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Published:January 28th, 2010 08:49 EST

Shawn Hollenbach: Comedic Therapy

By Daniel Marsche

Shawn Hollenbach`s equation to great stand up is a recipe:  tragedy plus time equals comedy.  From self-deprecating humorist to gifted comedian, this young entertainer has evolved by cultivating a style that capitalizes on the myriad incidents and accidents that befall us all in the midst of our human existence.  Who among us, after all, can proclaim traversing through adolescence unscathed by social stigmas and distorted body images?  Additionally, who among us has led so charmed of a life that tragedy has yet to make a stop at our doorstep? 


It is relatively safe to say no one, and Shawn`s gift is taking those awkward, tragic and embarrassing moments and churning them into creamy, delicious comedy.  This talent for churning undoubtedly stems from his upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, a land in the state somewhere between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that he fondly refers to as, ``Children of the Corn,`` country.  A place where he admittedly, as a young gay man completely unaware of his sexuality, experienced some of the greatest bits of fodder that contributes to the creation of his routines. 


``Everyone knew I was gay before I did,`` he admits referring to his years in high school; a time when he didn`t even fully understand what ``gay`` actually was.  And this he attributes to the lack of any realistic, positive gay figures in his life or mainstream media.  ``Gay kids have it so much easier these days,`` the comedian puts forth.  ``They have gay role models on TV and in Will & Grace and gay characters on soap operas...There`s also Facebook and MySpace and internet networking sites with specialized rooms that allow them to relate and find other gay teens going through exactly what they are.`` 


This is not to say that the new generation of gay teens have it any easier from a social perspective, Shawn quickly explains, but it does afford them a greater means of forging alliances and finding support with those enduring similar circumstances.  Teasing, bullying and being ostracized can produce debilitating and crippling affects to the victims of such cruelties, but Shawn, by the grace of his talent, advises that the funniest bits in his act all stem from some sort of tragic situation.  ``Comedy is the cheapest and greatest therapy...I don`t know if you`d get the same response, if you didn`t have some type of tribulation to relate to the audiences.``  And nothing is off limits.  Two years ago, Shawn was hit by a car, an incident that has made its way into his act.  The accident happened on Super Bowl Day Sunday on his way to brunch; he jokingly refers to this as a hate crime.    


In his stand up act Shawn is able to reflect upon his personal mishaps and misfortunes with a smile, and offer a new and humorous perspective for those in the audience to reframe their own travails.  And it is his hope that his performances will also inspire and assist in getting more gay comics to step into the spotlight.  ``Even the most successful gay comics, like Ellen and Rosie, have all come out after [they`ve achieved] success,`` Shawn explains, and it`s harder to get a successful career when you`re already out.`` 


This is a current reality that Shawn is endeavoring to change, and he is certainly making headway when considering the success of his production credits.  ``Closet Cases`` is a stand up forum he created to feature aspiring comics relating their adventures in the process of coming out of the proverbial closet.  The shows have been performed live at the People`s Improv Theater in NYC since 2008, where the latest installment of the series will be performed on January 30th at 8 pm.  (Audio clips of the Closet Cases " performances are available through pod cast at  The site also contains up-to-the-minute information pertaining to Shawn`s future appearances and projects.) 


Another feather in the comedian`s production cap includes the wildly successful ``Miss Fag Hag Pageant 2009,`` which benefited the Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk School.  Caroline Rhea of ``Sabrina the Teenage Witch`` acclaim, and a stand up veteran herself, served as one of the judges.  The wild and unconventional competition consists of ten women dancing, exhibiting their talents and then facing a panel of judges for a round of gay-based trivia questions. 


The twist of lime in this refreshing, cosmopolitan blend of charity, parody and entertainment is the swimsuit competition.  In a delightful break from tradition, it is the ``fags`` of the ``hags`` that don the swim apparel; Speedos, trunks and t-backs, oh, my!  Be sure to attend this year`s pageant at Comix in May where even greater surprises are in store.  (Please visit for dates and ticket information.) 


Shawn`s working goals are to provide the platform, assistance, inspiration and encouragement to future comedians looking to express themselves, and to expand gay comedy into the mainstream spotlight.  Charming, down-to-earth and funny, Shawn says, ``I`m the gay next door.  Ring the doorbell and bring me a fruitcake!``  (Restraining orders will be issued when necessary!)


To learn more about Shawn Hollenbach and upcoming performances, please visit: or or