Laughs For All

While stand-up comedy is still predominantly male, improv and sketch comedy is more inclusive. Since its inception, the Arcade Comedy Theater has welcomed diverse voices. There is Frankly Scarlett, an improv/sketch group composed of all women (Abby Fudor, Liz Labacz and Robin Hitchcock), and LGBTQ*Bert, an improv troupe with a growing number of team players, including Connor McCanlus, John Feightner, Kayleigh Blanchette Kingsbury, Frank McDade, Michael Quigley, Ashley McKinney and many more.

During Pittsburgh Pride, the Arcade always has LGBT programming, improv, sketch and stand-up comedy, including a staged reading of “The Golden Girls,” wherein Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia are played by four gay actors: Billy Mason, Jason Shavers, Connor McCanlus and Brian Edward, respectively.

Improviser and actor McCanlus said, “Comedy in general is still dominated by white heteronormative cis-gendered men. I have enough white straight male voices in my life, thank you.” He added, “As an LGBT performer, Arcade has always been a safe place for me.”

McCanlus, who produces many of the shows during Pride weekend said, “In our current political climate, representation is crucial. So is a sense of humor. If I don’t laugh about what’s going on in our country, I’ll cry. So comedy is my coping mechanism. I can’t change the world, but I can make you laugh about it. There is so much anger, and that energy needs to go somewhere. Laughter is cathartic. Pride at Arcade is about celebrating Pittsburgh’s queer comedians. Queer individuals, all marginalized people, have something to say. Pride is about marginalized people getting a platform to voice their opinions and share their perspectives.”

In 2013, LGBT performers and their ally performers have marched in the march. Actor and comedian Missy Moreno said, “Our dear friend Jared Pascoe of ‘Gay for Good’ invited and encouraged the Arcade to join with their group in the parade. His kind invitation set the example and loving tone of Pride. Every year the number of Arcade participants grows! It’s one of the best events of our community. Since improvisational comedy is inherently about support and inclusion, it is our honor and pleasure to extend that same nurturing love to the Pittsburgh LGBT community.”

Moreno said, “We work hard to ensure that artists who identify as LGBT are represented on our stage, especially during Pride weekend. As we keep growing, we want to keep doing all we can to be a safe, fun and supportive atmosphere for ALL people of Pittsburgh, artists and audiences alike.”

She added, “One year, we had a T-shirt slogan that read, ‘Laughs for All!’”

Michael Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and sit-down author. As a comedian, he has performed all around the country, most notably, the Ice House, the Comedy Store and the Improv in Los Angeles. As a writer, Michael Buzzelli has been published in a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant,’ Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine. He is also a Moth Grand Slam storyteller and actor. His books, "Below Average Genius," a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column in the Observer-Reporter, and his romantic comedy,  “All I Want for Christmas," are on sale at Amazon.com. He is working on a LGBTQ romantic comedy called, “Why I Hate My Friends.” You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. (He / Him / His)