Lydia was thrilled! The bar owner asked her if she wanted to produce her show every week instead of monthly.
“Kizzy, he said he wants me to produce every Sunday night!”
“Congratulations, baby! That’s awesome!”
“I’m going to be able to give more spots to people. I’ll get so much more stage time! And guess what?”
“What?” Kizzy said with a smile Lydia could hear over the phone.
“He said he’d give me a budget, Kizzy. I can pay my acts now!”
“Aw, baby, that’s really wonderful. Well done!”
Lots of comedians produce their own shows. It’s a way to ensure they get on stage; they can trade spots with other comedians who also produce, and it gives them an immediate reason to promote themselves and reach out to more established acts who might want extra work or longer sets. The bigger the budget a producer has to work with, the more established the acts are and the better the show.
Lydia hadn’t wanted to produce a show at a bar, though. She wanted to produce a show at Simon’s club. It was an actual comedy venue. But Simon already had a roster of producers at his old club, and he thought she was too green to produce a show.
“It’s not a good idea, Babe. You’re a new comic. Let’s wait awhile.”
She re-approached him about producing when he got his second club.
“It’s not a good idea, Babe. I don’t want a bunch of outside produced shows here. We’re a headliner club. I only want to be open Wednesday through Saturday. Tony has Wednesdays. I have Thursdays and weekends. There’s no availability.”
“How about just one Monday a month?”
“Nah, I don’t want to do any of those ‘New Talent’ nights or theme shows at this club, Babe. C’mon, don’t look at me like that. You’re still too green to produce in an A room anyway. Get a bar show. Or go to another club.”
So, Lydia scoped out bars until she found one with an owner looking to increase business on a slow night. His name was Clark. He owned a gay bar with a dance floor near Central Park on the edge of Harlem, named Paradise. Clark chose the name for Lydia’s show, “Angels and Anarchists.” It became quite a hit. He went from having 10 or 15 patrons every Sunday to having 80 or 100 queers of every color — and random fun straights from the neighborhood who loved a live show — packed shoulder to shoulder, standing room only, for Lydia’s show.
Cody was producing comedy at a theatrical venue in a nearby neighborhood. He helped her find more gay headliners now that she needed to fill three more closing spots a month. He had access to a bunch of incredible queer performers, some of whom had Broadway credits and were established performance artists and comedy writers. Now that she had a budget, Lydia could book straight women who worked the City clubs and who even closed shows on the road.
Simon came with Lydia every Sunday night. He loved Paradise. He loved talking bar business with Clark. He loved watching the crowd enjoy themselves. He loved the gay headliners Lydia booked. He would roll with laughter watching them. But he wouldn’t book them.
“I could use him to host, maybe feature. It’s just too much for a straight audience to sit through 45 minutes with a gay guy.”
“But you laughed through his whole set.”
“That’s different. I’m cultured. The average straight couple is not going to want to watch a queer headliner for 45 minutes. A gay celebrity, sure, those tickets I can sell. But not just some gay comic or a lesbian with a few credits.”
The straight chicks Lydia booked were kind of raunchy. Some of them had TV credits, some of them didn’t. They would kill at Paradise. Simon wouldn’t book them, either.
“Gays love female comics. That’s the only reason they kill in your room. And they’re too raunchy.”
“Simon, of course they’re being raunchy, we’re performing in a bar, sugar, not a club. And it’s not as if any of them are too filthy or totally blue. Some of these women headline on the road. They’d kill in your room”
“Meh, I guess I could use a couple of them to host, maybe one or two of them to feature.”
But he never did book them to feature.
Like most gatekeepers back then, he didn’t want to book women or queers.
“Crowds will only support gays and women on theme nights or benefit shows. They’re not marketable.”
But Simon sure did laugh his ass off, standing at the end of that bar at the edge of Harlem, watching “Angels and Anarchists”, Sunday night after Sunday night.
Lydia kept hearing great things about a young comic named Denise from Long Island. Cody had booked her. He was shocked she’d only been doing comedy for six months. She was that amazing. He told her that Denise was really putting herself out there and getting up a lot, so Lydia kept looking forward to running into her at a mic somewhere. After a few weeks had passed, though, and Lydia hadn’t met her but kept hearing about how good she was from other comedians, Lydia got Denise’s number and left a message with her answering service, offering her a spot. Lydia was at Kizzy’s when Denise returned her call.
“I’m bi, but I don’t talk about it on-stage,” Denise told her.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was told you’re lesbian,” Lydia said.
“No, I’m…do you only book gay comics?”
“No, not at all. Mostly gay. I mean, I book mostly women, queer or not, and gay guys. Straight guys, too, but never to close. I mean, it is a gay bar…”
“So…you’re okay if I don’t talk about being bi on your show?”
“Cuz I don’t talk about it.”
“I don’t want you to talk about anything you don’t want to talk about. Just do your act. Nothing different, or special. It’s all good.”
“Okay, cool. When can you book me?”
Kizzy looked perplexed, lying next to Lydia, listening to her talk to Denise. As soon as they hung up Kizzy asked, “Was that the Denise Cody told us about?”
“I thought Cody said she lives with her girlfriend?”
“Yeah, I thought so, too. Maybe she has a girlfriend and a boyfriend?” Lydia said as she rolled over to put the phone on its charger. She rolled back with a grin and a kiss, “That does happen you know.”
Kizzy pulled away, “But why would Cody tell us she’s a lesbian if she’s bi? He said she’s a lesbian, that’s the whole reason he told you about her. Did I hear him right? He did say ‘She’s so good she’ll be closing in no time. She’s already killing opening.’ Didn’t he say she and her girlfriend just bought a house somewhere out on Long Island? Is this the same girl?”
“That’s what I thought, too. Maybe he misunderstood something.”
“Well, does she talk about her girlfriend on-stage?”
“She told me she doesn’t talk about being bi on-stage. I doubt she talks about her girlfriend.”
“But if she’s not gay…”
“I don’t talk about you on-stage.”
“True,” Kizzy said. “I just don’t know why Cody would say she’s a lesbian when she isn’t.”
“Maybe she’s not comfortable being out on-stage? Maybe she heard Simon doesn’t book queer acts at his club and she heard he usually comes to the shows? Maybe she’s already working with a manager who told her not to come out. The guy I’m working with has told me several times not to talk about you. Our arrangement is not ‘sitcom-friendly’. That’s what he said.”
“I get that. But if she’s bought a house with a woman why not be out about it?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen her act. I’ve never met her. Why are you being so judgy, baby? This is totally unlike you.”
“I dunno,” Kizzy relented. She rolled onto her back and sighed. “I guess…I feel bad for the girlfriend. Getting dissed like that.”
“Maybe she’s shy and doesn’t want to be talked about on-stage. Maybe the woman is wanted in a foreign country.”
“Shut up, you’re stupid.”
“Maybe they broke up because the girlfriend asked too many questions.”
“That’s it,” Kizzy said as she rolled back toward Lydia with a goofily menacing look. She slid her left leg under Lydia’s ankles and wrapped her right leg around to meet her foot, pinning Lydia’s legs.
“Ah!” Lydia yelled.
“Now it’s on,” Kizzy laughed as she began tickling Lydia, making her giggle and shriek.