Times have changed for queer comics, and Maggie Cassella is responsible for a lot of that.
Not just because of her own outrageous stand-up, but for her hosting of We're Funny That Way, the annual fest of queer and queer-friendly comics and musical acts. This weekend marks its 15th and final edition, and, as usual, Cassella will be MCing the acts, which range from Broadway legend Betty Buckley to fest faves like Lea DeLaria, Christopher Peterson and Gavin Crawford. See Comedy Listings.
Why is this the final We're Funny That Way?
Sometimes things run their course. What is queer comedy any more? Who cares about people's sexuality? I don't mean that lightly. There's still homophobia, but we kind of have our rights here, and look how huge Pride is. Also, I'm also burnt out, fried. I'd hand it off, but there really isn't anybody who wants to do it.
Queer comedy has come a long way - lots of openly gay comics are headlining mainstream clubs. Do you think the festival had anything to do with that?
We were part of the evolution. It's like watching Ellen from the beginning, when she came out, to now. Now she doesn't take any shit and she talks about being queer - or gay, because she wouldn't say "queer." In the beginning she was all, "This is just a part of me." And now when people say stuff she takes names and numbers.
What stands out in 15 years?
Margot Kidder hosted a gala one year. She had a brutal sinus infection but still got on a plane to come, and I'll never forget her for that. People like Colin Mochrie, Deb McGrath, Ann-Marie MacDonald and all the others who graced the stage of the galas, which were about supporting our causes.
I also remember Gavin Crawford, who showed up at my door one day with a videotape and asked if he could be in the festival. I watched his tape and thought: I can put this guy in my festival and watch him skyrocket and become the next big thing, or I could discourage him a little and tell him he's not yet ready. I booked him, and he stole the show.
Some people are complaining about the $200 ticket cost of the Buckley gala.
It's always been $200 - $2,000 for a table of 10, or $250 a ticket. So actually the single ticket price dropped by $50. And I got Betty Buckley! I may try to release tickets at a lower price in the bleachers. But the gala proceeds also go to charity, which this year is the Ten Oaks Project, connecting children and youth from LGBTQ communities.
Now you program the entertainment for the Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament, with queer and non-queer acts. Why'd you open it?
I've never been comfortable performing in the city in any room except Buddies. The Pubaret's a cabaret room, there's no bar in the back. I don't like the talking in the back [of most clubs]; it's not conducive to comedy or music. So there's no talking on cellphones. Carole Pope did an unplugged show here and was interrupted by someone on the phone. Her response? "I can hear you, you know. And, yes, I do look good for my age."