Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-09-16
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



COMEDY 'The Haggard Unicorn:' Queer trans comic talks representation, hurdles
by Charlsie Dewey

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

KJ Whitehead wants to see unrepresented voices take over the comedy world and her latest project, The Haggard Unicorn, is a reflection of that ambition.

"Something strange. Something different. Something radical," she said when asked to describe the show, taking place Friday, Jan. 31, at The Salon. "Those who know me will know that the openers for this show are all a reflection of me and who I feel I am in one way or another."

Whitehead—who identifies as a queer trans woman—has been performing for the past six years in Chicago and around the Midwest and has never been what one would call a "classic standup comedian." Instead, she's focused her work on "what comedy can be." The performers joining her for The Haggard Unicorn all focus on sharing their unique experiences through comedy in their own ways as well.

"The host, Arts & Culture Club's Devin Middleton, is a musician/comedian that represents my pride in my Black culture and heritage," Whitehead said. "Chicago comedy newcomer Jolly Bean is my joy in being different and just doing what makes me happy, and hoping I can brighten up someone else's day doing it. Then we have the co-founder—producer and house member of Bad Taste, Mo Less—a burlesque performer who lives within the extreme and absurd and doesn't hold that part of their being back for anyone, nor should they.

In The Haggard Unicorn, Whitehead continues to mine her personal experiences, telling Windy City Times she's endured several crises. "This year, I've been diagnosed with PTSD; I've attempted suicide; I've lost a friend to cancer; I've faced racism and transphobia in the workplace; was suspended from my teaching job at Second City under accusations that I was bullying my students because I critiqued their work—which, unfortunately, they don't seem to understand that critique coming from their cisgender, white instructors will go over easier than from someone like me; lost all my money from unemployment, [dealt with the] lack of opportunity for Black and Brown trans people; and [was part of] the recent CTU strike. Oh, and I had a really bad breakup. That's a few of the things going into this show."

While Whitehead is processing her own experiences through her work on stage, she said she is also working to change the face of comedy: "So, this show very much is inspired by my life experiences and what I wish to see in the comedy world today: a complete takeover of unrepresented voices."

Whitehead said she's seen comics put in half the time as she has and surpass her in terms of opportunities, so she knows the road ahead is long—but she won't give up.

"The biggest challenge is to keep doing it, even if no one notices," she said. "Honestly, it doesn't feel like enough people notice. When I work my ass off for several years and comics come along who have been doing this in less than half the time I have and they get a club spot or a festival I worked really hard on the submission for, not enough people have noticed. When I, a Black transgender woman, have to work twice as hard to get booked as a white or white-passing counterpart, not enough people have noticed me. This challenge hasn't really evolved so much as it has been added upon.

"So many folks want to say that they support QTPOC [queer and trans people of color who] are performers, but our comedy circuit has trouble finding them? C'mon! We're here! Support us! That's what I'm not seeing. That's what's lacking. The support of a community that says it cares but doesn't really know what that care should look like. I'm not saying there aren't people who don't do that for me now, but it takes more. So much more that others have and that I don't; that's a challenge."

But Whitehead said she's buoyed by some of the small changes she does see taking place around her, particularly the audience. "I'm definitely seeing more vulnerability and more boldness in using comedy to call out issues," she said. "I like this. It's coming from the exhaustion of how things used to be. In a new age where comedy, film and art in general is not what it was when I was a child, the audience has changed most of all. The demand for uniqueness has changed in the favor of those who wouldn't have otherwise gotten a shot decades ago."

As she faces the start of a new decade, Whitehead said, "I'm hoping to finally be successful, to pay off my debts, to right the wrongs I created in the last decade, to finally bring pride to my family and have them be financially secured for after I'm gone. I'm hoping to open up opportunities for those who've be waiting for someone like me."

KJ Whitehead and Radical Comedy Present: "The Haggard Unicorn," at The Salon, at 1579 North Milwaukee Ave., on Friday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. Outside Amy Schumer, "the comedy show featuring feminist stand-up comedians other than Amy Schumer, because some people still think she's the only one for some reason," returns Tuesday, Jan. 28, at The Playground Theater, at 3209 N. Halsted St., at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

'Schitt's Creek' dominates Emmys 2020-09-21 - The Canadian LGBTQ-centered comedy series Schitt's Creek cleaned up for its final season when the Television Academy showcased the Emmy Awards the evening ...

Gay News

'SNL' adds lesbian cast member 2020-09-18 - Saturday Night Live, or SNL, will start its 46th season Oct. 3 with at least one major change: The show is adding a ...

Gay News

Trans candidate McBride makes history again 2020-09-16 - Sarah McBride—who, in 2016, was the first openly transgender person to address the Democratic National Convention—made history again with a primary victory, setting ...

Gay News

MOMBIAN True stories, trans tales and more in new picture books 2020-09-16 - New books can be a delightful relief in these days of quarantine. Here are some of the many new LGBTQ-inclusive picture books that ...

Gay News

WORLD Argentina pro-trans move, Canada survey, Uganda groups, sports items 2020-09-15 - Argentina President Alberto Fernandez is now requiring 1% of public sector jobs be set aside for transgender people, LGBTQ Nation noted, citing Pagina ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Anti-Trump ruling, crime items, Equality California, Texas school 2020-09-08 - A federal judge slapped a hold on a Trump administration rule that allows healthcare providers to refuse services to LGBTQ people on religious ...

Gay News

Wade among Streetwise's most inspiring Chicagoans 2020-09-07 - LaSaia Wade—the founder and executive director of Brave Space Alliance—has been chosen as one of Streetwise newspaper's 20 Most Inspiring Chicagoans of 2020. ...

Gay News

Black trans disabled Chicagoan on long quest for affordable housing 2020-09-02 - When Garnet Williams was set to enter their final year at Columbia College in 2014, they began to experience pain in their lower ...

Gay News

Filmmakers look back at pioneering movie 'Transsexuals' 2020-09-02 - Chicago-based Media Burn Archive presented an online screening of the rarely-seen 1971 documentary Transsexuals Aug. 27, and hosted members of its original crew, ...

Gay News

MUSIC Trans singer Kyler O'Neal debuts music video, talks poetry 2020-09-01 - Kyler O'Neal is a transgender contemporary, folk artist. She officially released her debut music video for her single Satan's Tears on Sept. 1, ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.