Comic Zach Noe Towers Talks Funny Queers—and Unfunny Louis C.K.

"A comic should talk about literally whatever they want. It just has to be funnier and smarter than it is inappropriate."

If you can’t get to LGBTQ stand-up comedy showcases—which are becoming a regular event in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York—then be sure to stream Dekkoo’s Out on Stage.
 

The six-episode comedy showcase series, premiering January 17 on Dekkoo, features 18 LGBTQ comedians including Brendan Scannell (the queer Heather from last year’s Heathers reboot) and Zach Noe Towers, co-star of the new E! show, Dating #Nofilter. “It’s six comedians watching first dates and providing hilarious commentary,” he notes of the latter show, which premieres January 21.
 

Also host and a producer of Out on Stage, the L.A.-based Towers was selected as one of Just For Laughs’ New Faces 2018 and Time Out Los Angeles’ Comedians to Watch 2018. NewNowNext caught up with Towers to chat about putting together Out on Stage, queer comedy, hecklers—and the elephant in the (stand-up) room lately, Louis C.K.

How did Out on Stage come together?

Originally Dekkoo approached me about doing a comedy special, but their second pitch was a sampling of queer male comedians and I’d be host. I thought that sounded perfect, and they brought me on. I also have a producer credit, because I provided this master list of gay male comedians, but at the end of casting I gathered a list of queer female comics, too, and they threw some in. I wish there were more. We didn’t have any transgender comics, and it’s unfortunate it happened that way. I look forward to more diversity in future seasons.

While queer comics are receiving more airtime in stand-up specials on cable and streaming services lately, where can someone see live LGBTQ stand-up in your home base of Los Angeles? And what are some names to look out for?

Brendan Scannell has a show called The Cure at UCB. UCB has a lot of queer. Erin Foley’s Gays R’ Us at The Improv once a month is a treat. And there’s a dream team of comics out there like Joel Kim Booster, Guy Branum, Nico Santos, and M.K. Paulsen.

What should audiences keep in mind when they go see stand-up these days?

I support PC culture, but go with an open mind and [expect to be] a little uncomfortable, because comedians explore the darkest of the dark sometimes. We get a lot of flack for it, and people get offended easier these days, but know that the person is trying to relate and work something out and be a voice that resonates with people. And they want to make you laugh. A comic should talk about literally whatever they want—it just has to be funnier and smarter than it is inappropriate.

Dekkoo

On the topic, I have to bring up Louis C.K. and his arguably way-too-soon “return” set material about the Parkland kids and non-binary individuals. Thoughts?

You know, I’m just frustrated that people can turn a blind eye to behavior like that on any level, and people are so eager to dole out second chances so quickly. Any cases of straight men acting immorally, I’d like to see them take the blame and consequences and sit in it a bit. I’m not a punishing person, but there are some people who don’t even know about the sexual assault cases, and that’s frustrating in and of itself.

Is there anything you would never touch in a set?

I would like to say no. If it’s a topic of conversation at any level, it should be discussed. Would I write a joke about incest willingly? Probably not, but ask me in a year when Trump’s incest tape scandal breaks.

How do you feel about hecklers?

I’m lucky to the point where I only get “good” heckles. But even if it’s someone who likes me and wants to help, or answers a rhetorical question, it still ruins my joke and steps on my punchline and throws me off. But I can’t be angry at them, because they’re expressing joy.

If there are future seasons, would you like Out on Stage to have a live tour spin-off as well?

I would love that, it would be an amazing show. Get the petition going, I’ll sign it.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.
@LawrenceFerber