philly Improv Theater house team, King Friday, the improvised telenovela, Pasiones de Pasiones and one-half of the improv duo Grimmatchio.
Both Andracchio and Morales stress that the festival isn’t about getting their fair share of the comedy pie, but more like giving people a chance to try key lime instead of apple. “The comedy scene is exploding, but it can’t grow without an audience,” Morales says. “So what I’m trying to do is find the audience for this kind of comedy—the kind of audience that’s been put off by the stuff that flies at other places.”
Often performing for predominantly straight audiences, Morales knows that this polarizing effect actually goes both ways. “Sometimes I’m just being honest about dating or what have you and I can feel people getting uptight.” Cracking jokes in drag as “Shenanigans Hannigan,” on the other hand, is a totally different story. “I think that if you’re really big with your homosexuality, it puts people in a certain kind of ease because they can say, ‘Well, this is other. I can laugh at this because it’s other.’”
As for straight folks who aren’t comfortable with “other,” well, that’s on them. “If you’re a straight person who’s freaked out by being in a room with a bunch of gay people talking about gay stuff then obviously, this might not be your cup of tea,” says actor, writer, comedian and QComedy Fest headliner, Alec Mapa. “But then again, it might be just the thing you need to do to, as my therapist would say, ‘grow as a person.’ Because that’s exactly what my big gay evening of dick jokes is—a growth opportunity.”
Oct. 9-15. Various times and locations. $10-$35. qcomedyfest.com
It’s officially Comedy Month here in Philly, meaning you have the next few weeks to catch an impressive lineup of national acts perform alongside a slew of our finest homegrown comedic sketch and improv groups like Rare Bird Show, King Friday, Camp Woods, Rookie Card and Animosity Pierre. You can expect worthwhile shows each night, but here’s a few you’d just be flat-out stupid to miss.