Entertainment » Theatre

Closet Cases :: Out of the closet and onto the stage

by Scott Stiffler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Nov 12, 2009

The coming out experience appears hardly the stuff for comedy; but comedian Shawn Hollenbach, from Logo's "Gayest Week Ever," has found a unique comic outlet. Called Closet Cases it is a monthly showcase for gay comics to tell their coming out stories. EDGE spoke to Hollenbach about his next show this Saturday, as well as how the idea came about.

As every gay person knows coming out to your friends, family, clergy, co-workers and peers is a wonderful, hilarious, entertaining experience that makes for a great story to tell in front of a room full of strangers. Your reward? Laughter and applause.

No? You say your own coming out story is depressing and traumatic and you'd be mortified to share it within the context of a public speaking event?

Too bad, then. That makes you one queer who won't be booked any time soon by Shawn Hollenbach. The comedian - known to culture vultures and TV addicts from his work on Logo's "Gayest Week Ever"-is the creator and producer of Closet Cases.

Since August of 2008, Hollenbach has hosted and booked the event - which features gay and lesbian comedians and performs recalling their totally true, hilarious, sometimes dark, but always honest tales of what happened when they announced that they are gay to an unsuspecting world.

Stresses truth

EDGE caught up with Hollenbach, whose kind and cathartic series promises "Mon and Dad didn’t accept you, but we will."

Asked if the stories told by his cast of chatty out queers is the straight truth or a mix of fact and fiction (a notorious technique of most comedians), Hollenbach says "I stress that they be true when I book them. The truth is always the funniest. Some people mix in their coming out material into their stories. I don’t mind as long as it fits the theme."

Dave Rubin’s story is hilarious and (as required by the show) has the advantage of also being true. Hollenbach recalls: "He lived with a bunch of straight guys and wasn’t out to any of them. One night, he had a guy over, in his bed. A roommate knocked on his door to use his computer to check fantasy football scores. Dave hid his guest in the closet."

But not all guests take the show’s name and theme so literally. Hollenbach recalls a highlight of the series, noting how it demonstrates his belief that "Even though it’s a comedy show, it doesn’t always have to be laugh out loud hilarious, but heartwarming. Comedian Poppi Kramer told this great story about calling her mother in college and said she just needed a hug. Four hours later she was at her door to embrace her. I loved it and more importantly, so did the crowd. It’s also great to hear so many diverse stories that we can all relate. You leave with the warmest feeling and it’s a safe zone where no one gets picked on as an audience member like in a comedy club."

Sounds intriguing? The next installment of Closet Cases takes place this Saturday (details below) and features Jackie Monahan from Logo’s "One Night Stand Up." Also featured is 2008 Time Out NY Joke of the Year Winner; Michael Brill from "Stand Up 360: Inside Out;" Don’t Tell Mama’s favorite Brandy Rowell; and creator of the Santa Fe Comedy Festival and a Ptown regular, William Mullen. In addition improv gurus, Mangina, will take portions of an audience member’s story and relive it on stage.

Closet Cases is a monthly event. This month’s installment is Saturday, November 14, 2009, 8pm, at The Peoples Improv Theater; 154 West 29th Street (between 6th and 7th), 2nd Floor). $10 admission. For information, call 212.563.7488 or visit The Pit NYC website. For additional information visit this website or Shawn Hollenbach’s website.

Watch this clip of Shawn Hollenbach hosting the March Closet Case show.

Watch this clip of Shawn Hollenbach hosting the March Closet Case show.

Scott Stiffler is a New York City based writer and comedian who has performed stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. His show, "Sammy’s at The Palace. . .at Don’t Tell Mama"---a spoof of Liza Minnelli’s 2008 NYC performance at The Palace Theatre, recently had a NYC run. He must eat twice his weight in fish every day, or he becomes radioactive.


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