"I look like a lesbian professor at Hogwarts," joked comedian Matt Bragg, poking fun at his hat/sweater/collared-shirt combo. And thus began the Add The Words Benefit Comedy Show at Liquid.
There was nary an empty seat in the downtown lounge-turned-comedy-club on March 13, and the crowd wasn't a stereotypical Idaho audience. Bragg, the evening's host, asked bisexual, gay, lesbian and straight audience members to make their presence known. The crowd erupted with enthusiastic cheers. Attendees shelled out minimum $5 donations to a cause they believe in—getting the words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" added to the Idaho Human Rights Act. The Add the Words initiative died in committee last month.
But the evening of comedy wasn't about dwelling on the past, it was about having fun and rallying around a cause. While much of the humor was centered on sexual orientation, current events (particularly the day's vote on school levies), personal stories and the comical observations about the world made for an eclectic repertoire of well-crafted jokes that showcased the talents of Bragg, Dylan Hughes, Olek Szewczyk, Josh Adams, Mikey Pullman, Ryan Noack, Mundek Clement-Stein and Ryan Wingfield.
Pullman took the stage and gloated about going to the polls earlier in the day.
"I voted today, so I'm morally superior to everyone who didn't," he said.
The local comedian then mixed in laughs with tough subject material. He noted that he'd been openly bisexual for 12 years, removed his cap, and talked about the pain he's felt with discrimination.
"I've been hurt by this," Pullman said, "but it's not me we need to worry about. I'm a tough guy."
Another openly bisexual comic, Hughes, joked about Furries, food stamps and gender stereotypes.
"I'm out of shape and sloppy," the curly haired comedian said. "That doesn't make me a very good gay man."
Clement-Stein continued to poke fun at stereotypes and earned big laughs with observations like, "a person with two dads is twice as likely to learn how to throw," and the idea that gay weddings would likely result in better bridesmaid's dresses.
The long-haired comic stood onstage with a Utah Jazz T-shirt peeking out from beneath a grungy plaid button-down with a 40-ounce PBR in hand. Clement-Stein garnered shouts and chuckles when he said, "I didn't think they could piss me off more than taking cigarettes out of bars, but here we are."
More variety was added to the lineup with Adams, a New York City comedian and poet. Adams shared impassioned poetry from beneath his New York Yankees baseball cap, littering the stage with pages as he read. At the conclusion of his set, he scrambled to "clean up the confetti" and make way for more comics.
According to Bragg, female comic Jen Adams, who was originally on the bill for the evening, had to cancel. But attendees weren't denied a stellar headliner— Wingfield delivered a performance peppered with jokes about being married, his minivan and purveyors of religious materials, mocking common arguments for why children should be kept from learning about gays and lesbians with remarks like, "What if my kids get Christ-curious?"
Following the conclusion of the show, Add The Words advocate Misty Tolman reminded the audience why they were there and spoke about the flashlight vigil taking place on the Statehouse steps Thursday, March 15, at 8 p.m. She added, "We're going to shed some light at the end of a dark legislative session."
People rose their feet when lesbian state Sen. Nicole LeFavour joined Tolman onstage and thanked those who had worked on Add The Words. LeFavour called her work with them "the highlight of my career."
"They have done such peaceful, insistent work. Beautiful expressions of sentiment in defense of those who face discrimination still every day in our state," LeFavour later wrote in an email.
The evening closed with Bragg announcing that the evening had resulted in approximately $500 in donations—which can probably buy a decent amount of sticky notes. Attendees took a minute to scan Add The Words T-shirts and sign the petition on the way back out to the chilly evening air.