sampsonMccormickarticle

 

He’s a comedian, writer, activist but as Sampson McCormick will tell you – he’s effortlessly funny. To that end, the D.C. native plans to bring a whole lot of laughter to the Bud Light Main Stage when he emcees PrideFest on Saturday, June 28 starting at 12:30 p.m. We caught up with Sampson to talk PrideFest, dealing with homophobia in the black church, and other issues.  

 

What do you have in store for PrideFest audiences this summer?  

 

A whole lot of fun! You know, I really say this because of social media, especially social media – we forget to live in the moment and just take a moment to have a little fun. Wherever we are we’re always taking pictures – and not just taking pictures because do you remember when you used to have the old cameras that you’d have to wind up and drop them off at the store? 

 

Yes! 

 

We don’t have too much of that anymore. We will spend an hour with our phones trying to take the perfect picture. Back then, you took a picture and if it turned out ok, it did and if it didn’t then you just threw it in the trash or hid it in the bottom of your shoe box somewhere. But now we forget to really live in the moment. So it’s just hopefully providing a great enough experience, which most Pride’s usually do, but I know my part as an entertainer is providing a good enough experience there to help you with a laugh and enjoy that moment there.  

 

And of course, celebrate. Pride is definitely a 365 day a year thing that you should be doing but that’s another special day to put extra emphasis on it. So living, having pride in life and having pride in how we love and who we are.  

 

When did you first realize you were funny? I know a lot of LGBT folks growing up using humor as a defense mechanism or as a tool to diffuse situations – was that your experience? 

 

I’ve always noticed that, effortlessly – If I haven’t been able do anything else, if I couldn’t cook, if I couldn’t fight, if I couldn’t do anything else – I could always say or do something that would elicit laughter from people. It’s just something I always realized that I had and really, I didn’t know I was really funny I just knew that people were laughing at what I was doing or saying. Also, in regard to the latter, gay men are really witty. We have this razor sharp wit that will cut you up. What do they call it, throwing shade? Well I know how to throw SHADE! In addition to that, as a black boy growing up and in the black community, we signify, snap, roast, gel on each other, that type of thing. You know, it’s almost verbally comparing criticisms. You’re talking about someone’s mother – it’s put-down’s, basically. Then being a gay man, you learn how to throw shade to defend yourself. So I got it two different kinds of ways. Playing the dozens and throwing shade – it just naturally works.  

 

A lot of your humor deals with the black church and being gay – can you talk a bit about that experience? 

 

Growing up for me in the black church was hell. They used to tell me I was going to hell and I was like, no, this is the hell – I’m there already. I’m from the South and grew up partially in the South and then in D.C. and especially in the black community church is very important to us. We love our Jesus – and it’s something that is handed down to us. We don’t get a chance to ask whether we believe or subscribe to it or whatever. So this is something that was given to me that I learned to embrace, and then all of a sudden because there are one or two things a little bit different about me from everyone else they tried to take that from me and did a lot of damage… 

 

But for the most part, I feel like I’ve gotten to a place now where I have been able to redefine my relationship with God, redefine what God is to me and in turn it’s allowed me to have a better relationship with God and the universe and even myself and other people…  

 

I love your YouTube videos – how to bottom was a riot – you open up welcoming everyone and “you sneaky straight people” lol – what’s the craziest thing a straight fan has asked you about being gay? 

 

I’ve had a few ask: which one knows who’s open up to receive a penis or something like that. I get that a lot. But there’s this one guy, he was really getting into a lot of detail. I was like, stop it because you’re making it sound like a science experiment! You get all kinds of crazy questions and I give them crazy answers.  

 

But on a serious note, comedy does break down a lot of barriers and educates people.  

 

Definitely. It’s definitely something I’ve used to save my own life and I get emotional sometimes talking about this. For the first three years I did comedy I knew I was gay but it wasn’t something that I talked about on stage because I felt, one, it wasn’t anyone’s business and two, I didn’t know how to talk about it. I was going through a really bad breakup, having anxiety about going to hell and my mother was giving me a really hard time about my sexuality. Comedy was the only outlet I had and I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about it because I was very ashamed. I was living in DC and I would go sit at the top of a little cliff overlooking the Potomac river and I actually had to stop myself several times from jumping off that cliff.  

 

So this particular area was right around the corner from a place I used to perform at in the Georgetown area every Wednesday. So before the show I would just sit back there and think and sometimes I would cry and I just thought about how much I hated myself and how disgusting I was. I could almost feel my insides ripping apart. The emotional pain was so intense it was almost a physical pain. What I started doing was writing things down that I hated about myself and instead of me jumping I would throw them off the cliff. I’m glad I was throwing paper off rather than myself off because I’m still here. So when I would leave, I would go on stage and talk about what it was like coming out, what it was like dealing with stereotypes in my community and that was an outlet.  

 

In turn, I would have people come up to me after my shows and say, well, I haven’t seen a gay person before or heard a gay person speak about their experiences, or I’ve never seen a gay black person. I think society teaches us that people only look a certain way. We teach children that people who do bad things only look a certain way or people who are black look a certain way or white folks act a certain way or gay folks only carry purses. And I think when you’re just up there being the teacher and acting like everybody else, they’re like, what?? 

 

Then I started talking about other things that were important to me like friends who had HIV. I don’t know how I made that funny, but I’m glad I did. Because if you get emotional during a show it can really suck the energy out of the room even though it is an interesting story… In the end, the only thing different about us are the labels. 

  

Tell me what individuals or what artists inspire you in your art. 

 

So many, even though I do comedy – It ’s crazy because I lecture sometime, I speak at churches, I do lay preaching in addition to comedy and even though comedy is my first love I draw inspirations from everybody. I draw inspiration from singers and poets and pastors; comedians and actors. Some of my favorites were James Baldwin, who was a writer. His writing—I don’t know if you have to be high to read it—I don’t know, but his writing just has so much depth to it and you have to go back and read it two or three times. And you’ll get something different out of it each time that you do. But to enjoy his writing you really do need to roll one to read. There is also Sylvester, who was a 70’s disco singer, he’s another one. Divine, who was also a singer and drag entertainer. Then my favorite is Whoopie Goldberg. She just has a no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is approach, which I love. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her as well. And other people just because of their visions and the way that they’ve created their foundations, like Oprah Winfrey. I also love people who have certain styles like Angela Bassett. And then other people who know how to work a stage like Patti LaBelle. And people who created a new style of entertainment or way of entertaining like RuPaul. And I take little things from everybody and study what the essence of each of these artists are and what makes them so wonderful for me and I take a little bit of it and almost put it in a pot and stir it up and I apply it to my own persona, along with what I bring to the table myself, as a performing artist.  

 

If you could have a conversation with you younger self what would you tell him? 

 

You will always be that ugly.  

  

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at a Pride celebration? 

 

Oh my God. I love my men in leather. One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen is the time I was first coming out to the festivities and you don’t know anything and see stuff and are like, do I gotta do that to?? I was at a Pride Parade or festival and they had something for everybody. So I went to a leather bar because I just wanted to be out at a club and celebrate gay pride. They were having some sort of event – I don’t’ know what it was – and this guy was in a cage and all he had on was underwear made out of leather and the butt was cut out of them. He was about 6’5” and weighted about 250 pounds and was crammed up in a cage eating dog food and barking at people.

   

What does Pride mean to Sampson McCormick? 

 

Pride means everything. Pride means love and celebration of self. It means enthusiasm about life. It means overcoming obstacles. It means simply living and not being afraid to embrace the life that you have and make the very best out of it.

 

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