Blue Élan (BE): What does National Coming Out Day mean to you?
Scout Durwood (SD): First of all, it’s my birthday, which is also Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday, so it’s a pretty badass date fresh out the gate. It also happens to fall on or near the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day, so it’s basically a three-day weekend where everyone talks openly about how wonderful it is to be gay.
BE: Which LGBTQ+ performers inspire you?
SD: Oh, wow. First off, the hardest working middle-aged man in showbiz, Murray Hill. Talk about an inspiration. Brittany Howard’s solo album caused a fundamental shift in my understanding of humanity, and the world is better for it. I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Right Said Fred, and not a day goes by when I don’t listen to Michael Barbaro on The Daily, except for Saturdays and Sundays, when he is off.
BE: Do you feel that your sexual identity plays into your art? How has it influenced your artistic expression, if at all?
SD: It’s been cool to watch gay go from a side hustle to the coolest party in town. I cannot emphasize enough how fast all of that changed. When I first moved to NYC, I my girlfriend was four years older than me, and she talked about how when she was my age it wasn’t always safe to hold hands on the street. I love that so much of our fight to exist has turned into a celebration of the fact that we do. I feel really lucky to be a lesbian. From what I know about straight culture (which is limited to television, cousins, and a couple of friends from work) being gay is way more fun.
BE: What drew you to comedy?
SD: I was in a government and politics seminar in college, and I used to wait until the very end of class to make a comment. I spent the bulk of the arranging my thoughts into a casual mini-speech. Jokes got people’s attention. They remembered what I said when it made them laugh. From that, I realized that comedy has a unique ability to shift a conversation. Comedy is based in surprise, so it lowers people’s and makes it easier to break patterns of thinking. Even less than convincing someone of one side or another, comedy helps take people off of autopilot. You don’t go to war when you’re laughing.
BE: What drew you to music?
SD: I still don’t identify as a musician—I think of the fact that I can sing as a cool party trick that helped me book work at nightclubs in New York, but also singing is my most favorite thing to do in the world. Like, if I were in solitary confinement for the rest of my life, the main thing that I would do is sing.
BE: What drew you to cabaret/burlesque?
SD: I got into it through queer nightlife, which has always been a big part of my life. It sort of didn’t occur to me that there was any other world.
BE: Is there a joke in particular that you’re especially proud of?
SD: Lesbianism aside, my favorite part of the day is still when the mail comes.
BE: Can you describe your creative process? Do you have different creative pathways depending on the medium?
SD: Oh, totally. It absolutely depends on the end goal. Writing music is very different from writing a script. Creative work is a combination of magic and math—finding an idea is magic, getting the idea to work is math. I do a lot of walking (possibly because I have a dog, so I also have a moral obligation to do so) and a lot of talking to myself in my apartment. I also believe in a red wine and coffee in a pinch.
BE: Can you share a moment of defeat, and a moment of victory as a performer with us?
SD: I have a really hard time picking out moments, to be honest. I feel like life hits me more in waves, I guess. I know I’ve had some really incredible moments as a performer, and some really hard ones, too, but mostly I feel like I’ve just had a lot of moments. There have been a couple of acting roles that I got really close to and didn’t book, which are particularly hard, because the audition process can be so long that you get really attached to role. As far as victories, one time I sang “Killing In The Name Of” for Goddamn Comedy Jam at The Blue Whale Festival in Tulsa, and the crowd was so on board with it, it was like a full mind-meld with a mosh pit and all. As far as moments go, this one was pretty excellent.
BE: Do you have any advice for young people who haven’t yet come out?
SD: Everything is a spectrum, nothing is a binary—I mean, computer code is binary, but even within zero’s and ones, nuance abounds. Your chosen family will most likely be more fun than your biological family, and any tears for anyone to cry are theirs to get over not yours to change. It’s a cruel slight of hand convincing anyone that loving someone is a sin. Single use plastic is a sin. Consensual love is not.
BE: How can people become better allies to the LGBTQ+ community?
SD: Social change is social change. Progress moves towards inclusion, so if you are a member of the queer community, don’t be so stuffy about answering questions. As long as an individual isn’t acting with an intent to cause physical or emotional harm, hear them out. And if you are on the other side of the rainbow… wait, is there an acronym for being straight? You folks don’t even have a symbol or a flag or anything. Boo. If you are a mostly hetero person, or honestly, if you’re literally any form of any kind of person, avoid getting locked in your idea of how things are or how they should be.
Laugh more. Dig your heels in less.
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