All Blog Posts / QUEER VOICES: Toronto Comedian Chanty Marostica talks transphobia, the Canadian comedy scene and their Mom
QUEER VOICES: Toronto Comedian Chanty Marostica talks transphobia, the Canadian comedy scene and their Mom
Published On: March 18, 2019
Written By: Bianca Sutton
Photo by: Ryan Dillon
If you haven’t watched any of Chanty Marostica’s comedy yet, I highly suggest you put aside a few hours of your day and take a deep dive into the world wide web. It really is about time you met Canada’s funniest person, wouldn’t you agree? Chanty came onto our radar towards the end of last year when, after coming out as trans to their parents, they became the first trans person to ever perform a set at Toronto’s Just for Laughs (JFL) 42 Festival – all in the same day by the way. Over a week later they earned their title as Canada’s funniest person by winning Sirius XM’s ninth annual Top Comic contest. Considering most people I know can’t speak to their parents, go to work and commit to an evening drink in the same day, it goes without saying this is one hell of an achievement. Their list of accolades doesn’t stop there, they’ve featured on Kevin Hart’s “Laugh Out Loud” Network, The Halifax Comedy Festival, The Winnipeg Comedy Festival and CBC’s “Laugh Out Loud”, “Debaters” and “Workin’ Moms,” as well as most recently having their ‘The CHANTY show’ nominated for a Juno Award.
Although I only came across Chanty at the end of last year (shame on me!) they have been on the comedy circuit for a long time. Since bursting onto the scenes over 14 years ago, Chanty has watched the LGBTQ comedy circuit change while also playing a very pivotal role in evolving the scene for the LGBTQ community.
“I’m from Winnipeg originally where there were a couple of other women [comedians] and I was the only queer person. Then I moved to Toronto and there was a couple of gay men and a circuit of lesbian comics like Diane Smith, Martha Chaves and Jess Saloman. There was tokenizing, you never worked together,” they said. “You would be the one queer person on a line-up and that was really gross to me. I wanted to work with my heroes, I wanted to work with my friends.”
Photo by: Evan Eye
Fed up with the idea of being a box ticker on the comedy circuit and wanting to take matters into their own hands, Chanty revolutionized and molded the LGBTQ comedy circuit to suit the needs of their community.
“I started a monthly LGBTQ comedy show and people were like it will never last because there is no audience to see them. But I believed in my community and I believed people wanted to hear their own voice.”
They were not wrong. Church Street comedy, the monthly LGBTQ comedy show set up by Chanty has now been running for over three years. The stage has been graced by the likes of Elvira Kurt, Scott Thompson, Andrew Johnston, DeAnne Smith and Anasimone George. Not stopping there, they also started a show for up and coming performers, a process which involved finding comics, taking them for coffee, mentoring them and ultimately creating a sold-out show and an army of over 100 fierce LGBTQ comics. These comics now perform at various nights created by Chanty including the up-and-comers events, QAPD Collective, a weekly open mic night and their new weekly LGBTQ+ Comedy Showcase ‘P R I D E’ at Comedy Bar.
“In many places there’s a monthly or bi-monthly queer show if they can get enough comics to even fill the roster. In Toronto there is a whole comedy scene now. It took me almost three years to build from just believing that people wanted to see it and that people would come,” they said. “the landscape over two years ago was tokenism – if I was sick, they would call another lesbian. But now I’ve created a queer comedy scene where comics are safe, they get paid. It’s a community and they all check in with each other, it’s really cool and very powerful.”
While the comedy circuit is a safer place than it may have been two years ago, I wasn’t surprised to hear that ignorance towards queer performers and the LGBTQ community was as prevalent, if not more so, in the comedy world as it was in other parts of the entertainment industry.
“It’s always happened, but I just recently came out as trans, so you don’t really feel like you have a voice and then suddenly you do, and you have a platform,” they said. “I’ve been introduced by a guy being like ‘Caitlyn Jenner.’ That’s the joke – just saying a trans person’s name, and it gets an applause break. An applause break is something you earn. Just saying a trans person’s name and then just an eruption of laughter and then saying, ‘and now Chanty Marostica’ is so disheartening and it makes you scared to go on stage.”
