Nominally, a Gay Straight Alliance is a pupil-based group found in some (though sadly too few) US schools, which meets regularly to discuss issues around homosexuality in order to increase understanding and reduce bigotry, ignorance and bullying. However, the Gay Straight Alliance which has recently set up home in the basement of the Phoenix Bar on Broughton Street has added a slight twist to this; yes, it’s about dispelling stereotypes, but it also has the aim of ‘proving that gays and straights are equally awful’. It does this through some excellent humour.
This particular Alliance consists of three stand-up comedians from New York — a lesbian, a straight woman and a gay man — who have come to spread the word in the old country. Though, as Veronica Elizabeth notes, she was initially wary of Scotland given her ‘Angela’s Ashes’ experience of visiting the old ancestral home in Ireland. Taking in subjects ranging from travel (especially Japan) to the stresses of online dating sites, Veronica is a relaxed and amusing raconteur, who certainly opened many of the audience’s minds to an often overlooked aspect of the Diary of Anne Frank.
Passing the microphone on to Alyssa Wolff proved an interesting change of tone, as her onstage persona is deadpan, verging on intimidatory. Introducing herself as Britney Spears, she is the “token straight” of the three, who nevertheless loves the gays, not least because she believes they make far better boyfriends without all that vagina-fixation. Alyssa is not afraid of the long pause and is she’s experienced enough to make the most of its comedic possibilities. She’s not afraid to give her audience time to laugh during her tales of daytime TV, the silly things all men say and her disregard for childhood imagination.
Last, but by no means least, is Kenny Neal, a self-declared SF/horror geek who can’t help but wonder where all the gay ghosts and zombies are. Although describing himself as having been an effeminate boy, he now believes he can now ‘pass for straight’ (especially if he’s wearing the right cap), although he accepts that sooner or later he’ll out himself, usually by how he reacts to any woman. Still, at some of the audience discovered, he likes to think he’s as respectful to the feelings of straight men as they are to women’s!
Although there’s occasionally a sense of cultural references losing some power in their translation into British English, this particular Gay Straight Alliance are a well-matched trio who create a show that has a strong sense of unity despite their individual styles and points of view. Although it may not present itself as being the most radical of comedies on the Fringe this year, it’s arguable that — by avoiding being either too earnest or politically correct, and instead focusing on people just being people — it ends up being precisely that.