With all that is going on in the world, there are some who might say that there is nothing to laugh about. However, there are some who can find the funny – even in the darkest hour – and turn it into comedy gold.
While some might be familiar with Kai from being a previous host of the true crime podcast Women Who Kill, Kai has taken to the stage to give us a raw dose of reality wrapped in comedy while reminding us that there is not only joy in being Black and trans, but a whole lot of funny.
I sat down with Kai to talk about his special for INTO the Margins and how he is using his platform to reshape the ways we think (and laugh) about the Black trans experience.
“INTO the Margins” is a reminder that someone is always watching you, celebrating you, and waiting for that thing you’re afraid to put out into the world.
I know that queer people often use comedy/laughter as healing. How has comedy and this special been for you?
Healing? I think this special actually took a year or two off my life. I’m so glad I did it, but it was self-produced by my tiny squad and we shot it in one take so that was crazy stressful. Normally people cut their special from a few different shows, but we were working with some logistical limitations and decided to not let that stop us. I also edited it and produced the music for it. Would I do it again? If someone gave us money for it so I wasn’t also worrying about how I was going to pay rent the whole time, hell yeah.
All that said, I have a lot of dope trans jokes in this special. Far too often when you see an article referencing jokes about trans people they’re mid-tier at best and told by some cis dude who has maybe, if we’re being generous, met and had a real conversation with a trans person once. And that shit goes viral from people yelling about how much they hate it. People have to be tired of hate-sharing standup they don’t like, right? I would hope so.
Besides being solid standup I could be proud of from a technical standpoint, I wanted to put some jokes out there that you (and by you I mean trans people) can love-share instead of hate-sharing. Jokes where you can feel in on the joke in a way that makes you feel seen instead of gawked at. That said, I’m also aware that trans people aren’t a monolith, and not every trans person is gonna think I’m funny or likable, but the ones who do…are great judges of character with a fantastic sense of humor.
Some might say that your comedy special is “dark” and others might call it “real”. A lot of it is logical. How do you decide where/how to develop your material for the show?
I never think my jokes are dark until someone tells me they are. It’s like when you tell someone what you thought was a funny story from your childhood and you don’t realize until they start apologizing that your story is actually an experience. I just write what I find funny and if it makes enough other people laugh onstage a few times I keep it, fine tune it, rinse, repeat. I’m not picky, I will develop jokes in any room with air conditioning and an audience that’s paying attention. If I want to be ignored in a mostly empty room I can just run jokes by my cats. Some jokes I will only do in LGBTQ+ rooms though, and if you want know what those are, come out to a show and present your membership card at the door.
You mention transphobia, how dumb it is, and how you deal with it. How have you been able to find the funny in what might often be painful for so many people?
I don’t deal with much “in your face” transphobia, and I’m not sure if that’s because I haven’t been to the right (wrong?) places yet, because I have such a stellar resting dick face, or because a lot of people don’t know I’m trans unless they follow me on social media/have seen my standup about it. The craziest thing about transphobia is when it comes from inside the community, I find that much tougher to process than when it comes from straight, cis people. I think as a comedian I often recognize something as funny before I even consider that it should be painful. I’ll be like, “Oh that’s hilarious” then later be like, “Oh shit that was actually truly f*cked up.” And that’s why therapy exists.
You talk about aging honestly, so many queer folks fear it. Why was it so important for you to mention it in the show and what do you want folks to know about being at the margin?
I don’t not fear it. I’ve had an existential crisis every few months ever since I was 10 years old. I also refuse to use that Tiktok old age filter, by the way. I’d rather know the exact date, method, time, and place I’m going die than know what I’ll look like at 80 years old.
I don’t know if Gen Z has aging fears, because will Earth even be around long enough for them to get old? I don’t think it will. If we’re talking queer millennials and older, on one hand I think many fear aging because they didn’t grow up seeing media representation of old (I’m talking elderly, not over 35) queer people at all, right? Let alone those who were happy, thriving, and part of a supportive, larger community, so I can see how that would lead someone to internalize the idea that if you’re not young you’re either invisible or you’re dead. And then when you consider that a lot of queer and trans people don’t get to live full lives until they come out, if that’s at a later point it can feel like you’re making up for lost time when everyone is already racing against the clock.
It’s not unique to L.A. but here being perceived as youthful is a form of social currency so people want to preserve the source of their economic opportunities in this hellscape for as long as they can. And I think that’s a fear that transcends gender and sexuality. I mean, straight male comedians are allowed to be old and ugly and even they’re not immune to the pressure. Like bro, why is your headshot on this flyer 2 years older than your new girlfriend? As far as cosmetics go, whatever it takes for you to feel your best — go ahead. As a trans person I’ve modified my body in ways that people might not agree with or understand, but it makes me happy so f*ck ‘em. In the end what I think about someone else’s face or body is none of their business. ♦