When does a joke go from “edgy” to just being in bad taste?
For 24-year-old year comedian Nicky Paris, keeping an edge to his humor is essential, especially since he regularly performs for all-straight crowds. “When it’s in standup format and it’s a joke, I do say some things I don’t mean,” Paris admits. “But I’m trying to make people laugh—it’s supposed to be edgy.” He adds the caveat, “If it’s funny.”
Though Paris doesn’t often directly address politics in his act, he does include bits about being gay, his brother’s disability, and even “rapey dolphins.” But he’s learned that the rules are different once you get outside the club. “You have to be very careful with what you say on social media. Comedians used to have a loophole in terms of what they said, but political correctness is killing comedy.”
Paris has performed at Broadway Comedy Club and other major New York venues, but he’s faced rejection, too: At one audition, he was taken aside and told, “you are fabulous, [but] because of who you are, we can’t use you at this club.’”
The booker’s meaning was crystal clear.
There aren’t a ton of gay male role models in standup, the way Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres have open doors for lesbian comics. “The gay comics that were above me when I first started didn’t really support me,” Paris admits.
He actually feels less pressure with straight crowds than gay rooms. “Gay men looks at each other like competition. ‘Are you funny? I’m funny. Every gay man thinks he’s a comedian.’”
With a more traditional act than some of his contemporaries, he may actually break the glass ceiling for queer guys in in mainstream comedy. He’s already appeared on The Wendy Williams Show and the MTV specials Epic Fails and It’s Complicated. Next month, he opens for Jim Florentine in Atlantic City, a sweet booking for any comic, gay or not.
For Paris, though, a gig is a gig. “If you have $20, I’ll perform at a Burger King. I don’t care. If people will laugh, I’m there.”
Catch Nicky Paris at Caesar’s Atlantic City on September 2