Stand-up comedian James Adomian really loves Atlanta. Sure, he grew up here and his favorite aunt and family still live here, but James loves this town.
He has mentioned several times his love of the audiences in Atlanta, the local comedy scene and the spirit of diversity that defines our city. He performs at the Laughing Skull Lounge today through Jan. 11.
“I would love an excuse to live here for a while, a project that kept me here for a while,” he mentions on our call for this interview. An 11 a.m. interview at that—crack of dawn by comedian’s standards.
What have you been up to since your last visit to Atlanta?
“Touring around the country, doing stand up everywhere else. Also, I have been trying to make my own TV shows. That is not the easiest thing to do. They keep telling me no and I keep doing it so I will either be proven crazy or they will be proven wrong,” he says with a laugh.
With his off-beat and spot-on impressions, his mind-warping and view-expanding stand-up sets, anything he does on a podcast, that time he played Madonna, Rihanna, Louis C.K, Freddie Mercury and Kate Upton on Atlanta based Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital,” James’ appeal is undeniable.
And when I ask him what was the last gift he gave someone, he tells a poignant—and hilarious—story.
“I was in Europe doing shows and that was weird and fun. They have these cool toy stores in Europe. Toy stores in the US are, ‘Come here and buy this thing and have a war with it and destroy it.’ European toy stores are, ‘Learn how to construct things and perhaps be a constructive member of society.’ American toy stores are like, ‘Did it sell out yet? Kill the other kid before it does!’
“So I go into this toy store and they have all the Legos in there, like every single Lego because Europe is the home planet of Legos and I see this cool set from the Lego movie and get it for a friend’s kid. The minute I got to the check out line and they asked me, ‘Would you like this gift wrapped?’ and I said no, I knew, in my mind, I was going to keep it and take it home and build it immediately and that is exactly what I did. I had intended it for a gift for maybe three minutes. So this year, I am giving all the kids in my life pre-built Legos sets. Ones that I’ve had the fun of already building.”
One of James’ most hilarious pieces of stand up is on the topic of gay villains and how villains are often cast as gay for no reason as all. Check out his 2012 album “Low Hangin Fruit” for the full bit, that he refers to jokingly as his adult thesis.
I ask him if he sees parallels in the almost institutional portrayal of villains as gay in fiction to the pervasiveness of gays being vilified in the real world.
“This is something I figured out recently about myths, stories and narratives in our culture or any culture. Myths are constructed for a reason. Myths are designed to make people think a certain way. If you go back as far as, say, European fairy tales from the middle ages, the major pieces of propaganda are having a king is normal, having a feudal hierarchy is normal and the royalty and nobility are better than the common people.
“That propaganda is embedded in a lot of children’s stories,” he says. “Even if that isn’t the focus of the story, it will be the background of the story. You can see that there is propaganda in there but you can’t entirely blame because that was the time the lived in so of course the myth is going to reflect the world they live in. You can say the same thing about gay villains.”
“It’s a feedback loop where the myth of the gay villain causes people to see gay people as cringing cowards, backstabbing sex addicts or the mustache twirling women haters, who are resentful that the hot hero man won’t fuck them,” he adds. “I think that myth causes people to treat gay people poorly. It causes homophobia, distrust of people who are different from your in terms of gender or sexuality.
“Then that animosity and bad feeling causes the myth to reenforce itself. When I see the gay villain trope in cartoons and movies for adults and I see it over and over and over again, I want to point it out. I want everyone else to be forced to recognize that it is true. That they’ve embedded these negative ideas about gay people all over the culture,” he explains.
James is very vocal on Twitter about politics and current events as well as in his act. I asked him how does he balance the gravitas of some of the topics he discusses, such as racism, sexism and homophobia, with the humor?
“I learned it and in some ways am still learning that balance because, in a way, this is a world that it would inappropriate to laugh at all or to enjoy yourself at all in a world like this, but I really believe that humor is supposed to be gallows humor. It is here to lighten the load during bad times,” he says.
“There is the age-old saying in comedy that you always ‘punch up’ so while there is misery and suffering in the world, you make fun of the ones causing it and benefiting from it and not the targets of suffering. The use of comedy to address social issues and economic imbalances, comedy is an imprecise tool at best,” he says. “Comedy can be like one of those old pirate pistols that if you fire it sends explosions on several different directions. People have been laughing a lot and making dangerous jokes all through our history and comedy is here to get us through the tough times.
“You can’t make people laugh without engaging their thoughts and their minds in some way,” he adds.