''I had gotten into a big argument with one of the local ANCs about gay marriage, religion and politics,'' says Sampson McCormick. ''And then I ended with, 'Don't make me take off my earrings.' And it's just kind of stuck.''
The phrase is now the title of his current standup routine, which mixes the silly with the serious, a staple of the comedian, who goes by just his first name. The 25-year-old grew up in ''basically the Bible Belt'' in North Carolina. ''Being out and gay down there is not an easy task,'' he says. ''But I've always been funny, so it helped me deal with the opposition and the ridicule.'' Being funny has also helped Sampson work to fight homophobia and violence against gay people, as well as addressing HIV and youth homelessness. ''I've been able to educate through comedy,'' he says.
Sampson, employed as a barista at a downtown Starbucks, performs standup mostly for straight audiences, often in churches, but also in bars, strip clubs, and even once a funeral home. Next Friday, Aug. 27, he's organized a comedy show with other local comics at the DC Arts Center to benefit Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, or HIPS, and the Transgender Health Empowerment Wanda Alston House, which serves the area's LGBT homeless youth.
''I know a lot of homeless youth,'' Sampson says. ''I've realized I could have been in that same situation. Not everybody has the same level of acceptance as I had growing up.''
''The show is going to be out of this world,'' he continues. ''We'll be probing politics and life and love. All kinds of stuff. Ain't nothing sacred.''
''Don't Make Me Take Off My Earrings" comedy benefit show is Friday, Aug. 27, at 10 p.m., DCAC, 2438 18th St. NW. Tickets are $15. Call 202-462-7833 or visit dcartscenter.org or sampson313.freehomepage.com.