Amid the influx of news surrounding COVID-19, creatives are still finding ways to bring culture and connection to the public as best they can. Sammie James’ weekly virtual comedy series, Queerly Comedic, provides comic relief for audiences and is an outlet for comedians to practice their craft and make a few bucks. 

James started Queerly Comedic three years ago as a monthly show at the Pride Center of New Jersey, but in mid-March began the virtual version, which takes place Fridays at 7 p.m. on Facebook. 

James, a trans comedian from Central New Jersey, explained, “[The streaming iteration] made the concept of a weekly show a little more doable because there weren’t the logistics of scheduling with a venue and moving things around and dealing with tech.”

James also runs We Are Trans, a variety show featuring trans and nonbinary performers, which was slated to take place in various U.S. cities before the pandemic put life on hold. 

Although Queerly Comedic hosts comedians from all over the U.S., “There’s a definite Philly representation,” James said. “Some of the first people I reached out to have definitely been Philly mainstays.”

Alessandro Morales, Bobby Hankinson and Dash Kwiatkowski are some of James’ favorite comedians who have appeared on We Are Trans and who plan to perform on Queerly Comedic down the line, she said. Philly comics Alyssa Al-Dookhi and Michael Kelly have charmed audiences in previous Queerly Comedic streams. “There are so many great Philly comics,” James said. “If I haven’t had them on yet, they’re definitely on my list of people to get to.”

Last week’s show featured Jeena Bloom, who splits her time between New York and LA, Baltimore’s Elizabeth Norman and New York’s Wanjiko Eke.

In each Queerly Comedic show, James and the guest comedians list their Venmo information on the screen when addressing the audience. James does a bit of comedy before introducing her fellow comics.     

“A lot of performers have lost their livelihoods,” James said. “I didn’t have much of a day job other than performing and producing shows. There are a lot of comics, if they did have a day job, it was in a service industry that’s been impacted. It’s definitely [good] to put a little bit of money in performers’ pockets.” 

According to a report published by the Human Rights Campaign, 15% of LGBTQ adults in the U.S. work in the restaurant and food services industry, and another 4% work in retail. 

Not only does Queerly Comedic provide comedians with monetary assistance, but it also helps fill the creative void that some may be experiencing. 

“I know I’m someone who, if I’m not doing [comedy] I just feel restless,” James said. “Besides the performer side, it gives people something to watch and to enjoy, which is so important right now.” 

James planned to go on tour from March to July, but that’s been postponed. “It was set to be probably the most financially lucrative couple of months of my career,” she said. “I was definitely bummed, but I’ve been able to make an OK amount of money doing stand up the way I’ve been doing it right now. I’m lucky in that regard.”

While Queerly Comedic manifests as a Facebook live stream where only the participating comedians can hear each other’s laughter, performers encourage audience feedback in the form of “likes” and comments. 

“I hope people enjoy it; that’s also part of why I do it,” she said.  

For more information and to check out Queerly Comedic shows, visit https://www.facebook.com/QueerlyComedic/ 

The comedy show takes place Fridays at 7 p.m. on the Queerly Comedic Facebook page.