Queer people live online. Ok, we don't but ... we do. We find each other and build community in AOL chatrooms, Tumblr threads, and Reddit threads growing up in middle America, and then we move to the big city and are a core group of people start and engage in the "discourse" on social media. And some of us are hella funny, something we've been reminded of while living in quarantine.
"Queer people, specifically, we are used to being alone or outcast and that is where much of our comedy comes from," Calvin Seabrooks, a comedian and creative lead of the just-launched channel The Gag tells Out. "So it makes perfect sense that during this time when we all feel most alone, that there is this connection with us. Now is the time for all of us to take our rightful place in the center of comedy." And while that certainly has been happening on one level — hello Daniel Levy, Hannah Gadsby, Bowen Yang, Joel Kim Booster, Julio Torres, et al — this new platform endeavors to promote a new wave of talent.
To put it simply: The Gag is sort of like a never-ending virtual comedy open-mic night. A collaboration between Logo TV and Comedy Central, the channel is currently Instagram first and queer to its core. Not only is it an all LGBTQ+ team of comics, but the queerness seeps down into the design of the channel as Kevin Burke found inspiration in queer zine culture. And sure, it's not new as there are other pages that are "meme-culture" pages where you can go for a laugh but this one features an ensemble cast and gives credit to its creators — and cash.
"Between Logo TV and Comedy Central, we're able to give a bigger platform to these comedians, and credit them and pay them because when it comes down to it, you have a big disparity in how queer comedians are treated," Seabrooks, who came to prominence with his Instagram account, LarryGayvid, and does a mix of styles "We don't get paid honey."
Here we talk to Seabrooks about his route to hosting this new platform and what we should expect for it. He's not only the lead though, as he's also a host who says that in addition to some comedy music and making fun of himself we can expect a few impressions of people he lives. "For me, it's better that it comes from a place of love instead of a place of tearing things down."
So obviously I want to ask about The Gag and your comedy career and all of that but I actually wanted to start talking about the fact that you were in a boy band.
Yeah, I was in a boy band 100 years ago, called Citizen, we were on the X-Factor. And we were on exactly one episode. Simon did not like us at all. So that's all we were there for.
You went to school for musical theater and you also pursued an acting career, plus the boy band thing; were you one of those people like RuPaul who always knew they were going to be famous and just needed to figure out how to do that or was it something different?
I think it's a little bit of both. I'm just of the mind that, like, you should try as many things as you can and just see what piques your passion the most. The first thing that I was doing was working to be a musician and that is when I fell into this boy band and started making music. But through that I was also making comedy music. I think right now, like, I'm taking all of those little pieces of things that I did in the past, and like trying to see where I put them all together.
How did acting come into this?
Well, I was in the boy band but like, it's LA and you gotta hustle. So i was working as a singer at a theme park and decided I didn't want to do it anymore. So I moved to New York and started working in social media, realized I didn't' want to do that and came back. When I got back to LA I had this renewed sense of self and fell back into acting because that is my first love. When I was a kid, my aunt was the manager of an AMC theater so I would watch movies every single day after school. It's always been about escapism for me.
So you come back to LA, you're getting back into acting and doing these commercial jobs and then you start finding success on social media. Can you talk to me about that?
Yeah, so that's kind of how it worked out: I came back to LA and that's when things clicked. I knew that I wouldn't be able to be happy with myself or be a good artist in any way unless it was truly being myself. So I threw that into my comedy, I threw all of the things you feel as like a queer person of color, like a biracial person, just like all of the BS I've been through into the past, I turned that into something positive. That turned into my Instagram channel LarryGayvid and I started having a bunch of these viral moments immediately. Then I got a new manager and I booked Westworld and Dollface on the same day. Now with The Gag it's sort of like the sky is the limit.
So can you tell me a bit about The Gag and what the project is exactly?
For me, I think it's kind of bringing all of these queer comedians that are maybe on the outskirts of comedy, like kind of the more extreme and specific voices, and putting them all together on the same platform. The idea is to try and find a way to work with as many of the funniest people that maybe you're not seeing on TV, maybe you're not seeing on like these kind of more mainstream channels, putting them all in one place, and letting us all work together to build each other up to form something new. We believe that like queerness should be like a questioning of everything. So in that way, this isn't about a certain type of comedy, we are just going to question everything and know it's okay to be different in whatever way.
Can you talk to me a little about the cast and structure itself?
So to answer your first question: we're working currently with Boman Martinez Reid, Caleb Hearon. Grace Kuhlenschmidt, Meg Stalter, Tommy Do, Sam Taggart. We're working with a bunch of different types of comedians and really people that are just the freakin plenty of people out there. It's really an artists-first platform, so we're not trying to change anyone's voices to fit with what's going on in The Gag. It's a conversation between all of the comedians and us and including myself. There's going to be characters, there's going to be great freeform comedy, experimental comedy, sketches, all of it. I think that's the most exciting thing about social media that you can just throw it all out there and it all has merit. You're going to follow the channel because you just want to laugh.