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A Sunday Kind of Love : Tessa Skara Brings Gay Church to Provincetown

All photos by Arin Sang-Urai Love Tessa Skara Brings Gay Church to Provincetown All photos by Arin Sang-Urai

by Steve Desroches

Looking at the often religion-fueled attacks on the LGBTQ community, Tessa Skara is a bit confused. The New York City comedian grew up Catholic. And she liked going to church as a kid growing up in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. There was music and singing, people were friendly, and you’d get “little snacks” towards the end. And don’t get her started on the stained glass, the organ, and all the statues. Now, as a non-binary queer, who feels comfortable vacillating between they and she even in the same conversation, they realize church was gay as hell. Just look at the place. It was high camp and high drama with all the ornate decorative elements, incense, and pageantry. And in a strict binary, it created spaces where people could assemble in a gender segregated space with either just the boys or just the girls, making monasteries and convents like big gay sleepovers. Yeah. That’s wicked gay. Church was, well, it felt kind of fun. That’s why it’s a head-scratcher that something so inherently gay is also so hostile to LGBTQ people.

“It’s really hard to understand a Catholic homophobe’s perspective, especially when it comes to all these attacks on drag queens,” says Skara. “I mean they say a man in a dress is dangerous performing on stage, but if it’s a man in a dress on an altar giving a sermon then its OK? It doesn’t make any sense!”

One of the best ways to tackle life’s complexities, societal contradictions, and human folly is to digest it all through comedy. A lot more can be understood via laughter than tears, and Skara unpacks it all in her show Gay Church, a rollicking hour of comedy and music that’s become the toast of queer Brooklyn where she performs the show once a month. She’s bringing all the hallelujahs and amens to the Post Office Cabaret this weekend for Women’s Week in her Provincetown debut. Despite the title, Skara wants you to know that this is not solely a show where she lampoons or mocks the Catholic Church. For Skara Gay Church is more of an exploration of their queer identity and her coming out experience, with the comedic fodder that a Catholic childhood can sometimes bring, especially for LGBTQ people.

Perhaps what rubbed off the most from Catholicism is the idea of confession since, once her guitar is tuned and ready to go, Skara lets it all spill, earning the nickname “Goddess of Confessional Comedy Rock.” From her time living a straight married life in the closet to embracing their queer identity, Skara has an endless font of source material with which to work. And this is no Bitter Betty showcase, but rather a comedic romp full of gratitude, joy, and self-deprecation, but far away from any kind of religion-based shame.

“Being queer saved my life,” says Skara. “Coming out of the closet was a spiritual experience. It was nothing but positive. And comedy has been the best therapy in a way. Whenever I’m on the stage I get to completely define myself. And when comedy is good it gets to the point of what can be dark or taboo. Standup comedy is so important. Comedy, when it’s done right, is honest and vulnerable. It’s an exploration. When laughter is something that can unite an audience, there’s just nothing like it. It builds empathy. When we’re all laughing together, we are all in agreement about something by and large. When there’s a truth to the joke that people are all relating to, that’s when we’re all laughing together. That’s why, to me, I think comedy needs to have a point rather than just telling joke after joke. It can be healing for people. You can process a lot of the world by laughing.”

These are strange days indeed with political turmoil, cultural division, climate change, and technological revolutions. And it’s a particularly uncertain time for the LGBTQ community. Hitting the stage at a comedy club for comics like Skara has always been a crap shoot. It’s unclear how receptive an audience will be to not just a queer comic, but jokes from a queer perspective. And in this current political and cultural climate, with a backlash to queer equality, there’s an even greater vibe of tension in the air. But that’s part of the work of a comic. Regardless of the circumstances, the job is to make whoever is in front of you laugh. And whenever Skara hits the stage at comedy clubs around the country, she gets a read on contemporary America.

“It totally depends on the audience,” says Skara. “Straight people are quick to laugh at stuff, sometimes too quick. I’ll come out and say I’m queer and that will get laughs from straight people. I usually say, ‘OK. That wasn’t the joke!’ But with all the hostility in the world it’s all the more important to talk about queer experiences for straight audiences, and really for queer audiences, too. Queer people are so used to being the butt of jokes at comedy shows there can be a tension for queer people in the audiences as they’re tense upon entry. I don’t make fun of anyone in the audience. I like to punch up and usually make fun of myself. All I do make fun of is who is in power…and the straight community. It’s just their turn.”

Tessa Skara presents Gay Church at the Post Office Cabaret, 303 Commercial St., Provincetown on Thursday, October 12 at 2 p.m. and Friday, October 13 at 4 p.m. Tickets ($30/$40) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.0087.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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