Comedy: Getting Off in 'The Back Room'

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“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the truth will set you free,” says Dave Rubin, a comedian who in a state of rest, appears as if an idea is hatching inside his noggin. “Now, I’m just the same person I was, but onstage I’m fuller and more open and honest, you know, all that corny shit that will make you funny.”

The truth, he means here, is that he’s a gay American. When Rubin came out two years ago, he wasn’t met with relentless scorn, hostile derision or frequent stonings as you might expect. Quite mercifully, the opposite had taken place: He opened himself up to a world of opportunity that didn’t exist before. Rubin, who has the ability to fly low under gaydar, has always had various pokers in the fire; but it seems that after learning not to fear the flames, his career has gone up up up—like that gay yodeling mountain man from The Price Is Right.

“Almost right after coming out, things started falling into place for me,” Rubin says. “I host “Hot Gay Comics” for Here!, a podcast where I interview gay comedians, and I host another one called “Topical” where I discuss current events with other comedians both gay and straight. My main thing cooking now is that I will be doing a sitcom for Here!, called The Dave Rubin Project.”

With his TV series, Rubin intends to show you can be a funny gay male without pandering to the tired stereotypes. “My hope is that my sitcom will take gay television into the next logical step, which is people on TV who are gay, but not all about them being gay,” he says.

This sitcom is a long time coming for Rubin, and I question whether it would have ever been offered had he not turned out and proud and found his niche. I remember reading an interview with him on Gothamist a few years ago, and he sounded so full of energy, determination and frustration. He was running his own venue, trying to make inroads in the flatlining club comedy world and not getting what he desired out of it. It was clear from the Q&A that he desperately wanted his own TV show, but it was unclear how he would make it happen. Who’d have thought that all it takes is twice daily positive energy transfers to a collage of Ray Romano photos to make one’s dreams come true? Just kidding—that probably didn’t happen.

Together with his friends Shawn Hollenbach, Allen Warnock and Paul Case, they host “The Back Room,” an evening of gay comedy at Ochi’s Lounge every Thursday. The Back Room is descended from a previous punny venture called Thursgay which ran weekly at Mo Pitkin’s until that space’s demise. Ochi’s publicist, Kambri Crews, says of The Back Room boys, “They run such a solid, fun show and are so friendly. Straight or gay, everyone likes getting on their stage—not getting off.”

When asked whether a gay comedy scene exists, Rubin explains, “There is a gay comedy community, if for no other reason than there are suddenly a lot of gay comics.  I think we’re like gremlins, you throw water on us and we multiply.” I bet this community has some great “Men are like this, other men are like this” knee-slappers.

As Pride Week comes to a head, and the throngs of dudes in thongs prepare to strut down Fifth Avenue, Dave looks back on his career and candidly reveals, “I’m just entering my 10th year of stand-up and somehow I managed to do it for almost eight years in the closet. For some time I lied about my sexuality, then I omitted it and finally I admitted it.” Before you jot, “Tell everyone you’re gay, get TV deal” in your Moleskine, I think the true lesson to be gleaned from Dave’s story is that comedy is predicated on honesty: Without it, you’re just stunting your potential.

The Back Room at Ochi’s Lounge at Comix, 353 W. 14th St. (east of 9th Ave.), 212-524-2500; Thursdays at 9, free + one item minimum.

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