I'm doing it again. I'm playing a woman. Don't ask me why. It's just what I love to do.
A show that I wrote, Lady Balls, is previewing tonight at The Annoyance Theatre. I play Deb Champion, a narcissistic anger monster who coaches the most successful women's college basketball program in the nation. The cast is phenomenal and far, far better that I could ever deserve: Shantira Jackson, Becca Levine, Wolfgang Stein, Carley Moseley, Kimberly Vaughn, Susie Gutowski, Sayjal Joshi, Eric Schinzer, Julie Marchiano, Tiffani Swalley and Lindy Voeltner.
Each of them deserves their own show. Many, many shows and many, many lucrative acting and comedy opportunities because they are all comic geniuses. That's not an exaggeration. It's the goddamn truth.
And yes, I'm fully aware that being a big, athletic man who mostly plays absurd and broken women, both in improv and in scripted stuff, makes me about as unmarketable as a three-legged tapir that sings O-Town songs. I can't take that skill into a talent agent, because there are no roles for what I do. I don't easily fit into a certain "type," because I overlap several. I also don't consider it traditional drag, either. I'm not nearly talented enough to do what a drag queen does.
And, you know, maybe my pure acting abilities aren't the best either. I fully admit and understand I'm rough around the edges.
Ultimately, there are gay roles, a few drag roles, but never any roles for 6-foot-3-inch, comi-tragic, muscular, 60-year-old women.
I can and do play men. I like playing dudes. Straight dudes, macho dudes, dude-bros. I can do that too. I just have way more fun playing women named Gail who constantly sob in various mall food courts.
I also love playing gay roles, but I've discovered I'm also not the most marketable kind of gay. I'm not a non-threatening gay, since my sexuality is a big part of who I am as a performer, and it manifests in atypical ways.
When I was in third grade, I wrote a play with my friend Joe called The Twee Little Pigs. I played all the pigs, and he played the wolf. I decided to make the third pig, the smartest one, a girl named Larryetta.
In middle school and high school, I starred in videos where I was Barbara Walters, Romeo's Juliet, and Princess Leia.
I got into my first improv team largely because of a chain-smoking old lady character I busted out in auditions.
Since I've been in Chicago, I've played Goldie Hawn, a woman obsessed with Wicked named Barbara Jo Blazer, a chatty office kathy named Meredith, a high school art teacher named Mrs. McElroy, Whoopi Goldberg, and a sad, childless Christmas doll maker named Sheila Cankleton in another Annoyance production called A Woman's Path.
Yes, I realize I don't make a pretty woman. I also realize I'm not a very good drag queen, because my characters are usually far too sad. I'm more interested in that elusive line between wildly absurd and quietly tragic.
I also fully realize that what I do may elicit snickers behind my back, or confused gawking, or empathetic embarrassment from others who see me.
But, to be honest, I don't really fucking care. This is what I do. And it took a long time to realize that it's something I should embrace as opposed to temper.
If you like pant suits and talented, amazing women, come see Lady Balls. It's been a fuck-ton of fun to create. And really, for Chicago comedians, having fun and creating with incredibly lovely people is, and always will be, our Shangri-la.
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