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Inside With: Shawn Hollenbach, Showman & Control FreakBy: Andrew Singer

Photo via Shawn Hollenbach
"The unicorn is the only fabulous beast that does not seem to have been conceived out of human fears" --Marianna Mayer | Photo via Shawn Hollenbach

Comedian, improviser and musician Shawn Hollenbach is a nonstop-action machine. Like most New York-comedy hustlers, he can be seen nightly, either performing or co-producing shows like The Back Room, The Kevin Murphy Show and Meat and Potatoes. An all-around nice guy with a radiating smile, Hollenbach is the host of "Busted" on here! TV. Our resident evil master Andrew "Soce the Elemental Wizard" Singer recently caught up with Hollenbach to discuss reaching out to an audience, the differences between performing for a gay and a straight crowd and his plans to take over the world.

How many different live shows are you involved in right now? How do you find manage to keep abreast of everything?
I have my hands in five shows right now. My baby, Closet Cases, is a monthly show where gay performers share their coming-out stories on stage. I also am co-producing Meat and Potatoes, a show where folks who grew up poor share their experiences with Carolyn Castiglia, The Back Room, a gay-themed comedy show at Ochi's Lounge in Comix, The Skip and Sparkle Variety Show, and finally The Kevin Murphy Show, a Straight Bostonian/Japanese/Gay variety show where I play Jodi Murphy at Hugs in Brooklyn. I love to produce because I'm a control freak. I feel really spread thin a lot of the times, but I work with great teams.

Skip Lickdale (Hollenbach) & Sparkle Montgomery (Katina Corrao) | Photo via Shawn Hollenbach
Photo via Shawn Hollenbach

How did you get your own show with here! TV? What do you think of the experience so far? How long does it take to put each episode together?
I've done a few podcasts with them (Hot Gay Comics, Josh and Sara and Topical) and they thought I was a good fit for their video podcast called "Busted." It's been going well and I think I'm starting to find my groove with the show, every week gets better. We tape on Wednesday and post on Friday. Since the show is so topical, we have to write pretty close to the airing. My co-writer, Laura Mannino and I pull stories over the weekend and really fine tune things on Monday and Tuesday.

There are numerous comedy camps throughout the city. How would you describe the vibe of the general set of performers to whom you're closest?
I feel that I'm trying hard with others to build a gay comedy mafia. I feel especially for gay males, there aren't a lot of slots for them. How many popular gay male comedians can you count? I think I'm part of the new class of gay comedy. We've totally been inspired by the upper classmen, The Funny Gay Males (Bob Smith, Jaffe Cohen, Danny McWilliams and Eddie Sarfaty.) They are hysterical, genius writers and have really paved the way for present and future homo comics.

Not the twin brother | Photo via Shawn Hollenbach
Photo via Shawn Hollenbach

Have you and your twin brother ever hit the stage together?
He's funny but not a performer. His passion is racing. I'd rather see him on the track than on stage. He'd agree. He wouldn't even come on Tyra to talk about being gay/straight twins!

How does it feel to perform as an out gay comedian? How do you think things would be different if you were straight?
I can't imagine being a closeted comedian. I was contacted by a manager last year who wanted me to jump back in the closet. No way. I spent almost 20 years of my life in there -- it gets musty. If I were straight ... I don't even want to think about it.

Do you prefer to do gay shows or straight shows, and why? Is there a difference?
I'll do either. A stage is a stage, a mic is a mic. I must say that straight shows are easier. Gays are a tough audience because you have to be larger than life to impress them. Think Kathy Griffin, Drag Queens and Mario Cantone. Larger than life. Plus if you're a guy comic, especially a cute one, the gay guys would rather sleep with you than hear about your hilarious phone call with your grandma.

Hollenbach in "Second Guessing Grandma" | Photo via Shawn Hollenbach
Photo via Shawn Hollenbach

I've noticed that you do not only standup as yourself but also often take on the role of fictional characters. Which do you prefer, and why? What have been some of your favorite roles you've taken on?
I like both. I love to perform. My only stipulation is that if I play a character they MUST talk to the audience. I HATE the fourth wall. That's why I'm not an actor, why talk to one person on stage when you're ignoring everyone in the audience. I'd feel like a bad host. My favorite character is Skip of Skip and Sparkle with Katina Corrao!

I'm also acting as well -- who knew? I'm in a short film by Bob Giraldi and written by Eddie Sarfaty called "Second Guessing Grandma" that's doing the festival circuit right now. I have two other projects filming right now as well.

What was your first gig like, and how did that propel you into comedy?
My first stand up gig was about five years ago. It was a room called the Comedy Social at Sin Sin. I was invited to go by a co-worker to meet another gay performer. I was doing improv at the time and my friends and I fell in love with the show (not the comic) and they asked us to perform stand up. It was a very warm room and the perfect first time.

--Andrew Singer performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard."

Shawn's homepage
"Busted" on YouTube
Closet Cases
Meat and Potatoes
The Back Room
The Skip and Sparkle Variety Show
The Kevin Murphy Show

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Reader Comments (1)

Great interview Soce-tional. "I was contacted by a manager last year who wanted me to jump back in the closet. No way." Holy crap! Thanks for keeping it real, Shawn, and standing up for the truth.
August 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAbbi Crutchfield

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