Studio on 4th brings Levity to the Art of Coming Out
Whether labeled a play, a comedy act, or a performance piece full of heady social commentary, Metacomedy and the Art of Coming Out still smells as sweet when called by any other name—including PowerPoint presentation.
Toddling away from the University of Wisconsin-Madison last year, Metacomedy, the brain child of Jessica Levity, began as a college hobby hybrid of video and sketch-comedy. This humor-rich, role-playing experiment termed by Levity as “a lecture that just happens to be really entertaining,” quickly grew into a stage production informed by its progenitor’s background in philosophy and social justice studies.
“There are usually three types of people who come to my shows,” says Levity. “The spiritual types, the women’s studies set, and the queer crowd.”
While those group labels inevitably fail to cover everyone, Levity attempts to make sure her show fills the gaps for audience members. “Everyone has to come out,” she says. “’Coming out’ is a phrase that traditionally means coming out as gay, queer, bisexual, etc. I tease audience members about this. It is more about revealing something about ourselves—like being anti-deodorant or being gamers. These things are just labels and not things that truly define us.”
So how is this funny?
“I am using gallows humor to educate the non-queer community,” says Levity. “I chose comedy as a vehicle because it is the most effective means of teaching someone something.”
Levity, who seems to think and speak at a swift pace, succumbs to a healthy pause before adding, “There is a philosophy of humor that says that in order for a punch line to work, I have to make you believe the premise.” She later quotes from an ancient Native American text that discussed women storytellers: “The clan mother of storytelling uses humor to trick humans into personal growth.”
“That’s definitely me,” says Levity. “Hands down.” Metacomedy is a presentation aimed at educating as well as entertaining the audience. With the seating focused on the stage much like student desks face a classroom chalkboard, Levity values how such an arrangement adds to the effect of her having something to teach her audiences. Levity is the comedic analog to the cool, laid back, high school biology teacher. Standing center stage, Levity lip syncs while periodically sipping her water glass, a la Andy Kaufman singing the Mighty Mouse theme.
“It is a show within a show, beginning with theater and ending with a lecture,” says Levity. “My purpose is to be a comedian, so what the audience witnesses is me meeting my purpose.”
Incorporating PowerPoint presentation, song and monologue, Metacomedy urges audiences to chortle over their own personal, closeted quirks—reminding them, in between laughing fits, that sharing the sensation of being “different” creates as much a sense of community as having a hell of a lot in common.