This week has been all about new beginnings both personally and because of the DCH Grand Opening Weekend. What a great time to be included as new traditions are built on a solid foundation. Over the past week I had the privilege of visiting our new home several times and every day it was a new adventure seeing the progress being made on the building. My first visit was Sunday before the Grand Opening. I attended an orientation for interns and received a tour of the facility. Volunteers were everywhere and there was a sense of excitement in the air that was palpable. I felt I was in a magical new and, while there was a lot of work that hadn’t been completed, I knew I was a part of something I could be proud of.
I was back on Wednesday to participate in StuPer Night for current and prior students which kicked off the Grand Opening events. The progress to the building was evident and there were a few items still on the punch list to be completed but these were insignificant as a participant. What I enjoyed watching was the excitement of the crowds as they arrived. It was a class reunion where the students really liked each other. I got a chance to see the Texas Toasted show which was a real treat. It was a full house and the audience was there to enjoy the performance.
Returning on Friday for another performance, this time the Big Friday Show, I saw a community that happily made a move from one neighborhood to the next. At one point, Kyle Austin asked the audience for some weird personal characteristic. Someone in the audience yelled out “gay”. Kyle responded that wasn’t weird and asked for another suggestion. Great job Kyle. If you weren’t so much better looking than I am we could probably be friends. The show was so good I had difficulty convincing my husband the audience members were not “plants”.
I was not fortunate enough to attend performances in the previous facility. My first encounter with DCH was in May when I reached out to Ashley Bright and Beth Yankuner because, after a long journey, I saw comedy as a talent that I wanted to explore.
Comedy has always been a part of my life and I’ve enjoyed expressing it. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s realizing with each passing year I was a gay man; comedy was not fun for me. If you look back at the comedians I grew up with, the comics themselves were considered part of the joke. Men like Paul Lynde and John Inman are names that come to mind. These men are sometimes derided by modern gay activists. I see it differently. These were talented men that made unpleasant choices to be “allowed” to practice the craft they loved.
At this point in my life I believe one’s journey is determined by decisions made along the way. As a young man I had a grand plan which, as it turns out, I’m glad I never achieved. Because of the world I lived in, my grand plan was similar to the plan of most young men. I hoped to build a solid career, marry a nice woman and have a couple of kids who would go to college and make their own grand plans. The fact that I feared the homosexual thing was simply a challenge to conquer.
My first job out of college was as a newly commissioned officer in the Air Force. On my first day I met another new officer who processed me into the base. I didn’t understand what I was feeling at the time, but I fell in love with that man. A couple years later, we were working together again in Europe. The combination of too much alcohol, an office social function and a terrifying admission, I discover he was in the closet as deeply as I was and the feelings were mutual. That was over 40 years ago. We ultimately ended up in Dallas where we found community.
One of our best friends is a very funny guy and we competed to see who would get the last jab in our almost continuous laugh off. A gay cabaret club opened in Dallas where they hired entertainers locally and nationally to perform top shelf entertainment. There was a sketch comedy group that performed as Less Miserable. This was the first time I had ever seen gay humor designed for gay people. They were hilarious and we were often in the audience. Out of that group, Paul J. Williams became a solo performer. We still know Paul as an acquaintance. Our lives have crossed over the years but never intentionally. He is one of my personal heroes because he pursued a career in gay comedy with few venues or opportunities.
He was such a breath of fresh air during a time when I can remember being at business functions listening to “jokes” about gay men and women that were cruel. Fear of losing our jobs or promotion opportunities meant staying silent while others laughed around us. The world has changed and so has comedy.
A few years ago, I retired but found it was not my cup of tea. I have had several post-retirement gigs trying to find a niche I enjoyed. My favorite pursuit was retail because it gave me a captive audience to try my humor. I would return home and share the latest of my stories or jokes with my long-suffering husband. His response usually involved groaning or chastising me. I really think he enjoyed it, but his upbringing was a little stuffier than mine.
When I started the Stand-Up Comedy, Level I on the 5th of June, the DCH move to 3036 was underway so our classes were held at Life in Deep Ellum (LIDE). I felt instant community with DCH from that first night. Because there was no DCH permanent facility, our instructors Hannah Harvey Vaughan with the assistance of Wes Corwin, encouraged us to explore Open Mics throughout Dallas/Fort Worth. I am now half way through Stand-Up Level II. What has been surprising to me has been the warmth and support of the entire comedy community.
After the first night of my Level I class, I got on Messenger to send a note to Paul J. Williams. I told him about the class I had just left. The purpose of the note was to thank him for being a major influence in my life. It took me a very long time to get here, but I found my way home. With the Grand Opening of the new Dallas Comedy House, we have a new beginning. For me, it’s also personal.
Kerry is a student of stand-up comedy at the Dallas Comedy House. He lives happily with his long-suffering husband of many years and enjoys the humor he sees all around him every day.