Punchline Pride: LGBTQ+ comedians take center stage at Sisyphus Brewing
Photo courtesy of Maggie Faris
When Maggie Faris started performing standup nearly 20 years ago, the Twin Cities comedy scene looked a lot different than it does today.
“When I first started, it was basically just the big dogs,” she recalls. “You had Acme [Comedy Company], you had Knuckleheads [formerly located in the Mall of America], and they were doing the same types of shows all of the time. I knew there was a need for more shows that reflected the diversity of the community.”
Faris has been a major factor in creating these types of stages for LGBTQ+ performers, including her big Pride Comedy shows taking place this weekend at Sisyphus Brewing.
Now in its second year, the Pride shows are packed with surprises, booby prizes, and an ultra-talented lineup of comedians including Sarah McPeck, Amanda Costner, Wendy Berkowitz, and more.
“I do these shows to try and showcase more diversity, but also to celebrate and have a good time,” Faris explains.
With Faris recently taking over main booking duties for the Sisyphus comedy room back in April, her emphasis has been to make comedy feel more accessible, both for performers and fans alike.
“Over the past few years, I think the comedy community has become a lot more diverse and more accepting,” she says. “But I still want new people to come see that comedy is for everyone, and I’m excited to be a part of that change.”
Comedy shows that are focused on promoting diversity have been on the rise beyond Pride weekend, with shows like the Big Fat Comedy Hour at Lush, the Standup Showcase at the Saloon, the monthly People of Comedy showcase at Sisyphus, and Pssy Ctrl at Comedy Corner Underground. Now more than ever, LGBTQ+ comedians and audiences are finding more opportunities to connect and grow the thriving comedy scene.
Xochi de la Luna, who will be performing during the Pride shows on Friday night, has also experienced the change in culture and opportunities locally in recent years.
“There was a period where people made me feel like I shouldn’t be doing comedy because of how I looked or because my comedy wasn’t as traditional,” de la Luna says. “I really didn’t see any diversity. I needed people who look like me to see my comedy, and also see that they could do it too. I wanted to inspire others.”
Alongside fellow comedian Devohn Bland, de la Luna hosts a monthly comedy showcase, Uproar, at Du Nord Craft Spirits, focused on supporting LGBTQ+, minority, and under-represented comedians. They also perform regularly all over town, including the more traditional comedy rooms like House of Comedy, Comedy Corner Underground or 10K Brewing.
“I feel like the culture has changed,” de la Luna continues. “This year we’ve had some of the most diverse lineups I’ve ever seen. I feel like we’re creating a new scene. Now I’m more comfortable stepping into rooms that I don’t curate. It gives me a lot of hope for the city.”
Jan Syverson, who will also be performing at this weekend’s Pride show, is one of the co-founders of Pssy Ctrl, a monthly showcase at Comedy Corner Underground that primarily focuses on female-identifying comedians. While he now lives in Fargo, Syverson has had the opportunity to see the evolving comedy scene through multiple lenses.
“I started doing comedy about seven years ago,” he says. “But there really wasn’t anybody doing anything centered around LGBT people. That’s why I started Pssy Ctrl, because I didn’t think there was enough female-identifying, LGBT-centered shows. And back when I started, I was doing comedy as a lesbian and now I’m doing it as a trans man, so that’s been kind of interesting.”
Thanks to his show and others like it, Syverson says he saw new opportunities begin to open up for performers. Still, he says that finding people like Faris was instrumental in making him feel comfortable on stage.
“Maggie was a breath of fresh air,” he says. “You show up at a club and sometimes you don’t know who you’re working with until they show up. So when I’d see Maggie, I’d be happy and relieved that someone else was doing comedy that was more representative of me and who I am.”
Though Syverson says he doesn’t feel that his material changes much based on the audience, he also adds that shows like the ones happening at Sisyphus this weekend are just as instrumental in making the audience feel comfortable as they are for the performers.
“At a pride show, you know that no one will make fun of your identity or make you feel like crap,” he says. “Even if it’s not intentional. No one is telling you that you aren’t welcome. It gives people the chance to enjoy comedy in ways that they haven’t been able to, and I’m very grateful to be a part of that.”
June 21 & 22
7 & 9:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets