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Scott Capurro

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Sad F**king Queer

Posted: 07/12/2012 23:00

Woody Allen

All I Said Was... Part 1

Many years ago, when I was a legitimate actor in San Francisco, I got the idea that audiences weren't listening. Maybe it was the tired tourist trade for which I was performing; or perhaps I was, at the tender age of 28, disillusioned, but theatre goers seemed detached.

I wanted to test audiences and see if words could change their perceptions, and the first perception I was eager to alter was that homosexuals are all camp, limp-wristed, foppish clowns. I wanted to make people think differently about gay men.

This had to begin, obviously, in straight comedy clubs. I'd already successfully played the ONE gay club in San Francisco. Josie's, the vegan juice joint I called my performance home, had allowed my comedy skills to grow amongst like-minded homos, but I wanted to hone my craft in a wider world. The US seemed, especially then, obsessed with butch arrogance, so I went to the Edinburgh Fringe and was nice for three years while I searched for my true comic voice. I felt I was funnier, more clever and cunning, off stage than on. I had to transfer my guile from backstage to the fore.

Eventually, and oddly, I finally found the one item that audiences wouldn't tolerate, and that was making fun of Anne Frank. Women rule comedy rooms, and Anne is no exception. Let's back up.

No one wants to see a gay man abusing a woman, but the bitch was coming at me so I punched her in the side of her head. Not Anne because that would've been redundant. I was in Covent Garden, a few years back, telling a joke about a girl who's missing. Her parents are Brits and she's probably dead, but one person's hope is another's punch line.

An audience member stood up, lifted the collar of her tweedy overcoat and announced to her workmates, "I don't have to put up with this from some sad fucking queer."

Now, I know I sound sad, but that's mostly the fat talking. The woman 'came at me', meaning she passed too closely to the stage and I took a swing at her with the palm of my hand. I batted her right temple, enough to make her head bob.

"Oy" she barked, "I just had head surgery."
"Well it didn't fucking work," was my response. I should've won the argument earlier with words, but I'd had lots of coffee that day and verbal abuse all my life.

I've got a blind spot where the word 'queer' is concerned, unless I'm paying someone £50 to whisper it into my ear. When my sexuality is used as a weapon, the comedy club becomes a schoolyard and I'm 14 again, tall and skinny and femmy and mouthy, a huge ego and a low self esteem - the constitution of a serial killer or hairdresser or yoga teacher or brain surgeon.

To hide my attraction to my male friends I was funnier and smarter than everyone else. I dressed well as camouflage. I hated myself for hiding, the way a comic hates himself for brutally putting down a heckler. Any c*nt can tell a joke, or else Lenny Henry would work in a hotel instead of promoting one on television.

Bigotry sets me off, so I beat the crowds to the punch by being outrageous.

In Amsterdam I reminded the Dutch of their complacency in 1939, and their responsibility for little Anne's death. I was not invited back to Amsterdam for 12 years.

When I did my Frank shtick in Edinburgh, Cambridge Footlights members stormed out, in tears. I was upset too: Surely, by 2001, someone had covered Anne Frank in his act! However Anne remained virgin territory, and as the walkouts increased, so did the number of subjects one could discuss onstage. The Jewish Chronicle stalked me, I received death threats, and when several comics stopped talking to me I knew I was doing something right. Taboos kept smashing because I had less left to loose.

I saw the confusion and angst in the front row's eyes. Finally, we were getting somewhere - the audience didn't know what's coming. How exciting for them. I fed off their sweat and steam.
In Central London, a few years later, a comedy club booker, an old hippy with a Jewish wife, threatened to ban me for being a Holocaust denier. My response, on stage: What Holocaust? Oops. That club closed eventually anyway. Sorry, it was purged. Cleansed? Whatever.

In Australia, I was asked to do a set on live television, to promote the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I sent them the set in outline form. When, during performance, I eroticized the Christ figure, complaints were lodged. Who knew Jesus could still cause a buzz? I was accused of improvising, of varying from my script, which I'd like to say, in a revolutionary sort of way that I had, but I hadn't.

Still, my Festival show was banned by the Catholic Church on Easter, although one wonders what an Orthodox Catholic is doing at my show, especially during Christ's erection, other than procuring amongst my younger fans; TV producers were apparently fired for letting me experience the joys of freedom of speech; and the Festival, in feigned outrage, removed their support from my show. Though it's been made clear to me many times, even within the last few days, that I'm not invited back to work in Australia, I've become a show biz myth, and 'Don't pull a Capurro', meaning I suppose don't go rogue and do relevant material, is the warning given to most comics before stepping in front of an Antipodean TV camera.

Stay tuned for part 2: Ladies Night

 

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