This fall has been a whirlwind for Chanty Marostica, Toronto-based stand-up comedian. On September 20, they came out to their parents as trans. Later that day, they became the first trans person to ever perform an hour-long set at Toronto’s Just For Laughs (JFL) 42 comedy festival. A little over a week later, Marostica won Sirius XM’s ninth annual national Top Comic contest, taking home $25,000 and guaranteed spots at JFL’s esteemed counterparts in Montreal, Vancouver, and Sydney, Australia.
And a few weeks later, on October 27, they released their first comedy album, The Chanty Show. The hour-long set—which touches on catcalling, their so-called celebrity doppelgangers, and how unsafe women feel at all times—became an immediate hit, landing in the number one spot on iTunes’ top comedy albums just two days after its release.
Coming out of this whirlwind, Marostica sat down with VICE to share their experiences learning to talk about transness onstage, their takeaways from Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, and their thoughts on the comedy community’s can address its problems with inclusion.
VICE: So how have things been for you since JFL42 and winning Top Comic?
Chanty Marostica: That was such a whirlwind week, it was the best week of my life. I came out to my parents, and then had the JFL42 shows….I won top comic and it was just really overwhelming, for the week after it was from 7 AM to 7 PM interviews all day long, and I was like, ‘I usually don’t get out of bed!’ Since that set and since exploring transness for the full hour and not being afraid of it anymore, it’s just felt so freeing and my relationship with my parents has just really opened up, and my mom casually calls me her son—just on Facebook comments, I don’t wanna push it. I’ve been writing so much more about being a guy and what that’s like and it just feels like in the last month my life got to where I wanted it to be for a long time, and it just feels like a huge sigh of relief. Like things are OK.
You told me that a lot of the material that you performed during your hour at JFL42 was new material. Which parts were new?
About 60 percent of it. I had just started talking about being trans like, a month before, on stage, or two months before, and even then, I only had one joke about it and the rest was the stuff I had built on or was editing down, so it was all really fresh and new. And then about 30 minutes of that material was things that I wrote that morning, about what happened in that conversation with my parents, how I felt about coming out, and what I’ve thought about saying out loud about wanting to be a good man, and being an ally to women, and then a lot of it onstage I just said in the moment. And I could see, there’s a lot of cis heterosexual white men that just get really mad when you talk about men being shitty, and it’s like, if you’re not part of the conversation to change why men are shitty then go. And then they tense up and are like “ugh” but by the end of the show they’re like, “oh, they’re funny, and it’s not about me.”
Something you did during your JFL42 hour was tell self-deprecating jokes and then unpack to the audience why you choose tell these types of jokes, and it reminded me a lot of what Hannah Gadsby famously does in Nanette. Do you see any parallels between the two?
I was expecting people to be like, “ugh this was like ‘ Nanette 2,’ bleh.” But that day, and that week, as I was unpacking trying to come out as trans to my parents, and actually publicly say instead of just kind of like, alluding to it, was that every single one of my jokes exists for a reason, and Hannah Gadsby, when I watched it, I had been feeling that. Because it’s about being visibly trans on stage—it’s not marketable, trans men especially, are not marketable, they’re not sexy to the media, so you don’t see them. It’s scary to talk about, but if you don’t talk about it, you’ll never see it. So I was like, “why do I talk about anything?” and I got to unpack it because of different people in my life and because of other trans people in my life, and because I saw Nanette. I’m not gonna say that that didn’t change how I wanted to do comedy, but I just wanted to tell my joke, but also be like, this is exactly why I have to do this.
It puts a little bit of the onus on the audience, too, I think, because it forces them to reflect upon when and why they laugh at someone on stage self-deprecating.
In Nanette she really talks a lot about self-deprecation and how she doesn’t like doing it anymore, and for me, that’s not something that I’ve been exploring, I just wanted to break down some of my jokes so that the audience understood, to be safe in comedy, I’ve had to lie, or I’ve had to make you feel so comfortable with me being gay to be able to talk about being gay. That’s not even self-deprecating, it’s just, holding someone’s hand, and I was like, I don’t need to hold your hand. You should be able to meet a trans person and not be scared for your life.
You have some other jokes about how comedy’s not safe for anyone that’s not a cis, straight, white man. What do you think as a community comedy needs to do to become a welcoming place for marginalized people?
Recognizing that it’s not a welcoming place, not lying about it. Any time a woman has anything to say about how they feel unsafe, it’s just gaslit to the point where they delete their comments. But comedy is very unsafe for women and I can say that out loud, because I look like this. And when women say that, they get disrespected or not booked. And I get to talk about it because I don’t take for granted that I haven’t looked like a woman for a very long time. I think that, people when they hear something about what they do wrong, their immediate reaction is to be like “No, I didn’t, fuck you, you’re lying!” but atonement and accountability is the only thing we can do to change. It’s so hard to face your own phobias and react in way that’s conducive to change, but that’s the only way we can grow as people, is unlearning all the garbage we’ve been told our whole lives.
Since winning Top Comic and doing your JFL42 hour, the media and fans have deemed you a trailblazer, as the first out trans person to do both. Do you find being a “first” to be an honour, or does it ever feel tokenizing or burdening?
I’m excited about it because it’s 2018 and for me it’s not so much an honour, it’s like, ‘look at that.’ It’s 2018 and I’m the first person. These huge things have existed for even longer than I’ve been doing stand up, and I’m the first, and the only reason is because I’ve been doing it for 14 years as a woman. And then I came out as trans. If I was an out passing trans person, if I had already transitioned and started comedy, I wouldn’t be in any of the positions I’m in right now, so it is like, an honour, but I guess it’s also an education for people that it’s like, we need to catch up really quickly.
When you’re not winning awards you also produce a show for up-and-coming queer comedians, Queer and Present Danger. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
It’s my touring queer comedy showcases. Our community needs to be bigger and our community needs to be recognized, because there are queer comics that just aren’t out because it’s not safe, or they’re not doing comedy because they feel there’s not a space for them….I started the up-and-comers because I didn’t want them to have the same experience as I did coming up. I was the only woman, and then I was the only queer person, and then I was the only trans person, I’ve always been the only one, and it’s so jarring to be so alone, and to feel unsafe.
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