Kweendom, Bobby Hankinson’s all-LGBTQ comedy showcase, promises to be a highlight of this weekend’s 2nd Best Comedy Festival.
Bobby Hankinson and his rad stand-up comedy lineup want you to know that they are the 2nd Best in Richmond. At least as far as the 2nd Best Comedy Fest is concerned.
Hankinson and his New York City-based comedy show, Kweendom, will be making their Richmond area debut at this weekend’s 2nd Best Comedy Fest at the Coalition Theater. Hosted by Hankinson, the show features an all-LGBTQ line up.
The decision to create Kweendom was inspired by Hankinson’s experiences in the world of New York comedy. After doing a few shows around the city and noticing the amount of ally-heavy LGBTQ-themed shows, as well as a general lack of diversity, he saw a need that desperately needed to be filled.
“Even if it was an all-queer line up, it was definitely a gay male, cis line up, ” said Hankinson. “I just got really frustrated seeing that all over the place. My response was: I’m going to do a show that is an LGBTQ show only. No allies — we love you but not for this space. I want to prove to people that there are enough talented queer performers that we can sustain this show ongoing.”
As we talked, Hankinson brought up an important point that is continuously overlooked in queer media and narratives – the recurring trend of allies invading the space. Now that is not to say that we never want to talk about or mention our allies, there just needs to be a reminder that you’re welcome to come to the party, as long as you remember you are a guest in the house.
We want our allies here, and we want their support, but we want them to be the mom in the audience with the video camera yelling, “You’re doing a great job, sweetie!” We don’t want them laughing on the stage because then it feels like they’re laughing at us, not with us.
Unfortunately, in queer media, there are very few projects with an all-LGBTQ cast or characters. Even one of the most popular LGBTQ series in modern times, Queer as Folk, featured full subplots dedicated to its straight, cisgender characters. Just once, it would be nice if there could be shows where the LGBTQ community can carry the tune without their ally band jamming in the back.
Hankinson agrees. “[We want to show] straight shows, or regular comedy shows, that if you think you can’t book a line up that includes people of different gender expressions, people of different races — I can do it with only queer performers. So if we’re good with everybody, you have no excuse.”
Kweendom features five LGBTQ stand-up performers, all of which Hankinson assures are fabulous, and have performed on various stages from MTV to UCB. In addition to Hankinson himself, these include Gabe Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican writer and comedian who has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer and once flirted with a Fox News anchor during an interview about Puerto Rican voting rights; Veronica Garza, who has appeared on MTV’s Decoded and created the play Fyre & Rain, about “the disaster that was the Fyre Festival”; Jess Henderson, who writes for Huffington Post and has a webseries called Growing Down; and Calvin Cato, who was named a Queer Comic of Color To Watch by Time Out New York.
Hankinson also assures us that there will be no bits — just five performers talking about their lives and what it means to them to live the queer experience.
“The idea is, really, to share the diversity of the queer experience,” said Hankinson. “They’re talking about their lives, things that happen to them, and their unique perspectives.”
You will be hard-pressed to find someone in a marginalized community that doesn’t agree that representation is important. Specifically within the LGBTQ community, we happen to have an interesting trend in migrating toward comedy. Whether it is our own way of dealing with trauma, or we just enjoy being the center of attention, it’s something many of us with the urge to perform at least remain open to.
This makes perfect sense to Hankinson. “One of the best ways of dealing with trauma is through humor,” he said. “The queer community has done that throughout history.”
Naturally, like any good performer, one of the things he most strongly hopes audiences walk away with is a good laugh. Regardless he wants his audience to relate to what they are watching, even if they are straight and cis.
“I feel like folks think they can’t relate if they’re not queer,” said Hankinson. “I want people to walk away thinking they can broaden their experiences overall. Also just having a fucking good time. To go, ‘maybe I haven’t been to an all queer comedy show before, but I can still enjoy them’.”
Looking at the stranger beside you and understanding that you both just laughed and connected with something, even if it was for different reasons, is the queer experience. And in the end, that’s what’s really important.
Kweendom can be seen this Friday night, June 7th at 9 PM at the Coalition Theater, located downtown at 8 W Broad St. Tickets start at $15, and 20% of proceeds from the 9 PM show featuring Kweendom will go to benefit Diversity Richmond. For further information please go to 2ndbestfest.com.
Photos by Leslie Knott, courtesy Kweendom