Photo by: Evan Eye
It would seem that experiences like this have only given Chanty more of a voice to speak out and to ensure others feel safe in the comedy community. Not one to sit back and let ignorance take the stage, Chanty recently took to social media to share an experience they had with a transphobic comic they shared a line-up with.
“This guy had continued to do a set throughout the festival making jokes about trans children or making comments saying, ‘If I was transitioning, I’d be a motorbike.’ You can only hear it for so long and then I just had to leave him a note because I thought, fuck you! Punching down is so lazy and there’s so many of those people that take up so much space in festivals and clubs. Then queer people and marginalized people; people of color and women are working so hard and these people are taking up space. So, it’s about time I call it out.”
Comedy can be controversial and push boundaries. Sometimes it works (think drag queens reading each other) and other times it can be just plain inexcusable (think Ted Danson appearing in blackface for a Whoopi Goldberg roast – seriously, this happened… look it up). While comedians are encouraged to talk about taboo subjects that you and I might not necessarily chat about over dinner in a busy restaurant, when is it going too far?
“Staying in your lane is really important. Don’t talk about an experience that isn’t yours or make the person you’re talking about your punchline. Punch up is what we say in comedy, punching down is making trans people the punch line. Punching up is making trans people the winner in the joke.”
Citing the likes of Robin Williams, Gilda Radner and Rosie O’Donnell as some of their biggest inspirations, it was always clear to Chanty that they wanted to become a comedian, it was just figuring out the exact path to achieving their dream. Chanty’s first taste of performing a comedy set came when their friend offered them a spot in a variety show at a coffee shop, which only solidified the idea that this is what they needed to be doing.
“My friends still talk about how I passed around cigarettes to the audience because I had just popped my cherry in comedy,” they said. “I don’t remember because I blacked out. Everybody was there to see me do stand up for the first time as they knew it was my dream. I’m sure it was awful, but I got a standing ovation. In my first year I only did like three shows because there was nothing in Winnipeg. Then I moved to Montreal because I was like I am hooked and I need to be doing this.”
Since their first experience in comedy, things have only been on the up for Chanty and it would seem like they have no plans on stopping when it comes to ensuring all LGBTQ have a safe place to perform, something that wasn’t readily available to them when they were younger.
“I never saw myself on stage as a kid because there were no trans people to look up to, they were always the villain in a horror movie or a joke on Maury Povich,” they said. “Now I have a stage and a microphone, and I have a platform to share my opinions about my life and what happens to me in my own trans experience so I may as well share it. For the future I want to continue talking about the trans experience and just make myself focal so that trans people are seen – there’s not a lot of trans masculine representation.”
Photo by: Evan Eye
As I sat and chatted with Chanty, they mentioned their mom a number of times and it was clear the two had a close bond. Even scrolling through their Instagram feed, you can see the close relationship between the pair, with Chanty even planning on bringing their mom onto stage at an upcoming show called parental discretion, which also takes place the day before their top surgery.
“My mom is my biggest fan. There is growing pains because how do you say goodbye to a daughter? We are so close, but we are very much a son and mother dynamic. She is like you are my son now and I have to change my language,” they said. “My parents were always distant about my queer identity because their friends would shame them. But I said I am the right person, not the people judging and now my mom is like my son is the coolest person alive – so shut the fuck up. Now they volunteer at Winnipeg pride every year and are at the beer tent pouring beers for everybody.”
I could have sat for hours talking to Chanty, but unfortunately, they had to catch a flight back to Toronto. Leaving the interview, I felt inspired not only by the hard work they had put into curating a safe space for LGBTQ comics to perform in, but how infectiously positive and excited they were about everything they talked about while still remaining grounded and humble.
“I never thought I’d get to this point. When I started I wasn’t allowed to exist in comedy. Now having one Top Comic and being nominated for a Juno, it just feels like the world has changed, I just didn’t expect it.”
QAPD Collective takes place every Monday evening and Church Street Comedy every 3rd Sunday at Pegasus on Church.
P R I D E takes place every Tuesday at Comedy Bar, both in Toronto. You can follow Chanty on twitter and on instagram.
Queer Voices is OUTtv’s new series exploring talent new and old across Canada. Know someone we should speak to? Or maybe we should know about you? Either way send any tips to firstname.lastname@example.org