After years in the figurative closet, and who knows how long
literally trapped in underground comedy rooms, gay comedians are showcasing
their variety of stand-up talents on cable TV.

The show, "Hot Gay Comics," tapes live at Comix and began
airing last weekend on the here! cable network, which is a gay pay channel — although Brooklyn-born host Dave Rubin is quick to point out that's a lot different than a "gay for pay" channel. “We’re in, like, 95 percent of the markets (nationwide),” he
says. “On some of the cable systems, it’s just an On Demand channel. But on,
say, Time Warner here in New York, it’s two channels, 325 and 326.” It airs at 8 p.m. Fridays. And two more shows tape Monday, Nov. 24, at Comix for future broadcasts.

Rubin has had it both ways, so to
speak.

"I've done stand-up for 10 years, and for seven years I did
it straight, or closeted," Rubin says. "There's definitely in some respects
less opportunities doing stand-up being gay. But, on the other hand, we have
two TV networks now…there's the Internet. Gay is the new black. Black people
have come a long way, and now gays are trying to fight for their rights." And they're using comedy as influence to both tweak authority and try to gain
some at the same time.

Though the cable network might reach
a targeted demographic, the live tapings draw a mixed crowd of gay and straight
comedy fans.

Which is not a problem. All of the performers are gay men
and lesbians, but their material is funny to anyone.

"Love, relationships and work, those things transcend
sexuality," Rubin says. "As a good comic, you should be able to get past that.
For me, I can play it straight if I have to. Sometimes, by default, I'm at a
gay-themed comedy night and I don't mention anything about it, and girls come
up to me after the show. Other people are more obvious."

Has your style of joke-telling changed since you came out as
gay?
"No, no, I was like that before," Rubin said. "But now I'm more open. I was
never jamming straightness down their throat, for lack of a better term. When
you're hiding something up there – there are plenty of famous, closeted
comedians out there – it's hard. It's like painting without blue. It's like
trying to paint, but being afraid of that one brush."

Rubin already has a long-running podcast online interviewing
gay comedians. He's done 46 so far, "basically interviewing every gay comic that we can get a hold of, although Ellen (DeGeneres) has not responded to my emails. But I'm told she has her own show."

What are your hopes for the TV show?

"Particularly with the first episode, I'm pleased about it,
because Mike Singer is the first person I came out to, and Shawn Hollenbach was
the one who convinced me to do the gay (comedy) scene. He dragged me kicking
and screaming. And Anne Neczypor is a great friend," Rubin says, adding that
his friendship with her destroys any myths about gay men and lesbians not
getting along.

"My hope is that people will see that gay comics are
relevant, and that most importantly, they're funny. And that we can also do
mainstream comedy. Of course, Ellen has become very mainstream. If
it means relationships, love, work, or politics, those topics are very
universal. Anyone can listen to a story from a gay comic and it's just as
relevant."

(A version of this story appears in today's New York City editions of the Metro paper)