James Adomian returns to Atlanta this weekend to add his own supplemental Pride magic. This time, he’s packing. The gay comic and actor with ever-growing cred is back to headline at Laughing Skull with a movie and new TV deal under his belt.
Atlanta-bred Adomian (video above from “Last Comic Standing”) busted our guts with his spot-on impressions and intelligent comedy last time and schooled us on gay comics with an in-depth interview the time before that. He’s been wowing audiences with his stand up for years, but he may just be poised to break through into the mainstream zeitgeist once and for all.
Local gay comic Ian Aber will host Adomian’s shows, which run Thursday through Sunday. Aber catches up with Adomian for Project Q to talk comedy, acting and why he can’t live without hot, hot wrestling.
What are your thoughts on Atlanta and its audiences?
Laughing Skull is a really fun venue for performers and the audience. I popped in and did some feature spots before I headlined there, and I love it. Atlanta is fantastic. I grew up there as a kid in the ‘80s and moved away but still go back there a lot. I have a lot of friends and family in Atlanta.
Who are some Atlanta based comics you think Project Q readers should check out?
Well of course my good friend Gilbert Lawand, a fixture of the Atlanta comedy scene, is one of my favorites. Clayton English is hilarious as well. Atlanta has a great comedy scene, oh and not to mention, holding down on the Queer side, Ian Aber.
You were born in Omaha, lived in Atlanta and then moved to Los Angeles. Was each a culture shift for you? Did they have any affect on your impressions and acting skills?
Well, I am was born and only lived in Omaha for a couple months so the only relevance there was the fact that I was teased in Atlanta for being a Yankee as a kid. I used to have a southern accent that faded away as I grew older but I can still do it when I need too (in long southern drawl). The more perspectives you have in life the better. I have lived a lot of different lives, not just geographically.
You recently killed with your Gay Villains material on “John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show,” and I noticed that you led that segment with being gay. Was that a matter of timing, or a conscious decision to put that out there in the front of the set?
Good eye. That was a matter of timing. Usually I bring it up a few minutes into my sets. For some audiences, I may be the only gay person for like, that month or something so I try to gauge how gay or gay friendly the audience is the first night I am at a place. I’ll start talking about the news or local things, the city and if the audience is already on my side, then I can spend the rest of the time talking about what I want to talk about. The problem with television is that you don’t have the time to do all that.
It is risky to open up like that to a national television audience with “I’m gay.” You have a lot of people who suddenly start judging you, but I had to do it for time and I tried to do it as effortlessly as possible. In the end I was really quite happy with the way it came out.
I was also pleasantly surprised that somebody on Tumblr took my set from the show and turned it into a series of animated gifs and that got a lot attention. I had never had one of my videos turned into an animated gif like that before and it got picked up by some of the queer bloggers and that was pretty cool because sometimes it gets demoralizing to be doing pro-gay material to straight audiences over and over again.
How has being gay affected your stand up career versus your acting career?
I started doing stand-up, partly for fun, on a whim just to do something new because I was doing sketch comedy and acting before that. In sketch comedy, you never perform as yourself, and I honestly think that it is not an accident why there are more gay people in sketch comedy then there are in stand-up because you are not playing yourself. I don’t think it is a method to hide necessarily, just a rhythm people fall into.
When I started doing stand-up and realized I was talking as myself for the first time in years, I said ‘”Why don’t I started talking about my own life?” It was a fun game to see that I can talk about myself being gay and my life, my ups and downs with men that I love. In the process of doing that, I stumbled onto the idea of attacking homophobia itself for humorous effect, which is very rewarding, because a lot of us in the LGBT community experience this additional unnecessary hardship that kills a lot of us it is so bad. At one point, I felt I had grown up enough and want to address this as part of my act.
Do you think there is a shared Queer Comedic sensibility?
There may have been at one time, I am not sure that is true now. There is definitely gay comedy with a capital G and a capital C but there is also comedy that is performed by gay people and that comedy is for everyone. I feel like America accepted lesbian comedians to the mainstream and they are now getting to gay men and other groups that identify in the LGBT and Queer spectrum.
You have been very fruitful in podcasts, including “Comedy Bang Bang,” “The Todd Glass Show” and “WTF with Marc Maron.” What do you like about the podcast format?
I was a radio geek when I was a kid and used to listen to radio shows a lot. There is a magic to the theater of the mind, where the listeners are piecing together the details and visualizing it themselves. Much in the same way a reader can visualize the details of a book. You can create a lot through audio and sound effects that coupled with the imagination the audience brings to it as well makes great entertainment.
