After more than six years in comedy, queer Atlanta comedian Ian Aber said he's finally figured out how to win over a gay crowd – the toughest of all audiences he faces.
"Gay people are a pretty tough audience. They're either not going to laugh at all – at all – or they're going to laugh. It's like with a black audience if they don't like you, they are sort of vocal about it. The gay audience it's like whew, icy honey. It's icy," Aber said in a new episode of Podcast Q.
"You'll hear from other gay comics that gay audiences are really difficult because they're judging us the hardest. We all think we're the funniest. We're the funniest person that every straight friend of ours knows," he added.
Aber also discussed how a gay kid from Myrtle Beach, S.C. – one who admits that straight people scared him for many years – found his niche crafting jokes on stages in Atlanta? Flashback to the Eastern Airlines strike of 1989.
"What has to happen is that Eastern Airlines needs to go on strike, ok? And then your father needs to be an Air Force pilot who desperately needs a job and he goes to work as a scab. So we moved here originally for my dad to fly for Eastern Airlines when they were doing their strike and then he ended up losing his job because of course the airline disappeared," Aber explained.
When Aber finally did scratch his comedic itch – and get over his fear of straight people – he faced doubters among friends and colleagues.
"Comedy is a youth obsessed, straight obsessed kind of industry so people thought that was my mid life crisis," Aber said.
But by then, he had already found a level of confidence that comes with age and life experiences.
"I, at 38, had reached the level of, I would just say shamelessness would be the best word for it. I am 38. I'm married. I'm very happy. I'm a heavier guy. I just don't care," Aber said.
"In the gay community sometimes I'm invisible, so I just don't care. I just decided I didn't care anymore and I didn't care what straight people thought anymore, either. And it used to be I didn't want to make other gay people look bad or bring too much attention to myself. I just got over that. It took 38 years to figure out that I was okay with talking in front of people. It can be terrifying for sure," he added.
On the new episode, Aber also discusses why he's giving up his corporate job to go all in on comedy, his new role at Laughing Skull Lounge, how he works his husband into his material and how he handles comedians who crack anti-LGBT jokes.
"When the happens, I feel like the Holy Spirit takes over and there's no way I'm not going to address it. When that happens, I'm like oh that happened in front of me for a reason and now I'm going to go out there and hand that motherfucker his ass. I'm going to make my whole set about that," Aber said.
Catch Ian Aber's latest show, "Sweetbabycheeses: A Comedy Show and Grilled Cheese Extravaganza," on Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. at Relapse Theater. You can also read his new column in Q magazine.
Photo by Joeff Davis courtesy Ian Aber