Trans Comics Take Over New York’s Only Tammy’s Twist

Trans PeopleLorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times' "Ask A Trans Woman" Columnist.
Photo: David Meehan
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Lorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times' "Ask A Transwoman" Columnist. Photo: David Meehan

Lorelei Erisis, The Rainbow Times’ “Ask A Transwoman” Columnist.
Photo: David Meehan

By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—

Okay, so, it’s well past two in the morning and my deadline is noon tomorrow, or rather, later today. I’ve been staring at a blank page for hours, or rather; I’ve been doing everything in my power not to stare at the glowing white expanse. I’ve indulged all my major vices—coffee, whiskey, tea, more whiskey, and cheese (in artery clogging amounts)—in an effort to kickstart these words.

My partners have been to Boston and back for a fancy vegan dinner and long since gone to bed. And, the cats have abandoned me.

In a few hours those damned birds will start chirping again. The birds you only ever hear if you’ve been up all night and you know the breaking dawn is at the wrong end of your day.

I know nights like this because I made the choice a long time ago to live the life of an artist. They are familiar to me in the way I suppose a 10 p.m. bedtime and morning commutes are familiar to people who have made other, perhaps more sensible, choices. [pullquote]Our fall dates for Tammy’s Twist are September 11th, October 2nd, and November 13th; at 8:30 p.m.; at the Broadway Comedy Club, 318 W 53rd Street in New York City. For more information, just search for the hashtag #TammysTWIST on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. And, if you don’t understand what any of that means, ask a teenager. I really hope I see you at the show![/pullquote]

I’m almost completely in the nude as I write these words. Not like, sexy camgirl naked. More like, frustrated writer in the middle of the night, “Oh my gods I need to get these clothes off me! This bra is squeezing me to death and the waistband on these tights is going to cut me completely in half. I need these clothes off me now!”

My tiara, two crowns, and three pageant queen sashes are off in a corner laughing at me.

Okay. Now that I’ve completely demolished your image of me, let me get started on my point.

You see there’s this other thing I do besides all the pageant queening, activism and opinion columnist stuff that you may know me for. I also do comedy, sort of.

Probably it’s more accurate to say that I work with really dedicated and funny people who do comedy while I do sort of my best impression of Kermit The Frog—if he was a sexy trans woman channeling Spalding Gray after drinking about thirty cups of coffee, on a stage that I share with them.twist_sm

But yeah, before all the marching and speechifying and screed writing, I actually studied improvisational acting and comedy at the world famous Second City. I also worked as the showroom manager at The Hollywood Improv for several years. I also produced my own show there called, “The Freaks Of Comedy.” I even ran and hosted the weekly open mike at The Hollywood Improv for a while, in which I would put up 40 or 50 comics for 3 minutes apiece. It was the single most masochistic thing I’ve ever done. But, I learned an awful lot about what makes comedy work, or not. [pullquote]It’s not just trans comics or queer comics. It’s not a “niche” show. It’s a mix of truly great, incredibly funny comedians who happen to put trans comics front and center (instead of back and to the left).[/pullquote]

For the last two years I have been co-hosting and stage-managing a show on Broadway with my good friend and mortal enemy Tammy Twotone! Well, technically, it’s about half a block from Broadway. But, almost none of the actual Broadway Theaters are actually on Broadway. And yeah, it’s actually a comedy club, not a proper theatre. It is, however,  in the Theater District, right on 53rd Street in Manhattan. So I’m sticking with this “On-Broadway” description.

Let me tell you, there are few better ways to justify the dicey choices you have made in your life than to tell your parents and their friends that you have a show on Broadway. It almost even makes them forget that time you and your dominatrix ex-girlfriend decided, while visiting, that it would be a good idea to go naked canoeing on their densely surrounded suburban lake. In broad daylight. And, the cops got called. And they, the cops that is, were standing onshore as you slowly paddled in.

Speaking of which, fun fact, you can’t actually outrun the cops in a canoe on a landlocked lake, even if they are on land, in a car. That’s just a little informational tidbit from me to you, in case you should happen to need it, just because I love you.

Anyway, this show it’s called “Tammy’s Twist.” And even though you might not have heard of it, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s kind of historic. That’s not even just a line I give my parents.

You see, this show is the only trans produced, trans hosted, trans run show, spotlighting established and up-and-coming trans comics, at a mainstream comedy club, anywhere in the country, possibly anywhere at all.

