Shawn Pelofsky, Thai Rivera, and Dina Martinez bring gay comedy to the Houston Improv
by Nancy Ford
“It is a very relevant comedy tour that embraces gay ideals and embraces the notion that no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation, we are all created equal.”
That’s how Shawn Pelofsky describes Stand Up Proud, a one-night only, stand-up comedy show coming to the Houston Improv on March 15.
The mistress of The Bathhouse Show in West Hollywood’s famed Comedy Store, Pelofsky is a bold and brassy comedy veteran who entertains gay audiences on Atlantis Cruises.
In addition to Pelofsky, the show features Thai Rivera, who describes himself as “a comic who happens to be a fag and not a fag comic.” Texas native, transgender comedian Dina Martinez is the show’s special guest host.
Check out Shawn Pelofsky’s promotional video on YouTube, in which she prepares to embark on another Atlantic Cruise for gay men. Making a brief appearance near the beginning of the video is Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who plays “Lily” on Modern Family.
“It’s so funny that people are starting to notice that,” Pelofsky says. “She is actually one of my good friends’ [comedienne Amy Anderson] daughter. I used to babysit for her when she would have to go out on the road. I just loved Aubrey; we had a special bond. We shot this way before she did Modern Family. She hadn’t done anything before Modern Family.
“As people are starting to find the video, I’m getting a lot of e-mails about sweet Aubrey,” Shawn adds. “I think she’s on it right before I say, ‘I shave my balls!’”
Prior to arriving in Houston, Pelofsky talked with OutSmart about her comedy, her favorite role model, and the difference between gay men and lesbian audiences.
Nancy Ford: We’re excited about you coming into Houston. Have you been here before?
Shawn Pelofsky: You know what? I am from Oklahoma and never been to Houston. How embarrassing is that?
Ah, you just went north. Probably a good choice in some situations.
Well, I love me some Mexico!
Atta girl! Well, I was going to ask you what your favorite thing about Houston is, but we’ll be skipping that one. You’ll have to answer that, later.
I’m going to have to say, it wouldn’t be the weather, because of the humidity. I very much appreciate a good hairdo, and I work really hard on my hair. When I hear how bad the humidity is, that’s what I am least excited about. I’m like, “Wait a minute, it’s going to be a bad hair night!”
Yes, big hair in Houston is no accident. It’s a gift from God. So, a gay man, a transsexual, and a straight woman walk into a bar—
Right! And we definitely head straight for the bar and order cocktails.
Are the three of you touring nationally, or just hitting Houston?
No, we’re hitting Texas first. No better place to spread the love than in Texas. We figured, why not? We’ll head south first and work our way up.
Is Houston your first stop?
Our first city is Dallas, and then our second city is Houston, and then we hit Corpus Christi, then in April, we’re going to Denver.
Lovely. Have you ever toured with a gay man and/or a transsexual before—that you know of?
Toured? I’ve worked with many a gay man, and I have worked with people who are transgender all the time. As far as touring, or being in a small car going place to place, no. I think that story’s going to write itself. We’ve done sporadic shows in Los Angeles together, and different places, but not a full tour.
Tell me about The Bathhouse Show.
Well, at his point, I feel like I’ve given birth, but I don’t think that’s really going to happen anytime soon. But I have to say that this Bathhouse show is my baby. As a kid, my role model, somebody who inspired me, was the Divine Miss M—Bette Midler. I used to watch, and observe, and just want to be like her. And through the years of doing stand-up comedy, my LGBT following has just grown, especially with Atlantis Cruises. That’s how most people know me in the comedy community: oh, wherever Shawn is, there’s going to be a gay man, or 100, or somebody from the gay community surrounding her.
What happened was, the Comedy Store was looking to bring in their surrounding traffic. The Comedy Store is this famous club centered in West Hollywood, yet it just really doesn’t cater at all to the community. Actually, it’s just really full of testosterone, that club—has been for years. I just decided to change all that. They came to me, and they said, “Shawn, we know you have a gay following, and we’d love for you to put a show on here.” And next thing you know, six months later, I’ve been running The Bath House show once a month. It’s not entirely gay comedy; it’s gay-friendly comics. We’ve had people like Margaret Cho, and Sarah Colonna from Chelsea Lately, and this month we have Kathleen Madigan. Everybody and anybody is wanting to do this show. We have music, we have burlesque. It’s just a combination throwback to the good ol’ days.
That brings up an interesting question: you do a lot of gay cruises, and you have a big gay following, like Margaret Cho and Chelsea Handler. Why do you think that gay men love straight female comedians, notoriously, but straight male comedians haven’t really found an audience with lesbians?
I say, gay men don’t love all female comedians—they love bawdy, brazen, tell-it-like-it-is female comedians. They like me, because my face resembles Streisand. I think that was first and foremost why I started to gather a gay following, and seeing what goes on— reaching inside their minds and telling it like it is. When you can kind of associate that and not be afraid to talk about what’s going on, and not worry about what you should say or shouldn’t say, I think they embrace that. Particularly when you can call them out. They love it. As far as straight male comics embracing a lesbian audience, I always think the lesbians can be a harder audience, because they’re smart women. I don’t think just anything goes, when it comes to a lesbian audience. They are way ahead of the bar, and I don’t think many straight male comedians are. They’re not smart enough, nor do they want to cater their stuff. And let’s just face it: a lot of male comedians are anti-women. And what woman in general—straight or gay—wants to sit and listen to that?
It does seem to be, if not a phenomenon, then a fact.
It’s true, yes. Let’s face it: stand-up comedy is a cockfest. It is a boys’ club, and in order to rise, you have to have a really thick skin as a woman. You have to be smart, you have to be fearless, and you have to be on top of it. You know, you’re your own showcase. When you’re up there alone, there’s no one to help you or protect you from what’s going to be said.
No net, I understand. Well, this looks like a fun show, and I’m very appreciative of your getting in touch with us. Can you think of anything you’d like to add for our OutSmart readers?
They should know that this show is going to be no holds barred. Anything goes. It’s going to be a great time. And I believe this show is not just for the gay community. This show has crossover. Everybody, gay or straight, bring your friends and come out, because you’re definitely going to laugh. It’s probably going to be one of the funniest nights you’ve ever seen. We’ll try to get Thai in assless chaps and pawn him off to somebody!
I’m sure the guys will enjoy that!