Comedian and Stand UP NBC finalist Ian Aber just released his first-ever studio album, Night Suga, where he expounds on body image, being an openly queer person for over 30 years in the industry, and the travails of being older in a youth-obsessed culture and industry.
In Sugar, Aber creates an intimate evening of comedy where he takes the listener on a wild ride through the playful and often satirical outsider lens in which he views the world. Weaving between quick-paced jokes and passionate storytelling.
— Ian Aber (@ABearComedian) November 6, 2019
A child of a Chilean immigrants, Aber highlights the diversity, humanity, and humor in being part of a multicultural family.
My mom is from Chile but I keep my hot sauce in the frig so I identify as white
— Ian Aber (@ABearComedian) October 29, 2019
GayNrd: What is it like being older in a youth-obsessed culture and industry? It definitely has its ups and downs. Weirdly, it’s not the comedy audience that cares about how old I am at all, they only care whether you are funny or not. That’s it. The stand-up comedy industry looks at stand-ups in their 20’s and applies this false assumed longevity to the person, as if they will automatically be able to have a 20 plus year career. Then they look at people in the 30’s and 40’s and there is an expiration date stamped on our sides and it can be problematic. I do find my age and experience are an asset to my comedy though, and it really shows in the way the audiences respond to my act. I have fans that first saw me as freshmen in college and fans my parents’ age and both can be in the same show and enjoy it, so the industry misses that in the equation of who has value and who does not.
When did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
I figured it out when I was 38 and had a 15 plus year career in it where I was always being told how funny I was. I finally decided to try it out and immediately knew it was my calling, so to speak. Retroactively, I realize that I had always wanted to be a stand-up comedian but being queer seemed to conflict with that desire on every level throughout my youth. I was constantly having my behavior corrected to act more “straight” as a child and often that was me also trying to be funny. So I conflated being queer and being funny into behaviors I had to hide. Now I feel like I am making up for lost time, trying the be the audacious queer person I was supposed to be all along.
Is there one instance of overt homophobia that stands out/was particularly pernicious? Homophobia in stand up comedy operates on three levels. The first and most overt is if an audience has a homophobic reaction to a joke. I produce a show called ABCD Show (A Burlesque Comedy Drag Show) that is truly one of the queerest shows I work on and I was in the middle of doing a 20 minute closing set on the show, when a woman in the 3rd row stands up and points at me and tells me “You bring shame on the city of Atlanta.”
Now she had just sat through and hour of drag queens and gender-nonconforming burlesque but I somehow was too much. I told her the only shame in Atlanta was the cut and fit or her blouse and the room exploded and booed her out of the space.
All drugs are edibles of you don’t care what they taste like
— Ian Aber (@ABearComedian) November 6, 2019
The second way and more difficult to navigate is when another comedian on a show has gone before you and said or done something incredibly homophobic in their act.
In these cases, I feel an obligation to address what was said but I believe it still has to be with humor or to take their joke and turn it back on them. The one that sticks out the most was about 4 years ago, a straight women before me did this joke about how can’t be friends with gay men because they are always trying to fuck her man (sounded like a personal problem to me) and her closer was about how you can tell if a man is gay, drop you car keys and if he try to pick them up with his ass cheeks, he is gay. I don’t know why this pissed me off so much, probably because it was so stupid, but I went on after her and took out my keys and dropped them on the stage and said “Oh No! I dropped my keys” and then spent the rest of my set trying to pick them up with my butt cheeks until I finally say into the mic “Oh, I guess I could pick up these keys with my hands, like a human fucking being. The audience went crazy for all of this but inside I was still angry that I even had to follow that. On the outside, it was a triumph but on the inside, it was a failure because that is not what I had come to tell the jokes I had prepared that night and didn’t get to do that because of a homophobe.
a Tik Tok
of a Snapchat
of a Tweet
and call it original content,
— Ian Aber (@ABearComedian) October 30, 2019
The final way and most difficult to know whether it is even happening is the homophobia that leads to exclusion or being overlooked. This is the one that will keep you up at night because stand up comedy is still an overwhelmingly straight and male endeavor so there a lot of instances where queer people are not included on lineups of shows and whether that is an oversight or intentional. Ultimately, this is causing more queer comics to start producing their own shows in cities all over the country and becoming part of the infrastructure of their scenes in a way that queer people never have before in comedy.
Who are some of your comedy idols?
As a child: Carol Burnett, Jack Benny, Paul Lynde, Lawanda Page, Paula Poundstone, and Margaret Cho were all huge influences. Now I adore James Adomian, Guy Branum, Rory Scovel, Baron Vaughn, Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian, Jen Kirkman, and Joel Kim Booster
Also, my husband is the person who makes me laugh the most over the last 20 years.
What do you have planned next? I’m planning a couple of tours to support the album, continuing to work on writing a sitcom pilot and looking to do more queer events all over the world!
Watch Aber’s set from September below.
Ian Aber is a comedian, writer and comedy show producer. He was a national Finalist in NBC’s Stand Up For Diversity and performs at clubs, colleges, music venues, bars, warehouses and pretty much anywhere there is comedy. His comedy is featured on Sirius radio and Audible. Ian has opened for Margaret Cho, Jo Firestone and Fortune Feimster and been accepted to and attended the Limestone Comedy Festival, 10,000 Laughs Comedy Festival, Accidental Comedy Festival, Orlando Indie Comedy Festival, Scruffy City Comedy Festival, Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival, Burning Bridges Comedy Festival and Laughing Skull Comedy Festival. He is the host and co-producer of several long running comedy shows in Atlanta including, DateNight and Urban Tree Comedy.
Night Sugar was recorded live at Star Bar in Atlanta on Monday, April 1, 2019. Sound Engineering is by Amon Garner- Poston and cover art is by Ed Dinzole. Buy it here.