As a gay kid growing up in a small town in Iowa, Adam Guerino spent a lot of time writing. "I think writing romance was the closest thing I had to having one," he said. "And that was my outlet."
That habit served him well when his first invitation to do a stand-up gig in Chicago—at the old Kitty Moon bar in Rogers Park—required him to perform 30 minutes of material.
"I thought that sounded reasonable," he said, laughing. "What I didn't know was, maybe [after] doing comedy for three years, you'll be able to do a solid 30 minutes. Not only is it a question of material but also stamina. But I brought so many people that they invited me back."
This led to producing his own comedy shows: first, Laugh Track at Boystown bar Sidetrack, then The Sarcastic Squad, which ran intermittently for five years at various venues, and now his current monthly project, Queer Comedy, which features gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and hetero performers and kicks off its third season Tuesday, Jan. 29 at Zanies. Guerino hosts headliner Liza Treyger along with fellow Chicago comedians Ali Clayton and Archer Coe, plus the first trans comedian to grace the stage at Zanies, Carey Callahan.
We caught up with Guerino to find out more about the show.
It's called Queer Comedy but you don't limit the talent to queer performers. Why is that?
I like to make sure that we have people from different sexual orientation backgrounds onstage so that everybody feels included. If everybody up on stage is different, then nobody feels left out.
How did the partnership with Zanies come to be?
I pitched a Pride show to them. I think about Pride as something that straight people feel very comfortable supporting and attending. And to use that for a comedy show could be a way to not only bridge the gap and make it all-inclusive, but also have it be well-attended. It was picked up in July, not in June, a year and a half ago, to be a monthly show. We started out doing a late night on a Tuesday, which, as you can imagine, is not prime-time real estate. They were definitely giving us a chance to prove ourselves, but it wasn't the best time slot that you could imagine. We did so well that we ended up getting the early time slot. So it's been amazingly supportive but we've had to work for it as well.
Why choose a mainstream venue?
I think that if you do a gay show in front of a gay audience, it's almost like pandering. And I think that comedy is a really great way to have people come together. I like the idea that somebody can go to a comedy show and realize that they have more in common with the people onstage than they would have thought.
What challenges come with producing an LGBT-themed show in a venue that’s not exclusively queer?
Not as many as I originally thought there would be. I had a lot of fears that straight people might avoid the show, or if they did come, they might find out what it is at the door and turn around. But we have amazing support from the neighborhood and people across Chicago who come in for it that are straight. I’d say the biggest challenge is that a lot of our gay audience members still don’t feel comfortable seeing a mainstream venue comedy show. Maybe, if they aren’t familiar with the community, they may think that they’d get made fun of—I’m not sure. But the gay community is probably half our audience.
Chicagoans in general like to support a fresh idea and a good comedy show.
Dude, I had a conversation with Rosie O'Donnell once, and she said she was inspired by the idea of Queer Comedy and asked to be a part of it. We emailed back and forth, but her show schedule and engagement made it impossible for her to be free.
So what's next for Queer Comedy?
We have huge news! One of the biggest queer comedians working right now, James Adomian, is going to be headlining our March 26 show. We're very excited about it because as far as queer comedy goes, lesbians seem to get a lot of great support from all across the board. We have Ellen [DeGeneres] and we have Rosie O'Donnell. But it's a little bit harder to get to a national level, touring and such, as a gay male comedian. And he's kind of proved that you're able to do that. He was on "Last Comic Standing," he's a regular on "Comedy Bang Bang," as well as a lot of other really great productions all across the country.
Go: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Zanies Comedy Night Club, 1548 N. Wells St.
Tickets: $10-$15. 312-337-4027; chicago.zanies.com