In a world that can be challenging, laughter remains the best medicine for escaping the madness of life. Life for the LGBTQ community is often a rocky navigation along the road of self-discovery, acceptance and inclusion. Oftentimes, taking time to laugh at ourselves can be just what the doctor ordered.
Even though cisgender heterosexual males continue to dominate the comedy scene and LGBTQ representation lags far behind, there’s a new name to add to the list of Queer comics sharing a prescription of laughter: Shaine O. Laine.
A native Charlottean, Laine resides in the University City area and began working professionally as a comedian just about a year ago. Laine identifies as a Pansexual Trans Male and literally “came out” [as a Trans Man] on stage, during one of his comedy routines. However, Laine’s comedic roots started well before then, Laine says.
‘I was raised with a family who always jokes around a lot and had fun with each other, so I think being around whimsical [behavior] has inspired me and always found its way into my comedy.”
Ironically, Laine’s full-time comedy career began to blossom when he was being offered a promotion on his then full-time job as an Assistant Manager at a fitness center. “I’ve done comedy for four years, but this year was the first that I left the corporate workforce completely and only to do comedy.”
What prompted such a bold move?
I had been offered a promotion, there was so much happening at the gym I worked at. Lots of people were being promoted and moved up. I thought to myself I’m already not having a lot of time to do comedy in my current position, but with a promotion I knew I’d have even less time. I wanted to make sure I could do comedy before anything else, so I put in my 30-day notice and told them respectfully, I really don’t want to come back [when they made the offer for me to return later if I wanted].
What was coming out as a Trans man on stage like?
It was really interesting. One day I was going to a show and was about to do my typical Cis female routine and I was like, I don’t really think this is it. I just thought it was now or never and went from there. The audience that night could tell it was a moment for me, so they were very respectful, especially for in the south. When I perform in the South, that’s where I get most of my tell-tale signs that an audience isn’t vibing with things. They’re a little more testy, a little more conservative about certain topics like Trans jokes. I was once called the F word, but I was able to flip that around by thanking the heckler for calling me a man. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” I told him.
That night when I came out on stage, I did hear one person audibly gasp from the audience. I said, man I just said I was Trans, I’m not a ghost – and the audience took it from there. They were able to be [supportive], on board with me during the process of that five-minute set.
Do you tell audiences that you’re Trans? Do you include your Trans identity within your comedy routines?
I do, but I don’t tell them until the very end or midway throughout. If it’s a 10-minute set I might do six or seven minutes on material that’s not Trans related and then finish it up with Trans material.
Are there any topics that you believe to be taboo or are off limits and not funny?
I would say taboo, but I wouldn’t say off limits, I feel like in this day and age, everyone tries everything. I remember seeing a straight cis guy doing jokes about the gay community and it was good. He wasn’t punching down, just telling jokes from his perspective.
Who are the comedians who inspire you?
I was raised on Lucile Ball, watching “I Love Lucy” all the time. I watched a lot of “Green Acres” with my grandmother. She has a cookie jar that plays the show’s theme song whenever you open the lid. <chuckles> The first comedian that I ever saw and understood was a guy named Tim Hawkins.
What personally makes you laugh?
I am a sucker for cartoons in general, I like “Family Guy” and “Inside Job” on Netflix. One of my comedy goals is to create an adult cartoon. That style of fourth wall slapstick, if that makes any sense. That kinda vibe, but a little bit darker as well. In art, especially in theater, when the actors break that barrier between them and the audience and acknowledge that the audience is watching them, they’ve broken/eliminated what’s called the fourth wall. Slap stick is more of a Charlie Chaplin kind of vibe with physical humor. The quickness, that one two punch style is what I enjoy.
How would you define your style of comedy?
Because I have so much more time to focus on my comedy now, I’m starting to notice more [about my style and delivery]. I do a lot of storytelling as well as quick audience interactions that get us right back to telling the story.
How do you keep audiences laughing when you perform?
I wish I could figure that out myself. There are times that I’ll do one set and do the same one somewhere else and get nothing from that audience. I feel like being able to understand where the audience is coming from allows me to figure out where I should be coming from.
Where can folks catch you performing?
Recently I performed in the Queen City Comedy Show, twice. I would have done more shows with them but then I had my first international experience performing in Canada. It’s going well, but the schedule has conflicted with being able to do more local and Queen City Comedy Show performances.
What’s in the future for you?
I’m in the process of gaining momentum on a new project. I’m creating a Queer talent agency, a production house: Aqronym. It’s an organization that will showcase Queer artists.
As part of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Queen City Comedy Experience and to close out Charlotte Pride, Shaine O. Lane will host and appear in AQRONYM, a queer variety production that showcases LGBTQ comedians in a mixture of stand-up and interactive sketches. The presentation takes place Thursday, August 25 at 7 p.m. at Optimist Hall, located at 1115 North Brevard Street. Other comics included on the bill are Jack Crissey, Allie Johns, Moira Goree, Ladianne Henderson and Gary Knight. For more details, go here.