Openly gay, openly Jewish comedian Jason Stuart is a man of no disguises. Were you going to say something about his background? Too late. This one-man pre-emptive strike has already laughed at himself, you, your mama and his grandma.
“I’m gay and I’m Jewish … so I’m pissed,” Stuart says on his CD Gay Comedy without a Dress. From there, the comedian launches into a routine of equal-opportunity mockery, where everyone’s up for a jab — including audience members, the comedian’s family, Hillary Clinton, Orthodox Jews, cigarette smokers, people from Oklahoma and even the holiest man alive.
“I love the pope,” Stuart gushes. “He’s got a great dress and a fabulous hat. He was the first cross-dresser.”
The Advocate magazine says that, “Stuart’s appeal is his ability to cross over to a wider audience without alienating anyone, gay or straight, in the process.”
True. But mass appeal does not mean Stuart tiptoes around delicate issues in an effort not to alienate audiences. He just pulls the rug out from under everyone, in turn, until we’re all flat on our asses, laughing at our own ridiculousness.
When a female audience member admits that she’s married with eight kids, but also has a lesbian lover, Stuart feigns shock.
“I have to go,” he says. “I’m just a regular gay guy. It’s nice that you’ve created your own little special family. Now, I don’t know what else to say; I’m so uncomfortable.”
Sexual preference is a hot topic in Stuart’s routine, and he pokes fun at his own orientation. (“I’m so gay, I could redecorate a room just by looking at it.”) He also kicks comedy across borders with topics we can all relate to, such as getting older, spending time with family, traveling and, of course, everyone’s favorite pastime: judging the gay porn awards.
“It’s the only awards show where you can tell the winner to shove the award up his butt,” he says, “and he wins another award for that.”
Outside of the standup arena, Stuart happens to be one of Tinseltown’s top gay character actors, starring as wacky Dr. Thomas on the ABC sitcom “My Wife and Kids” and having appeared on “Will & Grace,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Charmed,” “Providence,” “Murder, She Wrote” and HBO’s “Gia.” When the laugh track stopped, he also took a dramatic turn in the indie flick Letting Go, playing a man who discovers he is HIV-positive and seeks a dignified death.
Still, Stuart’s a man with a mic, and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s spent more than a decade on the standup circuit, and — although he wasn’t publicly “out” until a few years ago — he seems to be making up for lost time with his current project, “My Big Fat Gay Jewish Comedy Tour.” No doubts about identity here. Honesty can be refreshingly funny, especially as it sheds light on some of straight society’s gay paranoia.
“I was so gay as a kid, I couldn’t hide it … like that guy,” he says, staring at an apparently straight audience member.
“Why are people afraid of gays in the military?” he continues. “Oh, I know. They don’t want 25,000 gay guys with M-16s going, ‘Did you just call me faggot?’”
In a multicultural, multireligious, multisexual world, it’s nice to be able to giggle at all the idiosyncrasies that make us human. In that sense, the laughter’s not divisive — it’s inclusive. So when “My Big Fat Gay Comedy Tour” rolls through town, Detroit, beware. It doesn’t matter who you’re going to bed with after the show; no one’s safe from Jason Stuart’s wit.
Jason Stuart appears at Joey’s Comedy Club (5070 Schaefer Road, Dearborn), Feb. 27-March 1. Call 313-584-8885 for tickets.Kari Jones writes about theater and performance for Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org