How many gay Washingtonians does it take to start a monthly comedy night? Just two, it seems.
On the surface, that's not a very funny punch line. Get to know the two in question, Chris Doucette and Zach Toczynski, however, and the joke suddenly becomes hilarious. Or, rather, ''Gaylarious,'' as the two have named their ongoing comic cavalcade.
Last week, the duo brought their goofy, frenetic energy to Metro Weekly to talk about the show, their roots, and anything they deemed worth mocking. They even seemed to dress for the occasion, exuding a certain sense of complementary coordination.
''I look summer,'' says Doucette, in black and orange.
''And I look spring,'' continues Toczynski, on cue, in shades of green.
The pacing of their banter could seemingly go on for hours. Straight -- ahem -- answers are hard to come by.
''How long have you known each other?''
''Since the '70s. We were cellmates,'' comes the deadpan answer from Toczynski.
''Actually, we met in a sex club,'' Doucette corrects. ''We both happen to like slings. We fought over this really nice leather sling and Zach won. He's a little bigger than I am.''
The interplay is not, however, needed to get these boys wound up. They're equally comfortable running with their own storylines, each amusing enough in his own right.
Doucette, for example, has a genuine fondness for playing dominoes.
''I love dominoes. Dominoes are awesome. That's what I do at the beach: I play dominoes. You can play them anywhere, and they're awesome. You should play. That's what I do on vacation, 'cause I'm crazy!''
Perhaps Toczynski would like to talk about departing the Republican Party?
''It was kind of easy. You have to be a fat, white guy to be a Republican, and I don't fit the bill. And I stopped being a racist a couple of years ago, so everything was working against me. But I make fun of everything. I get up there and make fun of Nancy Pelosi and her plastic surgery and fake cheekbones.''
Just wind them up and let them go.
METRO WEEKLY: Tell me about the show. What's the format? How does it work?
CHRIS DOUCETTE: John X -- it's some kind of Greek name, so we call him ''X'' for short -- opened a brand new comedy club on 14th Street called Riot Act Comedy Club. It's a great venue for comedy in D.C. You're getting the best national comics that come through. He came up with the idea of having different types of comedy, alternative types of comedy, on Wednesdays throughout the month and he approached us. We all had the same idea that it would be kind of cool to have a gay and lesbian show in D.C. once a month on a Wednesday. He said, ''Let's do it. Go for it. You guys plan it. Do whatever you want. I'll support it 100 percent.'' So we figured we would have two gay comics and a host and make it really simple. Our first show sold out. It was standing-room-only in the back. People were turned away at the door. It was absolutely unbelievable. It was packed.
ZACH TOCZYNSKI: The debut was last night and it was fantastic. The important thing to us about ''Gaylarious'' is that it wasn't a bad open-mike night. It was high-quality comedians who have enough time to get to know the audience and really deliver a polished performance. This is not just any old person can get up on stage. These are the best national and local gay and lesbian comics that we can find to create a really high-quality show that makes it worth it for people to come on a Wednesday night.
DOUCETTE: I got a lot of e-mails today saying everyone had a great time. There was laughter from the very beginning of the show to the very end. It was one of the best shows I've ever performed at.
TOCZYNSKI: I got hotel keys and panties thrown at me on stage.
MW: Girl panties? Really?
TOCZYNSKI: No. I was trying to pretend it was a rock concert. But Chris really did get drunk and high after the show, like a rock star.
DOUCETTE: I did not.
MW: There was a time when you'd say D.C. and comedy and people would think Mark Russell at the piano singing about the ''budgetary blues'' or something. Standup comedy and D.C. haven't really gone hand in hand. Is that changing?
DOUCETTE: We've got a great comedy scene here, compared to other cities about this size. It's taken off in the past three to four years. There are so many really cool little open-mikes all over the city with just amazingly talented people. The scene is thriving. It's just underground.
TOCZYNSKI: I think a lot of gay people like comedy. Take a look at the success of Margaret Cho. She will fill a room and she has a gay base, a huge audience. But if you look at the comedy world, you get so many straight white guys who go on stage and use gay jokes -- ha, ha, ha -- and it's so uncomfortable. You get the same type of material over and over again. Sometimes you don't really want to go to Improv if you're a gay man, because you're going to have some guy on stage thinking it's cute to say ''faggot'' or make fun of gay people. If you have a show like Gaylarious, even if we get a comic who's not gay, they'll be gay-friendly.