Among some of our more notable comics of trans persuasion have been; Red Durkin, who is a popular vlogger, acclaimed stand-up comic and managing editor of PrettyQueer.com; Charlie Stern, a rising, young, non-binary, trans comic from Western Mass; Dana Friedman, who is perhaps the only Orthodox Jewish trans woman working in comedy today; and the multi-talented So Brown, who not only does comedy, but has already made quite a name for himself in the music world with his heartbreakingly beautiful debut album, Point Legere! And, of course there’s our producer and my co-host, Tammy Twotone. She is one of the hardest working comics I have ever known. Her dedication to comedy and to trans visibility, plus her superhuman networking skills; have driven her to create a show unlike any other.[pullquote] You see, this show is the only trans produced, trans hosted, trans run show, spotlighting established and up-and-coming trans comics, at a mainstream comedy club, anywhere in the country, possibly anywhere at all.[/pullquote]

But all that trans-tacular awesomeness isn’t the only thing that’s cool about this show. We also have some of the best cisgender, LGBTQ&S (“S” for straight!) comics working in the industry! We’ve put up comics who can be been seen on Glee, MTV, Conan, Louie, Adult Swim, The Late Show with David Letterman, America’s Got Talent, Last Comic Standing, The Today Show, The Daily Show, Comedy Central, VH1, CollegeHumor, Second City, heck even Nickelodeon  and the Lifetime Movie Network!

We’ve featured long established, acclaimed and high profile comics such as Eddie Brill, Myq Kaplan, Rick Crom, Tim Dillon, and Rich Kiamco. And, a whole bevy of female comics and comics of colour including Crystal Ward, Emma Willmann, Kim DeShields, Leanne Linsky and Laura High. Recently, we were even honoured to bring to our Twist stage Lizz Winstread, one of the founders of Lady Parts Justice and the co-creator of the freaking Daily Show!

And, this is what I find really supercool about the show. It’s not just trans comics or queer comics. It’s not a “niche” show. It’s a mix of truly great, incredibly funny comedians who happen to put trans comics front and center (instead of back and to the left).

It’s Trans Comics Taking Over!

I’ve been amazed, since Tammy and I started doing this show, at how many trans comics are actually out there. I mean, the entire reason that Tammy and I even met in the first place happened several years ago when she sent me an incredulous e-mail wondering how there was another trans woman doing comedy on the East Coast that she didn’t know about. At the time I used to half-seriously joke that I was one of only two trans people that I knew of in existence doing improv. If we were ever on the same side of the Mississippi, we would probably have to meet in mortal combat to cut each other’s heads off and claim the other’s transgender improviser powers! Truly, it really is amazing and wonderfully inspiring to not only meet, but be able to feature and support, so many fresh and funny trans people.

Here’s the thing, however. We need you to help us keep this thing going. This is Live Comedy. You can’t just open a browser or turn on your TV and see this show. I understand that it’s much easier to post a diatribe about how trans people aren’t being represented in the media; or to reblog an article about how more trans actors should be cast in trans roles instead of cis actors. (Heck, I actually wrote that article! And, please, do reblog away!)

But this is us actually doing what we all talk about. Trans people speaking our own words, putting ourselves forward and lifting each other up, mixing in instead of being segregated. We are not waiting for Hollywood, or Broadway, to come to us! We’re storming the walls and putting up our own show and producing our own media!

All we ask, all I ask, is that you come out and see us sometime! Come to the show, buy a ticket (cheap), and a couple of drinks (less cheap, but still reasonable), and let us make you laugh. If you enjoy yourselves (you will!), go tell all your friends! Especially if you happen to be friends with any casting directors or TV talk show producers!

I mean, really, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock are superhuman, clearly, but they must be getting a little tired by now being everywhere, all the time. Beyond them, the helicopter pilots, “reality TV stars” and models, who have been populating news and talk show panels lately, while sometimes fun, are maybe not our ideal representatives in all situations. Trans comics are just the solution for that! We’re smart, funny, interestingly opinionated and we know how to handle a heckler! Tammy’s Twist is the best place to find a bunch of the best, all in one convenient spot!

The sun is well up now and my girl-boyfriend is already out of bed again. And somehow, I’ve gone from writer’s block to pushing my usual word count far beyond its normal limits. Let me end with this quote from Tammy Twotone herself about why Tammy’s Twist was created and why we think it’s so important: “TWIST was created because it had to be. There are so many voices trying to reach out in the trans community, but only TWIST attempts to do it with a wry smile and a laugh. The best way to bridge gaps is through laughter—it takes the uncomfortable and finds a way to relate that simple prose cannot do. Trans comics are on the front lines, and they can connect in unexpected ways. Isn’t it time that the jokes are from our point of view?!”

The time is right. The Industry is ripe. And the talent is ready.

Our fall dates for Tammy’s Twist are September 11th, October 2nd, and November 13th; at 8:30 p.m.; at the Broadway Comedy Club, 318 W 53rd Street in New York City. For more information, just search for the hashtag #TammysTWIST on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. And, if you don’t understand what any of that means, ask a teenager. I really hope I see you at the show!

Slainte!

*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at: askatranswoman@gmail.com.

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