Bringing the Funny

Out and proudly butch comedian SABRINA MATTHEWS arrives in Houston this month for shows at the Laff Stop.

Sabina Matthews

When Sabrina Matthews headlines at the spiffy new Laff Stop this month, she’ll have at least a couple of recognizable local references to play with. Though the openly lesbian comedian has never performed in Houston, it took her only a time or two visiting the Bayou City in the ’80s to pick up on two important gay touchstones.

“We used to go to Kindred Spirits, and then we’d go to House of Guys,” Matthews says.

Kindred Spirits? House of Guys? Quelle familiar!

“One of the funniest things that happened to me in my whole life happened at House of Guys,” the very funny, very butch comedian recalls fondly of the 24-hour eatery non-locals call House of Pies. “My friend, who I was visiting, had another friend visiting—a woman. Another woman in the room sent her a piece of pie, like when you’re at a bar and you send someone a drink!

“I’m sure it happens all the time there, but the idea of it was apoplectic to me. It was so funny.”

NowWhatPie aside, Matthews is well warmed-up and ready to bring some funny to her Houston friends and fans. After beginning her stand-up career at San Francisco’s famed Josie’s Cabaret, by 1997 she had performed her out set on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend . Making an odd turn on her career highway, Matthews went on to make her acting debut on America’s Most Wanted, playing a lesbian comic.

“They put out a casting call for lesbian comics,” she explains. “This was the setup for the show: Two lesbian bank robbers share a tender moment of farewell at a comedy show. The role was called Lesbian Comic, so I actually played myself.”

But Matthews is likely more recognizable to TV viewers from her stint last season on the NBC series Last Comic Standing, the lone lesbian comic performing in a sea of straights. The environment at her Laff Stop gig will be similar.

Prior to her H-Town engagement, Matthews chatted about the butch thing and her comedy crusade as well as her thoughts on the not-so-comedic race for the White House.

Nancy Ford: Did you know when you play the Laff Stop that you are the only homo on an otherwise straight bill?
Sabrina Matthews: That’s the way I like it.

Well, good! Balance in all things. I read in an interview with AfterEllen.com you said, “It’s fun to scare the shit out of straight people.” You’ll probably have plenty of opportunity for that at this gig.
[Laughing] You know, I don’t actually like scaring anyone. What I really like doing are shows for gay crowds. I think that’s a terrific opportunity for gay audience members to have some affirmation and be in their own element in a way they don’t get to very often.

LMattersMoreMy own personal role in this crusade is to have gay comics be a standard member of the groups of comics that you choose from to do a show. It’s not all straight white guys on a bill anymore. There are not a lot of women comics working, but they do get mixed in, and there are a lot of black comics working and they get mixed in. I think gay comedy is, in a way, one more type of comedy that I want to see get mixed in.

It’s a cultural experience.

Yes, and I think variety makes a better comedy show. Variety makes a better “any” show. Comedy is about commonality and understanding other people and seeing yourself in what’s going on. And the more you see of yourself, the more you understand what’s going on.

Well, you know the old line: “It’s funny because it’s true.” What is your favorite reality-based bit?
Everything that I talk about has happened to me, so it’s all reality-based. I guess my favorite right now is what I use to close my show with, so I don’t want to give it away. There’s nothing like having people read your punch line, and then you do your big closing, and they say, “Oh, we read that.”

I can respect that.
Otherwise, I guess I like the stuff about my mother. My mother supports me totally, but she wishes I were frilly.

[Laughing] Yes, you really need to frilly it up, Sabrina!
[Laughing] That hits people on a lot of levels because I think everybody views their mother as having this split personality kind of insanity. They love their children but are constantly trying to improve them. So everybody knows exactly what I’m talking about.

When was the last time you wore a dress?
A dress?

You know, a piece of clothing that doesn’t have legs.
I wore a kilt recently.

Doesn’t count.
I think I wore a dress to a funeral. Nope, it was a suit. I had never been to a funeral, but I had seen them on TV and the movies, so I rented a black suit. I walked around looking like Johnny Cash. I can’t remember when I really wore a dress.

I’m with you there. What was the most significant memory or lesson learned from Last Comic Standing ?
Art competitions are peculiar circumstances. I’m sure any artist of any ilk will tell you it’s strange to compete. I’ve done comedy competitions before. I think the thing I learn over and over is to run your own race. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Just do what you’re doing.

I get e-mails from people, like from the RSVP Cruise, saying, “Oh, I wish you’d made it further.” I say, “Why? If I had, I wouldn’t be here right now!”

What do you think is the most amusing thing about the current race for the White House? If there is anything amusing about it, that is.
It’s not about the current race. It’s about every race for the White House. I’m fascinated by people in the same party beating each other down to get their party’s nomination, and then afterwards thinking they can believably unite. Hillary and Obama are taking swipes against each other, and at some point in the future one of them is going to say, “I absolutely support this person.” And not only are we supposed to believe this, but they’ve also handed the opposing party fodder. It happens every time.

Do you do much political stuff on stage?
I don’t. I have a really hard time writing things that are funny about politics. When George Bush can’t pronounce a word, that’s easy. But actual political stuff—I have a very difficult time.

What are you working on now? What’s your next big thing?
I’m working towards being a scuba instructor. It’s fun and completely different from comedy. It happens in a small quiet room, and your success is empirically measured. You either get it right or you don’t.
Comedy is the opposite. You could have always done better, and it never really ends.

Who: Sabrina Matthews
What: Darn funny comedy
When: November 14–17, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.
Where: Laff Stop, 526 Waugh Dr. (same complex as Guava Lamp)
Why: Because who needs a good laugh more than you?
Reservations: 713/524-2333 or www.laffstop.com.



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