Laugh out loud. Live out proud.
The Stanislaus PRIDE Center, the county's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender support center, continues its gay pride celebration with Live! Love! Laugh! A Night of Queer Comedy on Saturday at the State Theatre.
Performing will be Bay Area comics Karen Ripley, Dana Corey and Nick Leonard. The event is part of the PRIDE Center's ongoing pride celebrations, which started last month with the Spring Fling Dance.
They continue next month with a historical GLBT photo exhibit at Deva Cafe and culminate Sept. 27 with Stanislaus PRIDE Day 2008 at Graceada Park.
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"Our 2008 pride committee decided to build on the momentum created from the past two years' local pride celebrations and make the celebration year-round," said Keith Highiet, center board president. "Pride -- as a celebration -- happens in the form of a festival just once a year, but there is a demand for more happenings and activities in our area all year long. We're responding to that demand with more and varied offerings in 2008."
Headliner Ripley is 30-year comedy veteran. The East Bay-based performer got her start in 1977 performing at gay clubs. At the time, openly gay comics were just coming onto the scene. Over the years, she has performed in front of straight and gay audiences. Today, she works primarily within the gay community and said it's become both easier and more challenging for out comics.
With more towns and cities holding gay pride events and more universities and festivals opening up to diversity, she said the opportunities are there. But, she said, with more opportunities comes more competition.
"In the early days, it was exciting because I was unique," she said. "There weren't that many out lesbian comics. Now, I just saw an article that listed gay women comics and it had 75-80 names. In a way, it's harder to get work, but now it's more acceptable."
Highiet said the center wanted to hold a comedy night as a fun event for the community.
"The night of queer comedy at the State Theatre is a great and unique format for part of our yearlong celebration," he said. "We don't have many openly gay comics performing in town very often. Folks usually have to travel out of the area -- to the Bay, Sacramento or Fresno -- for this brand of comedy."
Besides performing, Ripley has taught improv classes in the Bay Area since the late '70s. The night's other comedians, Corey and Leonard, were her students, and she said the Modesto audience can expect to see a group improv.
The rest of her act, she said, is one-liners and material that ranges from silly to thought-provoking and gay-themed.
While this isn't Ripley's first time performing in Modesto -- she's appeared for various groups over the years -- she said she is encouraged to see the community embrace gay pride.
"To me, it's exciting to go to these (smaller communities) where people want to celebrate," she said. "They have more courage than those of us with thousands to watch our backs."