John Loos and Andy Eninger
When Andy Eninger co-founded GayCo through The Second City Training Center in 1996, DOMA had just been passed into law and such a thing as an LGBT sketch comedy group was almost unheard of.
Now, 17 years and more than 25 comedy revues later, GayCo debuts its latest show, "#GodHatesHashtags," which explores LGBT life—and such topics as the inanity of social media profiles, the rise of twerking and the corporatization of gay rights groups—in a world where DOMA no longer exists.
Eninger—who became an alumnus of the group in 2010 to concentrate on his then-new job as head of the writing program at The Second City—returned to direct and co-create the show with the cast, which includes his real-life partner, current ensemble member John Loos. The two met in 2007 when Loos auditioned for GayCo and together they also perform in a two-man group called Pinque Pony.
We caught up with Eninger and Loos to find out more about their views on the rise of both LGBT comedy and social media—and about they keep the show modern and edgy in a time where acceptance is the new normal.
Go: 7:30 p.m. Saturday through Oct. 19 at Donny's Skybox, 1616 N. Wells St.
Tickets: $16; $13 for students; 312-337-3992; secondcity.com/training/chicago/performances
How the sketches came to be:
John Loos: We wanted to have a show that was forward-thinking, fresh, ahead of the curve in terms of the gay and lesbian community and where we're at right now and looking towards the future. Things that inspired us were certainly the Russian anti-homosexual laws, the Stoli boycott, the advancement of marriage and also the tide turning on American society's view of homosexuality in general—becoming less of a persecuted minority in this country, which is great. We took that and thought, "What's the next step? What happens when there's no more homophobia? Who are we then?" and ran with those ideas. It feels like a very spontaneous, energetic show.
Andy Eninger: We looked at both the universal and the personal. There was a guy in the group going through a breakup. One guy is in the process of working with a surrogate to have a baby. A couple of the couples had just moved into new places. As John said, the tide is turning. And we found out that that was true on a macro level for society in general but also for individuals.
Something that might surprise you about the show:
JL: There's some political viewpoints that aren't necessarily toeing the mainstream gay political ideology. We're challenging that in some really creative, fun ways.
AE: We think that there are some gay organizations in bed now with big industry.
JL: It's great that so many corporations are welcoming to LGBT members and that they're not discriminating—that's wonderful. But by partnering with large corporations, is the gay community losing some of its identity? We're not necessarily saying, but we're asking the question.
How GayCo has evolved since 1996:
AE: When GayCo started off, it had to speak for "the gay perspective."
JL: It was the only gay sketch comedy group. So just by existing, we were subverting the norm and were kind of dangerous in that way. We were new and exciting. But since then—and this is a good thing—there's been a lot more gay sketch comedy groups that have popped up, a lot more gay comedy in general in the city and also around the country. One of the challenges of staying relevant is finding new ways to say things, new vantage points on tried and true topics and keeping up with the constantly evolving world of LGBT people in this country. It's not the same as it was 17 years ago—a lot for the better.
On love in the age of Grindr:
AE: It's such a different world. I went back to my alma mater—Miami of Ohio, a conservative school—and everyone's on Grindr now. There's a completely different access. And it pisses me off cause [laughs] when I was in school—in the mid '80s—and just coming out, it was so difficult to meet other gay people even on a social level, let alone dating.
JL: Even since I was in college in the early 2000s, it's changed dramatically. The amount of interconnectivity and opportunities to find each other and seek each other out and the groups that are available are totally different just within a decade. And I think that's pretty fantastic. I wasn't out in college. This was before Facebook and before everyone had an online life. If everyone had social media, I probably would have been much more comfortable coming out, much more brave and bold in that sense—and able to discover myself sooner.
How they really feel about social media:
JL: I love it when people "like" their own posts on Facebook.
AE: I do a lot of Second City corporate training work. Every company is trying to find its online presence and they're all obsessed with making it feel genuine and authentic and really connecting with people, but in the background, it's always so artificial and constructed.
JL: I have five different Twitter accounts on my phone right now. [Laughs] I tweet for GayCo, I tweet for myself, I tweet for Pinque Pony, which is Andy's and my two-person show. And then I have a couple characters that I tweet as. It's a fun challenge to get out a comedic idea at a 140-character limit and an easy way to constantly create content. It's a new thing—I'm just catching up to 2008 now.