‘OUT on Stage’ shows gay comedy is the treasure at the end of the rainbow

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Picture, for a moment, a small pond. Half of the pond is filled with vodka. Not only are all the fish drunk, but they all somehow seem to know each other. Vodka may be clear, but this pond is anything but — instead, it’s clouded over with a mix of semen and whey protein powder, with a splash of a father’s tears for good measure.

This pond is how stand-up comedian Kyle Shire describes the gay dating pool, in response to his straight friends telling him that there are still “plenty of fish in the sea.”

Shire’s set is one of the most memorable in “OUT on Stage,” a 90-minute film featuring LGBTQ+ comics breaking down issues within their community — everything from homophobia and gay stereotypes to body image, politics and HIV. Hosted by Zach Noe Towers, the film will be screening nationwide on one day only — July 24 — at theaters including ones in Emeryville and San Francisco.

“OUT on Stage” spends no time explaining to you what’s about to take place. After a quick intro from Towers, the special whisks between on-the-street interviews with local West Hollywood residents about perceptions of LGBTQ+ issues and clips from a live show featuring the comics themselves. It’s divided into segments that each tackle a different taboo topic.

Assembling a lineup that produces consistently high-quality content when stand-up itself can be so hit-and-miss may be hard, but “OUT on Stage” extracts some of the best LGBTQ+ comedians. It excels through its diverse group of comics, who represent a wide (though incomplete — with minimal, if any, trans representation) range of LGBTQ+ voices. With 16 comics present, time isn’t necessarily divided up equally — some comics appear in four or five segments, while others only appear once — but bits are hand-selected to be the most relevant to the given segment at hand.

Along with Shire, Raneir Pollard, with his highly physical, drunken (as he confesses) set, might just steal the show. In one moment, he laments the lack of gay assassins in action movies, citing that they’d never get caught — right before acting out the plot of a one-man gay action film right before our eyes.

Pure jokes like this are, surprisingly, the status quo. Offensive content is almost a requisite for 90 minutes of stand-up comedy, but “OUT on Stage” boasts almost none — save for an unsavory joke likening circumcision to female genital mutilation. Inclusiveness, openness and communication are the operating principles at play here, and the result is entirely delightful.

That being said, when Towers transitions into the final segment — politics — things inevitably become more serious. Yet the film doesn’t shy away from highlighting the full breadth of political views of its comics, even when those views may be controversial.

The content is not geared toward shock value, but at relaying genuine anecdotes that are — though not necessarily wholesome — not intended to stir up controversy, but rather to reconcile it. Even within the assembled groups of comics, experiences could both support and contradict each other, preventing the formation of one, individual LGBTQ+ experience.

The objective of “OUT on Stage,” after all, isn’t to distill some universal gay ideology — it’s to establish, for anyone who didn’t already know, that there isn’t one. The misconceptions that people have about what LGBTQ+ folks are supposed to look and act like simply don’t apply (unless, of course, as several of the comics joke, they do). “OUT on Stage” may appear to be all about the laughs, but it goes far beyond that, striving to educate as well as facilitate a safe space for discussion.

“I hope you guys laughed a lot,” Towers says at the film’s end. “Because there’s a lot of stuff going on right now that affects all of us, and it’s just not funny.”

“OUT on Stage” will play July 24 in Emeryville at AMC Bay Street 16, as well as in San Francisco at AMC Van Ness 14 and Century San Francisco Centre 9.

Shannon O’Hara covers comedy. Contact her at [email protected].