Pride with a smile
Comedian Scott Silverman fights gay stereotypes through humor
Coming out was no big deal for Bay Area comic Scott Silverman.
His family and friends were very accepting when he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality during his college years—so accepting that his stepfather is now the president of the Los Angeles chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and is on the national board of directors. His mother is a public speaker for the organization, traveling and sharing her experiences with other parents whose children have recently come out of the closet.
But he knows not everybody has such an easy experience, and he hopes that through his humor, he can help bridge the gap of understanding between straight and gay people, as well as encourage closeted individuals to come out and accept themselves for who they are.
“I want people to know that … being gay is not a curse. It’s not a plague. It’s not going to ruin your life,” Silverman says. “It’s OK to come out. It’s OK to be who you are, because I’m gay, and everybody in my life, everybody—grandparents, friends, straight and gay—have accepted me from the moment I walked out of the closet.”
Since rising out of the San Francisco comedy scene 10 years ago, he has performed to audiences around the country and on TV comedy shows such as Out There II and An Evening at the Improv. He also attends between two and 20 gay pride events a year, and he will kick off the Reno Gay Pride Celebration with a stand-up show at the Club Cal Neva-Virginian Aug. 17.
“I feel like Princess Diana opening a hospice,” he jokes. “I love the idea of Pride, because people just get so excited about it. I love being the kick-off for it, because hopefully if we kick it off hard enough, then the [momentum] will continue all the way through the weekend, which I will be there for to party and partake in.”
He says gay pride is an everyday thing to him, but when he performs in more conservative parts of the country, it’s like coming out all over again. Unfortunately, he says, for many people, the only chance they get to feel out and proud is during Pride. But he says he wants to make gay pride a part of everyday life.
“Every day of the week, I’m out,” he says. “I’m like, ‘I’m gay,’ and then some guy is like, ‘Dude, I’m just changing your oil. I mean, that’s really cool, but do you want 10-30 or 10-40?’ “
Although he’s often labeled as a “gay comedian,” Silverman makes it clear that he’s not speaking for all gays, but for himself. With his guy-next-door looks, Silverman doesn’t fit some people’s stereotypes of a gay person as a flamboyant or effete character.
“My stage persona is very likeable, and that’s the idea,” he says. “I want to present a likeable face for the gay community, because we can be pretty scary. I mean, if you’ve watched a gay pride parade, it’s like—yikes! … Not all of us are like that, and I’m sick of the media portraying us like we’re all walking around in dresses or leather harnesses.
“There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s a different dimension of the community—but they don’t speak for me, nor would I want to speak for them. I will not be spoken for by people who are not like me, so I just prefer to speak for myself.”
His subject matter isn’t gay-centric, and he says he doesn’t do observational comedy, but he talks about himself, his family and his interests.
“My main interest isn’t men; it’s cars,” he says. “I mean, there’s not a more masculine thing than cars. Basically, I do: a) know more than 95 percent of the straight men in the world about cars, and b) I’m not afraid to prove them wrong. … [Straight] guys relate to that.”
He’s also quick to dismiss gay audience members who feel that his comedy isn’t “gay enough.”
“I love Madonna, but I don’t have all the stereotypical gay qualities that people really want to saddle you with when you’re a gay person,” he says. “I mean, [gay] guys walk into my apartment, and they’re like, ‘A Trainspotting poster and a bass guitar? Ew! And what is with all the car models? This is disturbing! And your curtains are terrible, and this carpeting sucks.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I have an Acura that can do 0 to 60 in five seconds, because I put two turbos in myself. We all have different priorities, you know.’ “
One of the 34-year-old comedian’s priorities includes getting a screenplay he’s written made into a movie. Silverman, who now resides in Los Angeles, says the movie is a gay love story titled Modern Love. Although he can’t give specifics about who has been cast in the film or who will distribute it, he describes it as: boy meets boy, they fall in love, and one half of the couple is a former “bad boy” who learns to become a better person through love. Silverman will be producing and starring in the film, which he assures won’t include anybody dying of AIDS or perishing in a car accident, despite some pressure by Hollywood studios to do so.
Although gays and lesbians, closeted or not, have always made a home in Hollywood, Silverman says it was hard trying to convince studio heads to back his film.
“It was a very hard sell, because Hollywood’s morality is that a gay person has to pay for his gayness. You have to suffer for being gay—but not in my world, honey,” he says. “They actually suggested that I die in a high-speed flight from the paparazzi. I’m like, ‘Um, that was done. I know I have [the late Princess Diana’s] haircut, but I’m not going to suffer the same fate.'”
He says the idea for the script came to him while he was sitting around bored in a hotel room. He told his friends his idea, and they encouraged him to take it to the next level.
“And then all of a sudden … it was getting made, much to my chagrin,” he quips.
Now that he is committed to getting this film done, he says he must learn how to act and keep himself in shape, because he wants to look good on screen. His schedule keeps him busy, but he says that he hopes one day he can slow down and find the right guy.
“I just want a boyfriend. I just want love,” he says. “That’s it. I think that’s all we really want.”
And that’s the message he wants to send to straight people who don’t understand or feel uncomfortable about gays and lesbians. He says he feels rewarded when some straight audience members come up to him after a show and tell him that they didn’t know much about gay people before, but after meeting him, they felt more accepting.
Some of the people that come up to him are parents who are dealing with their children’s homosexuality. Silverman humorously recalls how much of a troublesome teen he was, but despite stealing his mother’s Corvette for joy rides and skipping school all the time, his parents still loved him and accepted him. He shared that insight with one concerned parent.
“This parent came up to me, and this mom goes, ‘My kid’s 11, but I know he’s gay and I was really worried. But if he turns out like you, I’m going to be really happy,'" he says. "I’m like, ‘That is so sweet. Make sure to keep your car keys locked up!' "