MW: When you're performing, do you find D.C. audiences different from audiences elsewhere? Do we differ from Baltimore audiences, for example?
TOCZYNSKI: They are dumber than a box of rocks. Oh, my God, you have to go on stage and say the word ''pussy'' repeatedly if they're going to laugh. In D.C., you have to be smart. I can do political humor in D.C., I can say something that relates to government or world events. But if you're in Baltimore, all they relate to is NASCAR. What else are you going to talk about?
Each community has a different vibe, whether you're in the North or the South, in a city or in the sticks somewhere. You have to be aware of who you're performing for. The flip side is that you can do no political jokes at all in D.C. and you can still get a bunch of laughs. D.C. audiences tend to like a little less vulgar jokes. I won't say ''clean,'' but stuff that's a little more thoughtful. You're not going to go on stage and talk about typical dick jokes. Except real good dick jokes. Chris' are good.
DOUCETTE: I think outside of the box.
TOCZYNSKI: I'm joking about Baltimore. They aren't stupid. They don't like NASCAR. They're just slow.
MW: Is there an easy button to push with D.C. audiences? Like some kind of dependable civic rivalry?
TOCZYNSKI: I can make fun of Virginians on stage and the people in D.C. like that. If I'm doing a joke about a hillbilly, Podunk kind of thing and I say ''Centreville,'' everybody knows what that is.
[To Chris] I think we're digging the whole deeper and deeper....
DOUCETTE: I think they're going to cancel our show.
With D.C. audiences, people are from all over the country, so there's less localism, or whatever you call it. It's not so much about D.C. versus Virginia as much as pushing buttons on current events related to D.C. Like when the National Zoo was killing all its animals. Or when the Metro busses were killing all those people. Those are certainly local issues that delight people.
MW: What about hecklers? Are they part of your audiences, too?
TOCZYNSKI: Hecklers are usually drunk and think they're cute. Like you're getting to the punch line and they'll yell something out that isn't funny. You just tear them a new asshole. You make fun of them, but in a way where you are not vicious or mean. You pounce on them a little bit. Chris had a heckler last night. You handled him perfectly. He looked like a deformed Crocodile Dundee.
DOUCETTE: Like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Don Imus. With a hat. And he wore three belts. He was very strange.
Five minutes into my set, he raised his hand with like 100 people in this club. You can't ignore someone raising his hand because it really changes the environment.
MW: Was he drunk?
DOUCETTE: It was a mental-health issue.
TOCZYNSKI: We're real selective about who we let in.
DOUCETTE: He kept interrupting me with little updates on his life and what he was thinking. He ended up really helping my act, because he was ridiculous without being abusive. It was easy to just play off of him and call him on his anti-social, strange behavior.
MW: You didn't have him in tears?
DOUCETTE: No, he wasn't in tears. We made up at the end. We went for a drink. ... No, I'm kidding. We didn't have a drink.
MW: Did you ever find out his name?
DOUCETTE: No, and I don't want to know his name. He asked for my number and I told him it was 911.
MW: Aside from the comedy, what other work do you do?
DOUCETTE: My part-time job is finding the real killer of JonBenét Ramsey.
TOCZYNSKI: He's been doing that for years.
DOUCETTE: My day job is that I'm an administrator for an AIDS-related, non-profit organization.
MW: And Zach, you're with the FBI or something?
TOCZYNSKI: No, I'm not with those guys at all! I'd get in trouble. I work for the video-game industry on piracy issues. I'm kind of like this liaison between lawyers and the cops. What we do is find people worldwide who may be making illegal copies of video games and we lock 'em up and give 'em the chair. I travel all over the place either giving workshops or speaking to law enforcement. So I'm kinda taking cops out to dinner, getting them drunk and then making out with the Latin ones.
DOUCETTE: It's true, he does.
MW: Looking at your photos of your global travels, Zach, you must have passed by loads of stalls with bootleg movies for sale.
TOCZYNSKI: If it's not my industry, I don't really give a crap. Counterfeit movies all you want! But I love my job. I do so much travel with my work, I use my frequent flier miles so my boyfriend and I can take two or three trips a year. We popped off to Chile, went to Costa Rica, and we're going to Alaska in two weeks. He's so busy and I'm so busy, I don't see him ever. We only see each other when we're on vacation.
MW: Between the Latin cop joke, Costa Rica, Chile -- your boyfriend doesn't look Latino.
