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Marga Gomez may have broken her toe. Luckily, the commute to her upcoming gig is only a few hobbles away — to her living room.
On Thursday, the comedy veteran, playwright and performance coach will be hosting the first virtual rendition of her year-old comedy showcase “Who’s Your Mami.”
The show, created and organized by Gomez to highlight talented performers who were not straight or white or male, will “relaunch” itself into the virtual sphere, and everyone’s bedrooms.
Headlining is “Conan” writer Laurie Kilmartin, also the author of “Sh*tty Mom,” with a supporting lineup that includes Suni Reyes (of “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”) as well as local talents Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Dominique Gelin and Jesús U. BettaWork (the “U” stands for “Uranus”).
Since the show cannot take place at the Mission’s Brava Theater, where Gomez is an artist-in-residence, the performance doubles as a fundraiser for the venue.
“Shelter in place started on the opening night of one of my one-person shows,” Gomez said. “We were sold out. From that moment, I realized what we were in. I thought, ‘How am I going to work?’ I just have been focusing my energies on bringing everything online.”
Gomez was right to worry. Since March and the implementation of shelter-in-place orders, comedy clubs and common comedy venues (read: bars) are shuttered for shows, although a to-go pitcher of margaritas is a small consolation. Gomez started experimenting.
She went out and bought microphones and cameras, creating what she calls her “D.I.Y., funky home studio.”
The “geeking out” process has been a coping mechanism during quarantine, although Gomez already identifies as a homebody. Sheltering in place has also given her access to acts all over the country and the ability to book people who may never roll through San Francisco.
“It’s a whole different game now,” she says. “I can invite people from all over the world. It’s a wish list I’ve finally gotten to start ticking off.”
The lineup reflects a diversity of ZIP codes, with an emphasis on queer and BIPOC performers. The show’s own name, Gomez says, stems from reclaiming a derogatory term.
“‘Mami’ refers to the catcall; I grew up hearing ‘mami,’ and I hated it,” Gomez said. “But it’s turned into this thing with Latino people calling each other ‘mami’; it’s like the word ‘queer’ and making it your own. When I say our show is from resistance, it’s also from intersectionality, from BIPOC people emerging and taking leadership. It’s been told from a colonial voice. It’s time to not just take a place at the table, but take the table.”
If Gomez is at the head of the table, Lakshminarayanan is not far.
An MIT grad, self-identified nerd and former venture capitalist, Lakshminarayanan met Gomez years ago when she was first transitioning from a career with a lot of money to one with, relatively, no money. (She gets that question a lot.) Gomez was the established star, and Lakshminarayanan was the promising rookie, and soon, they were collaborating professionally and eating pupusas with drag queens after performing at the now-defunct gay bar Esta Noche.
The “Who’s Your Mami” atmosphere, Lakshminarayanan says, is what makes it so appealing.
“A comedian showed me her C-section scar,” she writes in an email. “Another queer male comedian shared his gummy bears. I was lightly teased about bringing a baby-food pouch as my snack. It was a connecting and beautiful experience. I felt safe.”
Lakshminarayanan has done a number of Zoom shows since the clubs closed, with mixed results; during one set, she saw someone loading their dishwasher. Audience etiquette has had some growing pains, and Lakshminarayanan believes comedians should be mindful of doing bits that are not grounded in the current reality, or that may come across “hackey.”
Pre-coronavirus pandemic jokes seem off-key, “not cognizant of what people are going through,” she says.
“Pop culture is still relevant, but I have tried to have my comedy reflect what is going on right now. Jokes about Zoom, Kamala Harris and Biden. Jokes about weird things that I’m cooking, Fauci, Cuomo, friend interactions. Things that matter but allow me to have some levity.”
Lakshminarayanan, an Indian American, can’t recall a “Who’s Your Mami” show with a straight white guy. Which is a rare phenomenon, considering they run the comedy world. It’s also a better thing, given so many prominent straight male comedians are facing allegations of sexual assault.
“It’s not a blanket statement, but I feel sad when I see that, because there’s so many women that could have had those spots,” she said. “It’s a shame that we’re out here, working really hard. Let us have a shot.”
As you may have guessed, Gomez gives those shots. The night Jesús U. BettaWork met Gomez was also the first time he stepped foot in a gentlemen’s club.
“I saw Marga was going to perform at the new Purple Onion in North Beach,” he recalls. “I just went up to say hi, and she invited me to a strip club.”
He had never been before. She paid his cover.
“I was complimenting all the ladies,” BettaWork said. “We hung out all night tipping the dancers and making conversation. She eventually reached out to me to be in her showcase, ‘Who’s Your Mami.’”
Since his start at open mics back in 2012, BettaWork has appeared in several showcases, and even hosts his own. He and his network carried on through quarantine for four months, but are currently taking a rest. Aside from all the IT obstacles, there is the added stress on work/life balance.
“I’ve learned I cannot work from home. For me my home is to relax, work on bits,” and hang out with his four heckling cockatiels. “The level of anxiety for me specifically for that 9-5 paycheck is very challenging,” he said.
* “Who’s Your Mami” is not a one-time event. The kickoff in the virtual sphere begins 7 p.m. Aug. 20 (Zoom doors at 6:30 p.m.) and continues every third Thursday of the month. Tickets are available at the Brava website for $10.