WATCH: Queer Comedian Sampson McCormick Prescribes Laughter As Medicine in New Special 'Church Boy'
For over two decades, Sampson McCormick has been breaking barriers as one of the first openly gay Black comedians in America, and this continues with his latest stand-up comedy special "Church Boy." Filmed at the DC Comedy Loft in Washington D.C., the week before social distancing orders went into effect in response to COVID-19, and before nationwide protests in direct response to the murder of George Floyd, McCormick is continuing a tradition of Black artists who utilize their platform to speak directly to the social issues of the day.
In "Church Boy," McCormick tackles issues ranging from the challenges that Black gay men face in social institutions such as barber shops, the Black church, gentrification, mental health, dating and classic Black films.
McCormick's talent has landed him on stages big and small—performing for adoring fans and dodging bottles thrown by racist and homophobic hecklers both onstage and off. But despite it all, he continues to utilize his brand of comedy to not only entertain but to distract, educate, unite and heal.
McCormick spoke to Living Out Loud 2.0 about the importance of the Black community creating space for laughter in the midst of a pandemic, social unrest and pervasive homophobia.
"I've had to learn how to keep laughing. You see a lot of ugly truth. And you have to process that truth by applying humor to it because it really doesn't make sense," said McCormick.
"And that can be scary to have to look at the world like that, through that lens. So I kinda put my guard up a little bit to protect myself from it and my own mental health."
With so many internet comedians, McCormick is a stage veteran who prides himself on delivering a live experience audiences won't get anywhere else. He's also unafraid to take on the homophobia and hypocrisy of the Black church, which he does often, and "Church Boy" is no exception.
“All I do is get up on stage and tell the truth," said McCormick.
"You can’t have a boyfriend. You know they’ll [closeted Black gay men] go out and f**k whoever they want to cause after they f**k them, they can ask for forgiveness for that. But, God forbid they actually get into a relationship—because you can’t repent for a relationship—because that’s something ongoing. They can’t do that, but their pastor, who the church knows has had 5 kids by 6 different women in the church can still get up and preach the word every Sunday. The Black church is very scandalous and we don’t talk about it.”
One thing is for certain, as long as McCormick has a mic he'll be speaking truth to power.
He is also finding creative ways to connect with audiences while theaters are dark during the pandemic by hosting a weekly Facebook Live show dealing with topics of interest to Black gay men. Although, McCormick says "nothing can replace the high of performing in front of a live audience."
And after 20 years in the game he's not afraid to state facts: “I’m definitely one of the architects of Black queer comedy, and I don’t have a problem claiming that because that’s something that I worked for, and people that know—know.
Watch "Church Boy" below:
Some folks feel guilty for laughing right now. Don’t. Laughter is medicine, and it will help us cope with this reality that we’re living in.-Sampson McCormick