TOCZYNSKI: He's not Latin at all. Who you marry and who you sleep with are two very different people.
DOUCETTE: You marry someone with a very high credit score and a bank account.
MW: Chris, who are you dating? Who are you sleeping with?
DOUCETTE: Last year was my 10-year anniversary with my partner, Michael.
DOUCETTE: Thank you very much. We've lived together for the past seven years and we live in Dupont Circle. It's pretty sweet.
MW: You've been in Dupont for a decade?
DOUCETTE: Yeah. I lived in a group house, then I moved next door into a condo with my partner.
MW: Does that make you a sort of gay stereotype?
DOUCETTE: Very. I'm one big walking stereotype. That's how I relate to the average person.
TOCZYNSKI: You mean commoners?
DOUCETTE: Yes, the commoners. I don't actually talk to them, I just relate to them. They ride the bus.
MW: Where are you living, Zach?
TOCZYNSKI: I'm on Capitol Hill with my man-friend. I hate the word ''partner'' -- or ''boyfriend'' or ''husband.'' They sound really gay.
TOCZYNSKI: ''Wife'' is really gay. I like saying ''man-friend,'' or ''the person I shower with naked.'' We just bought a row house over there in November and we're doing work, figuring out how to do home improvements. It's fun. I didn't know how handy I was. I changed every lighting fixture in the house and re-wired half the rooms. It was crazy.
DOUCETTE: He hired an illegal alien.
TOCZYNSKI: No, the Mexicans are doing the outside.
MW: Again with the Latinos....
TOCZYNSKI: I'm attracted to anybody, you know.
MW: Are you expected to keep your man-friends entertained at home? Is that a perk of living with a comic?
DOUCETTE: They pay like everyone else.
TOCZYNSKI: Kevin is just as odd as I am at times. He tries to be funny, but he's not. He takes my jokes and steals them, that's what he does. And he tells people, ''I wrote that for Zach.'' We make each other laugh a lot. He's a very talented musician, a pianist.
MW: Do you make a lot of pianist jokes?
TOCZYNSKI: I keep my relationship out of my entire routine. No one even knows I have a boyfriend until I'm off stage -- and in a three-way and I'm like, ''You guys, I'm taken.''
DOUCETTE: My boyfriend/man-friend is an attorney and he likes to think that he's really funny. He keeps threatening to do standup comedy, and I tell him to go right ahead. Behind closed doors, he makes me laugh, but not on purpose. He's more dorky than funny. He has all these ideas that only he thinks are funny. I kind of laugh at him, but love him for it. I also make him laugh, but usually not on purpose.
TOCZYNSKI: He hates my friends, because when we're together we tire them out. It's like, ''Here they go again.'' We're never serious, so we're bouncing these jokes off each other, going at it like poodles. Our boyfriends just stand around and then say, ''I'm going home. I'm tired.''
DOUCETTE: They don't know what to do. My boyfriend is the same way. He doesn't hang out with my friends at all. They call him Snuffleupagus, because they never see him. When I'm out, it's just non-stop pandemonium and it's too much for him. It tires him out. He does not like the extrovert side of me. He likes the behind-closed-doors, quiet, gagged side of me.
TOCZYNSKI: My partner never wants to go out. He doesn't drink, so his idea of a good night is lying on the couch, falling asleep in his underwear with his thing hanging out. I don't want you to think he's retarded. I don't want to offend retarded people.
MW: I've met comics who can get awfully down when they're not performing. Do either of you have a tragic side.
TOCZYNSKI: I've had no tragedies I can think of.
DOUCETTE: I have TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder). It's a jaw-alignment problem, so it makes your jaw lock up. That's pretty tragic for a gay man. That's why I have braces, to correct the problem.
MW: Then you'll be good to go?
DOUCETTE: Like once the braces come off, watch out! Lock the doors, because I'm coming after you. I hope my parents don't read this. They won't -- they can't read. I have TMJ, so I make jokes about braces. That's my tragedy.
MW: Nothing from childhood? Bullying perhaps? Chris, were you a funny kid?
DOUCETTE: I was. I was not the class clown, but I would hang out with the teachers and make them laugh. I didn't have a lot of friends.
MW: At parent-teacher conferences, the teachers must've told your parents you were anti-social.
