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The History Of Queer Comedy Is Examined By Those Who Lived To Tell The Tale In 'Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution'

The History Of Queer Comedy Is Examined By Those Who Lived To Tell The Tale In ‘Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution’

Some very famous faces bring an understanding of comedy evolution in the new Netflix documentary…

“Closets are vertical coffins. All you do is suffocate to death.” This is a direct quote from comedian Robin Tyler, one of the many LGBTQ+ personalities who paved the way for other comedians to be true to themselves in a time when the world wasn’t ready for them to be out. Though Tyler herself didn’t hide her sexuality when she was a stand-up comedian, it took a long time for audiences to catch up to what could be perceived as “normal.” The new Netflix documentary, Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution, seeks to uncover the history of LGBTQ+ comedians and compare the veteran comics’ experiences with those coming up the ranks in the modern comedy world.

The documentary opens with a May 2022 performance of many LGBTQ+ comedians taking the stage at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California. A unique presentation of some of the most famous comedians of all time, the performance was lauded as one of the first times a large group of queer stand-up comics were on stage at the same time. It’s a monumental achievement, considering how much many of these comedians went through during their careers to get to this moment.

The History Of Queer Comedy Is Examined By Those Who Lived To Tell The Tale In 'Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution'

Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution takes Netflix viewers on a historical journey from the first brick thrown at Stonewall through the Reagan anti-gay years to the 2020s when being trans is perceived as the new threat. The film takes a fascinating approach to telling this story by showing interviews with mostly female legendary comedians, including Wanda Sykes, Rosie O’Donnell, Margaret Cho, Lily Tomlin, and Sandra Bernhard. Some others in the movement, like Todd Glass, Bruce Vilanch, and Trixie Mattel, bring color and commentary to a profession that’s often personal and unapologetic.

At its core, the film doesn’t lean on interviews to paint a picture of how far we’ve come and still need to go for total acceptance. Rather, honoring closeted comedians for pushing boundaries when it was illegal to be gay, shining a light on the Lavender circuit of the 1980s, and utilizing archival footage to show how vital queer comedians have been to pop culture illustrates that narrative in a grounded way.

In time for Pride, this documentary should be required viewing for anyone looking to celebrate the month and being oneself. There has been a social and cultural shift in recent years that provides out comedians like Joel Kim Booster to have a successful acting career in shows like Loot or movies like Fire Island. At the same time, his stand-up comedy specials have premiered on Netflix in a very public and highly promoted fashion. Booster, who is also interviewed in the movie, has a career partly because of those who came before him and eventually put their careers on the line by coming out.

The History Of Queer Comedy Is Examined By Those Who Lived To Tell The Tale In 'Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution'

What’s interesting to note about Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution is that Ellen DeGeneres, one of if not the most well-known out comedians in history, does not take part in the documentary. Her image and career trajectory, public coming out on her 1990s series, and her place in comedy as a lesbian is examined in great detail…all without her involvement. Her recent public image has been taken down a notch due to offscreen troubles on her eponymous talk show that has since gone off the air, possibly signaling why the comedian didn’t take part.

Visually, the film is both stylish and engaging. The archival footage is seamlessly woven with contemporary interviews and stand-up performances, creating a dynamic and immersive viewing experience. The film’s vibrant aesthetic captures the energy and excitement of live comedy, drawing viewers into the world of LGBTQ+ comedians and allowing them to experience the highs and lows of their individual journeys.

Comedy fans and those looking to take in a little history lesson about queer culture will delight in the inner workings of Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution. The documentary is hard-hitting and ruthless in its perspective of what makes for a great comedian. It offers a worthwhile ride that outlines the hardships and successes of some of the world’s greatest comedians.

They just so happen to also be LGBTQ+.

Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution streams worldwide on Netflix on June 18.

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