Comedian Justin Sayre Wants to Heal Us With Laughs, Fried Chicken During These Dark Times

"It's part of an artist's job to remind people of joy to keep their spirit alive."

Queer funny man Justin Sayre is a writer, performer, and LGBTQ activist whose résumé includes writing for 2 Broke Girls, guest starring opposite Lisa Kudrow on HBO’s The Comeback, penning YA novels on body image, and shaking up the NYC and LA theater and cabaret scenes with variety shows and plays. His popular show, The GAYBC’s: A Brief History of Gay Culture, is on its way to becoming a book.

For his latest show, Justin Sayre Makes the Case for America: A Love-In To Get You Through, he hopes to use comedy (and fried chicken) to bring about a catharsis.

We caught up with the comedian to chat about the show and how art and fried foods can heal people—and the responsibility of artists to feed us both.

What inspired this “love in” and what can audiences expect?

On Tuesday nights in my apartment in LA, I get stoned and ask myself big questions about life while eating fried chicken, and it’s very healing! When you get down in those deep questions about life and everything going on in politics, the fried chicken reminds me that life is worth living. But on a serious note, I get mad when I read and watch the news, and I want to explore where that anger is coming from. So, I wrote this show to have this discussion with an audience.

Do people need to come studied up on current events?

[Laughs] No, the audience doesn’t have to study up. They probably spend a lot of their time already angerily reading texts and Twitter, but in person, people are kinder. Hopefully by the end of the show, we can acknowledge that if we want this democracy to function properly for all of us, we have to fight for it. When I ask myself these tough questions, I come back to ’all men are created equal.’ That’s the only thing I truly believe. My hope is that we are headed in that direction, and if we have to fight for it, that’s what we have to do.

Speaking of spending time on social media, have you seen those memes about defining gay culture? What is gay culture to you?

Gay culture is finding a broken figurine on the street and turning it into a lamp. Queer people are resilent. We find beauty and a sense of fun with what many people throw away. You can trace it throughout our history. I call it ’gay ingenuity.’ Gay artists are great at turning our small corners of the world into something grand and fabulous.

What role does the art community have in addressing politics?

I think right now there are two schools of thought—one that can tackle issues in the immediate and one that can remind poeple of joy. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to write this show. Everyone is sort of down right now. Even two years after the election. Part of an artist’s responsibility is to remind poeple of the joy in revolution and to celebrate that we can make a change. Yes, there’s great art in the dire, but there’s also a need for celebrating the spirit that can concure those things. It’s like Emma Goldman said: ’A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having. If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming.’ There’s a reason why people sang songs during protests—to keep their spirits alive.

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If you were speaking to a room full of LGBTQ activisits, what advice would you give them?

I have three things to say.

One, activism in the queer community often looks like what gay, wealthy, white men want. We need to keep real issues impacting the community top of mind. I’m shocked at the lack of support for female-bodied people, Black Lives Matters, and immigration reform. For LGBTQ issues to be successful, we need to keep it intersectional. We are a diverse population.

Second, we need to be careful with how we treat each other. I’d love to see a kinder community that’s patient with people who are learning how to support us. For instance, there’s continuous change around gender and pronouns. People may get it wrong, but it doesn’t undo all of the good they’ve done. Calling them out in an article for clicks doesn’t build bridges. It isolates us. Careful work takes time.

Lastly, I’d tell queer activists to remember the joy and our strengths. Let’s celebrate our successes, but they are coming for us again. We can’t get complacent. Let’s realize the amount of power we have.

Justin Sayre Makes the Case for America plays Joe’s Pub on Saturday, September 29 at 7pm and Sunday, September 30 at 9:30pm. More on Sayre can be found on his website, justinsayre.com.

Sayre is donating a portion of the show’s proceeds to #MeToo.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie and pop diva addict living in Manhattan. Follow him on everything @dirrtykingofpop.
@dirrtykingofpop