DOUCETTE: Oh, no. The teachers all loved me, because I was a really good boy, straight-A student. I was very well behaved. My notebooks were always very well organized. I was just a good kid, up until junior high when I became the class fag.
MW: Was that a position of honor?
DOUCETTE: No, it's not as glamorous as it sounds.
MW: Were you a funny kid, Zach?
TOCZYNSKI: I was a goofy kid. I grew up thinking I wanted to be a game-show host, sort of obsessed with Bob Barker and Wink Martindale. I would wear little leisure suits around the house. I was a really weird little kid. My parents encouraged it.
TOCZYNSKI: Yeah. My mom and dad knew that I wanted to make people laugh. I was making them laugh enough that they didn't kick my ass.
MW: Your parents or your peers?
TOCZYNSKI: The kids in school. My parents did kick my ass, but the school did not. [Laughs.] No, they're good parents.
MW: I heard you two were hoping to be asked some ''Coverboy'' questions.
TOCZYNSKI: Of course! Why not? I want to tell everybody what position I play on the baseball team. They always say something clever, like outfield or batboy. Chris, you go first. I can't think of anything right now.
DOUCETTE: I'd play the guy in the stands with the big finger.
TOCZYNSKI: I'd play the drunken dad in the Little League game.
MW: ''Shouty'' and ''Pointy.'' The first Coverboy question I'm asking is: What's on your nightstand?
DOUCETTE: I don't have a nightstand.
MW: When I get that answer, I'll ask: Where do you keep your alarm clock?
DOUCETTE: I don't have an alarm clock.
MW: That's when I tell a cover boy he's being difficult.
DOUCETTE: Oh, I'm sorry! What's next to the bed is my boyfriend's nightstand and he's got an alarm clock and some papers -- I don't really know what that's about.
TOCZYNSKI: And illegal narcotics.
DOUCETTE: And some change and a gun.
MW: What's in his nightstand drawer?
DOUCETTE: I don't actually look. I just turn off the lights and things happen.
TOCZYNSKI: I have weird things in mine. I have change and huge stacks of blank DVDs. I also have collecting cards.
MW: You can't have blank DVDs. You're the anti-piracy guy.
TOCZYNSKI: It's for burning my shows. I'm not making copies of movies or anything like that. You can make copies of your own product if it's not copyrighted or trademarked. But everybody else: Don't make a copy or we'll get you! I also have a big stack of U.S. Customs trading cards with all the dogs that sniff out the drugs.
MW: Do you hand them out to kids?
TOCZYNSKI: No, I just have them. They have a picture of the U.S. Customs dog with its name, and you flip it over -- like a baseball card -- and it lists the drugs that the dog specialized in sniffing out.
MW: Where did you get them?
TOCZYNSKI: U.S. Customs people gave them to me. But you can't have them. Special, for me only. I've worked with a lot of law enforcement, so I get a lot of little weird treats. I just threw the stack of them in the nightstand -- with, of course, the poppers and lube.
DOUCETTE: I've got eye shades, earplugs and an Ace bandage.
MW: What's the bandage for?
DOUCETTE: I was playing Frisbee and I sprained my ankle. It turned purple and blue and I couldn't walk for a week. That was like three years ago. I put it there beside the bed and it's never been moved since.
MW: At this point, you should name it.
DOUCETTE: I think I'll call it ''Ace.''
TOCZYNSKI: Oh, that's good.
MW: The second Coverboy question would be: Where is the most unusual place you've had sex.
DOUCETTE: You've had more experience with that, Zach, so go ahead.
TOCZYNSKI: Oh, boy, I am a whore. No -- a recovering whore. I don't know. If I answer this, the person will read this and know it's him. And I have a boyfriend, so if I answer he'll know I cheat. I'll just say in our bed. In the same position. Always the same way.
MW: And Chris?
DOUCETTE: Mine would have to be in a tree.
TOCZYNSKI: You're making that up.
DOUCETTE: No, it's true! I didn't say it was with anyone. The weirdest place, actually, would be in a hayloft.
MW: That's romantic.
DOUCETTE: It was with a sheep. I'm kidding. It was not. It would have to be -- what's that park in New York State? The Adirondacks.
TOCZYNSKI: That's great. Was it chilly?
DOUCETTE: Not for long.
The next installment of Gaylarious is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30, at 8:30 p.m., at Riot Act Comedy Club, 1610 14th St. NW. Tickets are $12, available at www.riotactcomedy.com, or by calling 202-625-6229.