Too Big For This World
I was a C-section.
My head was too big to go the normal route. In elementary school, I was always the tallest or close to the tallest kid in class. In 7th grade, I had a size 13 shoe. It ballooned to size 15 by freshman year.
I’ve been known to break chairs, get my feet stuck under car seats, hit my head on just about everything. At six foot three and 230 pounds, I’m not the biggest person you’ve ever met but I’ve always grappled with my size.
The phrase “Too big for this world” has followed me throughout my life, mostly as a joke my friends or husband would say when I’d break a chair or bump my head. Because of this, I’ve worked exceedingly hard at becoming smaller. As you may know, I wear shirts several sizes too small. I wear size 14 shoes now, even if they give me blisters. I don’t speak much at social gatherings, and try to find ways to make my body smaller, either by sitting or slouching or raising the tone of my voice to a higher, less beastly register. And I apologize to everyone at any and all opportunity, for everything and for nothing.
I’ve had anxiety and depression issues for years, and some of it stems from my dad’s suicide in 2008. Some of it stems from a fear I’m a monster. That I’m an ogre who will accidentally bump into someone and send them flying off a cliff, or accidently sit on someone and break their legs. And some of it stems from still feeling like an anomaly that society is perpetually confused by, even 12 years after coming out of the closet.
I grew up in a conservative Republican Illinois town, in a conservative Republican jock family. I knew from a very young age I wasn’t quite “right.” I wasn’t what my surroundings wanted or expected of me. I didn’t fit the “type” that was lauded and appreciated in our macho corn town.
I entered the comedy world a newly minted gay man. I had just come out my senior year of college and jumped into an online relationship, and almost immediately started taking improv classes at the iO West in Hollywood. Finally, I was free to be me and leave the experience of being the Wrong Thing and that conservative, Republican town behind me. And comedy was going to be the playground where I truly would be able to archeologically dig out the me that had been buried for so long, and dust it off and discover my true self.
Yet, as my time in the comedy world went on, I found more closed doors than open ones. I began to run up against similar feelings. That I wasn’t quite “right.” That I wasn’t what my surroundings wanted or expected of me. That I didn’t fit any of the “types” that were lauded and appreciated in Chicago’s inbred, heteronormative community.
I became clear over the 11 years I spent in Chicago that my queerness was a liability rather than an asset, because it wasn’t the right kind of queerness. It wasn’t “marketable” or “safe” for the straights. My old lady wigs didn’t match my ogre body. My gayness wasn’t “just one small part” of who I was (a sentiment which straight gatekeepers loooooovvveeeeeeeeeeee) it was front and center in almost everything I did. I wasn’t a comedian who happened to be gay, I was a faggy fag comedian who happened to love doing fag comedy, faggily.
My queerness, the thing I denied and squashed and hated myself for until I was 22, was now the thing keeping me from opportunities. I was incorrect for what my surroundings desired. It was déjà vu all over again. I was out of the closet but still not allowed in the kitchen.
My most successful improv audition ever (and binch I absolutely destroyed that room, trust me) resulted in no callback because I had played all female characters, including Elizabeth Olsen with a supremely timely reference to her movie Martha Marcy May Marlene (John Loos never not be John Loosin’).
The message was clear: Make your gayness smaller. Be like your body. Be a football douche or something. You’re too gay/femme/queer yet you can clearly beat up every straight dude in the Chicago comedy community and that confuses us, so we’re choosing to ignore you.
Fortunately, after about 7 or so years, I began to say Fuck Off to this pressure to conform, and found a lot of joy in doing so. However, when my last series Sheryl Still Single (up to that point the most distilled and pure version of John Loos I had presented to the world) was rejected from 12 out of 13 festivals, I struggled not to revert to old feelings of inadequacy and isolation and a savage fatigue from trying so hard to please white straight dudes in Keep Calm shirts.
We’re all too something for this idiotic, narrow-minded world. Too fat, too skinny, too gay, too poor, too old, too young, too ethnic, too nerdy, too "other" for these asinine norms created without our input. And each of those experiences are unique and I don’t and can’t speak for all of them. But the feeling of being an anomaly, a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, I know very well.
I created John Loos: Too Big For This World because I wanted to embrace the space I inhabit. I wanted to be big for once instead of small.
I wanted to relinquish myself from expectations that everything I create has to SUCCEED or ROCKET ME TO THE TOP and just have fun. And I wanted to show all sides of me, in one place, to prove that yeah, I can play monstrous straight man (see “Craig”) and I can play douchenozzles (“Twink Nouveau”), but I can also play psycho sisters (“Get the F Out”), gogo boys (“Gogo Away”), horrible British gay disasters (“Transintolerant”), celebrities (“Sia Saw It”) and moronic baguettes in need of a hairbrush (“Kellyanne Unboxing”).
I think I’m finally at a place where other people’s metrics for success don’t matter. I’m here, I’m creating what I want, and I’m working with astonishingly talented people who make me better and make me laugh (like my genius director CJ Arellano and fabulous producer Ryan Sands).
I may not ever get a show or be in a movie or write an Emmy winning script, and that’s fine. I’m not a straight dude who loves football, and I’m not a comedian who colors inside the lines or fits neatly into your box. But it’s nothing new.
Remember, I was a C-section. I was born not going the “normal” route.