Podcasts have been really good to me because podcasts took a chance on me, because there is no overhead and they don’t pay. You just show up and do your idea and nobody really tells you what to do. You don’t have to worry about what the advertisers or censors will think of the content, at least not yet. The only drawback to podcasts is that you are improvising everything for the first time and it is really raw and unpolished. It is an underground art form. It is fan driven and performer driven and not the same gatekeepers and middle men that you find in most media.
I am an actor as well as a comedian and been auditioning for stuff for years and I would be lying if I didn’t say that there wasn’t extra obstacles for an out gay performer in television. They’re certainly are and you certainly lose out on opportunities because you are gay. That has much less of an effect or impact in podcasts or in live comedy than it does on television because the real world is a lot less homophobic than the television industry would have us believe.
What are some of your favorite recent and all-time favorite movies?
Recent movies: “The World’s End,” “Elysium” and the new Pedro Almodóvar film “I’m So Excited.” I adore Pedro Almodóvar.
As a kid, I loved Mel Brooks movies. I still love them. Also I loved the movie “Clue.” I remember seeing it and thinking, “Holy Shit! grown ups can do that for a living? I want to do that!”
What role would you want to play if they were re-making Clue?
Wadsworth of course!
What’s your favorite way to waste a day?
I walk. I walk all over the place. I don’t know if walking has ever been legalized in Atlanta, but I love to go on walks or hikes. I’ll arrange my day so I can talk a long walk at the end of the day or hike somewhere. Also, I love to see live music.
What can you not live without?
Water (laughs) and hot, hot wrestling.
Who is your favorite wrestler?
Currently, Zema Ion (giggles) Zema Ion! He’s so so hot! Back in the day, definitely Rick Rude.
You are starring in David Cross’ upcoming indie comedy directorial debut “Hits.” What can you tell us about it?
The movie was really fun to make and is really funny. It was the most fun I have ever had filming anything. David Cross was awesome to work with. He has kind of a sourpuss persona, if you know him as a comedian, but he is such a delight to work with. He set the tone of everyone having a funny good time. It is really hard to shoot a movie. Lots of things can go wrong and it is long days, but it was a pleasant experience the whole time.
My character is an activist who gets involved in a local politics fight for no good reason except to become famous. In a way, I played like I was making fun of myself because I have been fairly political active for somebody who doesn’t really care about much. It should be out spring 2014.
Any advice for up and coming gay comedians or actors?
You can come out of the closet professionally. It is probably easier if you are out from the beginning, but that’s the way I did it. There will be obstacles among straight people whether they are homophobic or not, who think gay people can’t play straight or who think you can only play a villain and not a hero. And there may also be weird shit from gay people. Sometimes we tear down our own as ruthlessly as our enemies would. If you are going to go into it, be ready for it and you got to have fun with the adversity.
If race, gender and age were not an issue, what role would you want to play and why?
I have a list of those people and usually end up doing them. For instance, I played Friedrich Nietzsche on Paul F. Tompkin’s “Dead Authors” podcast and always wanted to because of what a lunatic he is. So when Paul was like, “Do you want to play a dead author?” I was like “Fuck Yeah! Nietzsche because he’s nuts.”
I always thought it would be fun to play Rasputin or Maximilien de Robespierre from the French Revolution. He is such a hypocrite and psychopath, and that has to be fun to play!
If 13 year old James Adomian could see you now, what would he say?
(Laughs) He’d probably be way more impressed and happy with where I am professionally than I am now. He’d be like “Wow! You did it!” and I’d be like “Shut up kid! You don’t know what I’m up against!”
What question are you always asked in interviews?
You didn’t ask many of them, but they usually are “What got you into comedy?” or “Where did you start or do part of your act?”
What question do you wish interviewers would ask?
I play a kind of a laid back passive game, so I’ll dance to whatever tune you play me.
James Adomian headlines Laughing Skull Lounge Oct. 10-13 with local gay comic Ian Aber as host. At the time of this interview, Adomian mentioned that he is in talks for a possible show on IFC. On Sept. 30, it was announced that the development deal was a go. “The Embassy” is being written by Adomian and Scott Aukerman and will be set in a fictional Washington, D.C., embassy. It follows a hacktivist who's trying to be granted asylum, and Adomian will play multiple characters.