LGBTQ Life at Hopkins hosted a Queer Comedy Night at the LaB on Tuesday, Oct. 29. The event featured both student comedians and a professional local comedian, Elizabeth Norman. Throughout each set, the hour was full of shared giggles, shared laughs and, most importantly, the shared theme of queer stories and comedy.
Three queer student comedians, representing the Stand Up Comedy Club at Hopkins, had the stage to themselves, and they performed their own set for about 10 minutes. Each had their own queer comedy tales to tell.
It seemed that each comedian had their own ups and downs with getting through life as a queer student. Running jokes about the stereotypical cuffed jeans and hiding the “gay agenda” during Family Weekend were rampant during the night — it seemed everyone understood each other’s subtle yet prevailing queer struggles, all under a humorous, supportive light.
Using comedy as a tool to become more comfortable with one’s identity and sense of self was empowering for the performer and inspiring to the audience. Seeing close friends and fellow students on the stage is a powerful sight. In the audience that night, freshman Lily Wilson echoed this very sentiment.
“I liked seeing the different comedians perform,” Wilson said.
Queer Comedy Night had an intimate setting. The stage for the performers was neither too far nor too lofted. The audience huddled on couches and chairs, with classic LaB milkshakes and snacks at hand for comedic entertainment on a Tuesday night. It all felt very cozy, safe and welcoming.
These events create a safe space of expression and entertainment for the LGBTQ community at Hopkins. It is a reminder and a celebration of a minority that is alive, well and thriving at the University. Freshman audience member Lily Batchelor attested to this fact after watching the queer comedy performance.
“It’s nice that stuff like this exists — to have more events and to have communities and to say, ‘Oh yeah, there are queer people at Hopkins,’” Batchelor said.
Last on the lineup was a professional comedian: Elizabeth Norman, a Baltimore native with a long resume of performances on the East Coast, ranging from D.C. to Baltimore to New York. Not only does she perform sketches regularly, but she also runs her own comedy shows. One of her shows has a similar tone to this Hopkins Queer Comedy night: it’s called Club “Out-of-Town,” an open mic for queer, non-binary, trans and disabled performers.
She has given a tremendous platform to and raised tremendous awareness of the LGBTQ community through stand up comedy. Sure enough, her gift is not surprising, as she is bisexual and has her own struggles that she shared with the audience in her set.
“If you are a femme, a person who presents very feminine, and occasionally date men, you’re going to have to be coming out for the rest of your life, because people will just see you as straight. This is an issue in the queer community. It’s called bi erasure,” Norman said.
She contextualized this struggle with a punchline that hit everyone in the gut.
“It’s one of those things like equal pay in feminism where, if you think it’s the biggest problem, you’re like low-key a white supremacist,” she continued.
Having been born and raised in Baltimore, Norman has quite the commentary on the city. From the vague and uncertain catcalls to comments on her butt (or lack thereof), Norman detailed on some of her more absurd takes on Baltimore.
In response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s infamous tweets over the summer on Baltimore’s rodent infestation, Norman satirized the rats of Baltimore.
“We have impressive rats. Jumping in and out of trash cans, doing those reps, making those gains. We got, like, CrossFit rats is what we have in Baltimore. To me, it gives me this misplaced sense of confidence,” she said.
After the show, Norman was just as composed and outgoing as she seemed onstage. She was able to analyze life through her comedic lens — especially evaluating her hometown through her sketches.
“Experiencing Baltimore as an adult is a very different thing. Getting to parse through the different things that people think about Baltimore is a big thing for me and a big source in my material,” she said.
What’s more, other Baltimore comedians are offering each other support and doing deeper work for the community.
“What I love about doing comedy in Baltimore is meeting all these people I would have never met in a lifetime. It’s a more diverse scene and more integrated. It has brought me closer to Baltimore. As far as the queer scene, Club ‘Out-of-Town’ is for those who don’t feel welcome or comfortable at other open mics, but a place to feel celebrated,” Norman said.
For these queer comics, it seems that stand-up comedy’s purpose is more than just making the audience laugh.
Comedy has been used as a vehicle to explore and build communities in Baltimore, especially for marginalized people. It lends a hand to those who may feel unwelcome and creates a space for celebration.