Out comedian, actor, writer and producer, Paris Sashay, is thriving and surviving in the world of standup comedy at a time when there are an increasing number of hurdles to jump for entertainers at every level.
The Washington, DC native, who will perform in Philly on Sept 27, has amassed a number of career milestones and accolades in her rise as a comedian, appearing on Comedy Central, HBO and Netflix. She’s also worked with numerous comedy superstars like Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish, Michael Che and Roy Wood, Jr. to name a few.
“It feels like dreams do come true,” Sashay said about getting to work with her comedy idols. “It’s a weird feeling. I know I deserve this, and I still can’t believe it’s happening in real time. It’s a happy feeling but it’s also indescribable. You can’t describe every emotion of it. But it feels like I’m on the right path doing the right thing.”
A comedian with Sashay’s resume normally would be set with gigs and projects coming from every angle but in 2023 nothing comes without some difficulties and complications. Sashay, like many performers and actors, had to navigate the pandemic shutting down opportunities. If that wasn’t enough of a wrench thrown into the works, the current writer’s strike in Hollywood is forcing a lot of writers and performers to pivot and redirect their creative efforts until the smoke clears.
“The pandemic was a major turn for standup comedy,” Sashay said. “It knocked out a lot of things. I was taping a show for a major network and corona stopped it. And once it ended, it didn’t return. There was a lot of work that was affected during that time. The writer’s strike too. It’s interfering with stand-up comedy because it’s making people return to stand-up comedy — even people who weren’t doing stand-up comedy. The competition is now harder. Actor/comedians are back being comedians more than actors now.”
One upside to the pandemic for Sashay was that it got her performing for more queer audiences instead of the mainstream audiences she was used to.
“It was mainstream at first and then corona really showed me the true queer LGBT audience that I had,” she said. “If it’s more of a queer audience, I’ll stick to doing more LGBT+ material. If it’s more of a mainstream audience, I’ll just do different jokes but its still surrounding the same topics.”
Regarding her material, Sashay says she doesn’t consider her comedy style political.
“My material is far from political,” she said. “Some people, depending on how they feel and what shows they see, there are some political jokes that I will say but overall, my comedy isn’t political.”
When it comes to her sexuality, Sashay identifies as both lesbian and bisexual and says she doesn’t feel any pressure to pick one identity over the other.
“At my core, I’m bisexual,” she said. “If it came down to it, I would like to have a husband and wife. But in the mere fact of my life, I would say I’m a lesbian. I don’t get flack [from the lesbian community], but they always tell me don’t go back. They’re like ‘No! Stay here. We need you.’”
Sashay also thinks that the comedy community is becoming more accepting and accessible to performers who are queer and POC.
“I think comedy now has enough lanes that you don’t have to fall into a lane if you feel as if you don’t fit in,” she said. “You can create your own lane. There are enough people for everybody to have a crowd. So, I definitely think it’s way more accepting now because you can create your own lane.”