L.A. comedy show celebrates National Coming Out Day by supporting LGBTQ+ allies
Aidan Park felt bulldozed by anxiety before his first performances as a young, gay, HIV-positive comedian. Even in the early 2010s, he said the chances that an audience would accept him felt a bit “iffy.”
But it was his friend and fellow comic Camille Solari who coaxed him onstage during his first real stand-up set in L.A., giving him the support — and the friendly shove — he needed to embrace everything about himself, including being HIV positive.
“When I started comedy, I told [Camille] ‘I’m nervous because I’m gay’ which still wasn’t accepted then, and she just said ‘Honey, we’re not in the ‘80s anymore, don’t worry,’” Park said.
Years later, the support from the tight-knit LGBTQ+ comedy community in L.A. inspires Park and Solari to move forward while still giving back. Since they started comedy, both comics have blossomed into veteran headliners. Park became a bestselling author with his book “The Art of Being Yay!” and Solari created and stars in her own show called “Charlie” on Amazon Prime Video. Ahead of National Coming Out Day on Monday, the two comics teamed up as headliners and producers of “Straight-Ish Talk,” a benefit show to support the SoCal chapter of LGBTQ+ advocacy group Free Mom Hugs on Saturday at the Comedy Chateau in North Hollywood. For those hard-pressed to find an LGBTQ+ showcase that’s loud, proud and funny, Straight-Ish Talk might be the perfect breath of rainbow-tinted fresh air this weekend.
“Some of the clubs tend to have a pretty non-diverse lineup,” said Solari, who has thrown many LGBTQ+ comedy nights, including Glam in La La Land at the Hollywood Improv. “In the past, I’ve wanted our shows to be pretty diverse including drag artists or burlesque dancers. This is the first one we’ve done in a while and now we have an advocacy group involved so we can support them,” Solari said.
The night of comedy highlights the sass and skills of local comics Iggy Love Sky, Miguel Rojas, A.B. Farrelly, Tuesday Thomas, Deven Bouchet, Billy McCartney and Felix McNulty.
Valencia Foster, the SoCal chapter president of Free Mom Hugs, said the support from the show will help fund their mission to send care packages of clothes, stuffed animals and other FMH swag to the loved ones of their patrons who donated to the organization during the pandemic. “We’re forced to think about what we can do to go beyond a hug,” Foster said. “I would have never thought that one of the things that we did would have been to align ourselves with comedians who want to do a show to raise money for us.”
Foster and her husband, Rodney, who also volunteers with FMH, first connected with Park and Solari after meeting Park at a local comedy showcase. They hit it off instantly and decided to team up to throw a comedy event to benefit Valencia’s chapter of her organization.
Park said events like these allow audiences to come together and also go beyond the celebration of Coming Out Day with friends and family and help guests build lasting LGBTQ+ community relationships through comedy.
“We want to show people there is a possibility to be joyful and happy and live your best life, because when you first come out it doesn’t necessarily feel that way,” the comedian said. “That sense of isolation, especially in the LGBTQ community, is a big problem because if people are suffering alone, they feel ashamed about it.”
As the parents of a bisexual son, Miles, 23, the Fosters joined the SoCal chapter of Free Mom Hugs in 2019 as a way to support him as allies. Prior to the pandemic, the group was out in force at events like L.A. Pride, offering hugs to people and hosting gifting suites at LGBTQ+ events.
“When we give a hug to people, some of whom have been totally rejected in the past, you can feel the emotion,” Rodney said. “When you ask them what it feels like, they say it just feels like pure love.”
As “Straight-Ish Talk” aims to move society’s needle of acceptance, it helps to look classy while doing it.
The full night of stand-up performances will offer VIP treatment for all attendees, including a red carpet photo setup, an FMH gifting suite and refreshments from food and wine sponsors.
For Solari, the biggest reward is letting the authenticity of the comics shine through. “It is really therapeutic seeing all these different kinds of individuals go up there and do comedy, especially if they’re speaking the truth and they’re not hacks,” she said. “They’re speaking about what they went through and putting it in joke form.”
Park said making human experiences relatable through laughter can make National Coming Out Day feel like the start of a new life.
“We accept you for who you are, and you don’t have to be ashamed of it,” Park said. “That’s the message that we really want to put out there.”
Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Comedy Chateau, 4615 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Doors/red carpet/gifting starts at 5:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m. $40. 21+
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