The inauguration of the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival in 2015 joined a network of fringe festivals across the globe dating back to 1947. The idea for the GSLFF was born when Nina and Michael Vought, professors of theatre at Westminster College, stumbled upon the New Orleans Fringe Festival and were captivated by the array of unique performances.
The 2017 GSLFF opened last night with a kick-off party at Sugarmont Plaza in Sugar House to mark the beginning of eight days of theatre, music, dance, art and fun. In addition to local artists and theater companies such as Kate MacLeod, POST Theatre Company and Utah Repertory Theater, among the dozens of participators of this year’s festival, one we are profiling here is a Seattle-based LGBTQ comedian.
Jeffrey Robert aka The Gay Uncle started doing stand-up comedy and storytelling as part of his midlife crisis after he turned 50 when he found he couldn’t afford a sports car or a young trophy boyfriend. Jeffrey describes himself as white bearded, bearish, big, round stand-up comedian, humorist, writer and artist in addition to being a husband (25 years, some of them legally married), father, grandfather and actual uncle to biological and logical family members (to steal a phrase from the great Armistead Maupin).
Jeffrey brings to the GSLFF a performance of “The Gay Uncle Explains It All To You,” winner of the Best Comedy of the Tucson Fringe Festival 2017. He calls it a whirlwind tour inside the mind of a middle-aged gay man done with humor, snippets of music and brightly colored graphic novel-style paintings of pop culture icons done on cardboard, cheap paper and found objects.
“References to people, places and things as diverse as Diana Ross, Peter Pan, Grace Jones, Holly Woodlawn and even Bruce Springsteen are all part of the journey. The Gay Uncle comes from the generation of gay men who were devastated by the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and when so many of them met an early death, with them went the stories and subjects that are rarely passed on to the younger generations and rarely spoken about by the remaining survivors. But this is not a sad show (although there are poignant moments) but a celebration,” Jeffrey says.
He continues to describe it as “A celebration of Pop, Camp, Gay, Underground and Trash Culture of the ’60s & ’70s – Imagine John Waters substituting for Garrison Keillor in a friend’s living room on a $13 dollar budget and you get some idea of what is in store.”
Jeffrey is also producer and host of several Seattle shows (now on hiatus) including West Side Glory, A somewhat gay variety show with comedy, music, burlesque, drag and go-go bears; The Gay Uncle Podcast (stories from members of the LGBTQ community) and The Gay Uncle Presents “The Good Life” (stories and songs to appreciate all that is good in the world). He has performed at Seattle’s Bumbershoot, bear runs, Ethiopian restaurants, dive bars, and at least one garage opening for a gay nude performance artist who encouraged the audience to remove their clothes as well (Jeffrey kept his clothes on so as not to frighten anyone). He has donated his time and talent for countless benefit shows for everything from cat rescue services to safety programs for IV drug users.
And notably, Jeffrey is featured in “The Legacy Project,” a documentary film written and directed by Shun Knittel and Dru Dinero of Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) which is now being edited featuring some of the trailblazers in Seattle’s LGBTQ community.
To catch a performance of The Gay Uncle Explains It All To You
The Fringe Factory – The Forge
2274 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City
All shows – $10, tickets: www.greatsaltlakefringe.org/tickets/
Thurs. 8/3 – 9 p.m.
Fri. 8/4 – 10:30 p.m.
Sat. 8/5 – 1:30 p.m.
Sun. 8/6 – 6 p.m.
The Great Salt Lake Fringe isn’t censored, adjudicated or restricted. Artists hold the power, and have the opportunity to create the art that matters to them.