Sampson McCormick: comic edge & heartfelt wit

  • by Cornelius Washington
  • Tuesday April 18, 2023
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Sampson McCormick (photo: 510 media)
Sampson McCormick (photo: 510 media)

With insight and his unique perspectives on politics, Black life and family, award-winning gay comic Sampson McCormick will have you laughing at truths laid bare. He'll perform April 29 at the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center with local favorite Dhaya Lakshminarayanan.

One of best and brightest stars on the queer comedy circuit, with a career that spans decades, tastes and trends, along with his stand-up shows, he's performed in nine independent films, including "B-Boy Blues," "Love the One You're With" and the Oscar-nominated short film "I Live Here," and written several more, including his filmed comedy shows.

And the accolades keep pouring in. During his phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter, he was contacted via email that the website Queerty had just named him one of the eight history-making LGBTQ comedians who set the stage for modern queer comedy. Despite "getting his flowers," as the saying goes, McCormick remains modest, shy and smooth, a rarity for such a unique talent.

Sampson McCormick  

Cornelius Washington: Let's start of with the obvious. When did you realize you were funny beyond what one sees from Black queer men?
Sampson McCormick: When I was in Pre-Kindergarten, I would imitate the pastors at church and I would mock the awful lunches at school.

Who are your heroes in comedy?
Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx, George Carlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Mooney; you know, the legends.

I recently wrote an article on him, which was an honor for me. He is a Black cultural icon.
I actually toured with Paul when he was going into the last years of his career before his Alzheimer's became too bad. They would have me stretch out my routine when I opened for him. One night, they kept telling me to keep doing another five minutes, then another five, then another until it turned into 30 minutes. I saw his nurse out of the corner of my eye waving me down, then I actually could see Paul glaring at me. He got up out of his wheelchair, walked over to me and said, "I thought I was going to have to yank you offstage with my cane because you are not going to upstage me, you queen!" He talked to me like that the whole tour. He was great and I learned so much from one of the best!

Who would you like to open for next?
I would love a Patti LaBelle audience. I would also love to open for Lil Nas X.

Who would you like to have open for you when you headline a comedy tour?
Tevin Campbell, Rahsaan Patterson; Fantasia would be cool too.

Describe your flavor of comedy.
I make an audience feel like I am their best friend, family member or next door neighbor, because I'm able to connect on those levels that appeal to audiences that typically would not think that a queer Black man is able to do that. That is what comedy is; the ability to appeal to the hearts and minds of the masses in an amusing way.

Describe wit.
Wit is sharp and dynamic thinking, particularly on the fly.

What is irony?
Irony is the ability to hold up a mirror to a universally known topic or situation.

Can you describe your YouTube series?
I have a series called Profiles on Black Gay Love. It's biweekly and I speak to Black gay couples and entertainers. We do very well with it. At its height, we've gotten up to 30,000 people watching. I also have a very popular series on Black and gay adult entertainment that gets 20,000 views per episode.

What do you think will be the evolution of art and entertainment for the LGBTQ community?
We will expand more into online media and fashion. As for myself, I'll keep doing comedy because that's what I do. I will expand more into technology and film and it will be innovative. If I see too many people going in one direction I will head and dominate in the other direction.

What have you been up to recently?
I was just on the TV show "Fox-Soul" and they asked me about the progress of the LGBTQ community. I said I'm fine with it, but some of the language is challenging for me about the use of pronouns. A certain faction of the community are overly sensitive and triggered by my mistakes around what they wish to be called versus how they look. If you do not want people to mess that up at least put some effort into it. That may sound shocking to say, but I got a lot of messages on social media thanking me for telling the truth. Because I have been so vocal about it in my comedy, it has helped to build more of a dialogue. It's important to be open, to have conversations in and outside our community, and to meet people where they are.

I'm very honored to be with you as you got the email about Queerty acknowledging your career. How do you feel in this moment?
To be a Black queer man getting standing ovations in a white, heterosexual, male-dominated field lets me know that I have power. It's about the work and the craft. I work very hard and I do not complain a lot. I point to the architects like Little Richard. I saw the documentary on him and it was excellent. He opened doors and I want to do the same, but I will get my due credits while I am alive! (laughs) As Black people and as Black queer people, we have to learn to celebrate our victories in the moment of what we did right instead of just focusing on the next goal. We really need to savor the moment.

I know you must be ready to slay up and out into the stratosphere at your night at Oakland's LGBTQ Community Center.
Absolutely! And I hope everyone comes out to have a great evening with me and Dhaya. And please bring donated canned goods, pasta, toothpaste, toothbrushes, washcloths, socks, combs, brushes, soap etc., so we help people who need it.

Before we know it, LGBTQ Pride will be upon us. Do you have any plans?
I want more work hosting the main stages at Pride events around the country. I've hosted the main stage for Oakland Pride a few times and I made it so spicy and risqué, the crowd ate it up.

You served Moms Mabley realness?
You know it! I really love her. She didn't have any teeth, but with her comedy she would snatch your teeth, your breath, and your wig!

What would you tell your younger self about being Black and queer?
Trust yourself and your instincts, and give yourself everything you know you deserve because you are worth it!

Sampson McCormick, with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, April 29, 6:30pm ($20) at the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Ave.

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