Nationally revered gay comic Sampson hits town with a headful of laughs and a heart full of vision.
By Ian Aber
Sampson McCormick is one of the most prolific stand up comedians out there today. With multiple albums and books, as well as routinely selling out venues across the country, the comic better known as simply Sampson brings his unique comedic voice back to Atlanta.
Loved by audiences, Sampson is also a favorite of other queer comedians. Another Southern comic made good, former Atlantan James Adomian hasnothing but praise.
“Sampson is a comedic powerhouse who enlightens with laughter,” Adomian says. “He is gay, he is black, he is dangerous on stage, and he is funnier than I can legally say. I hope people come to see him in Atlanta and everywhere else he goes, because I love watching him perform.”
Sampson’s Cali swag and Southern charm returns to town this weekend for the B.U.T.T. Stand Up Comedy Event. We chatted about the show, his experience, and his mission.
Why is the show called B.U.T.T.?
People hear “Butt”, and go ‘What?’ Sex sells, and I love being provocative and going outside of the box, and when I am naming a project, my brain always goes there too.
B.U.T.T. is an acronym for Blunt Unfiltered Truth & Testifyin’. I’ve always believed that art, particularly comedy, is about having something to say. And I’m silly, so naming the show the way that I did was an excuse to tell folks, “Come get some BUTT next week.”
Any difference between Southern audiences and others?
I am a Southern person, so naturally I connect better with Southern audiences because being Southern, growing up Southern is an experience.
As folks move to different cities though, particularly large cities, even in the south, like Houston, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta where people are migrating, there is starting to be less difference. However, I’m good at connecting with audiences just with my stories and my intent.
Describe your comedy in three words?
Warm, down-to-Earth, and theatrical.
Besides comedy, what makes you laugh?
Sitting on the sofa with friends on a Sunday evening, eating snacks, drinking wine and champagne and gossiping, or signifying and playing the dozens. I’ve grown up doing that, and it’s one of the best ways that I learned (and many people who grew up in the hood under dilapidated conditions) to survive with humor. It’s a great way to bond, loosen up and have a good time.
Favorite way to waste a day?
Laying in the bed, wrapped up in the covers, snacking and watching classic black movies from the ‘90s.
What are two quotes that keep you motivated?
“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”
“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What makes a great audience member?
A person who comes in with respect for the theater and performance. It seems like folks can’t watch a show without their phone in their hand. That’s the new applause. If they’re taping you, that means they like you.
So, someone who comes for an experience and to have a good time. Why pay to come to a comedy show, to sit there with your arms folded? I appreciate audience members who come ready to have fun and respect the theater and the person performing.
If you could play any role, what would it be?
I’m pretty open minded about this, but right now, I still want to play a complicated gay male character, in some complicated story. I could go for a comedic sidekick role, but I’ll always be able to do that. I want to be able to do some love scenes while I’m still young and cute, and in shape.
I would’ve loved to had been in Moonlight, or a film like Brother 2 Brother. Of course, I can play a heterosexual character, because I played straight in real life for 17 years of my life. However, as an entertainer, as an artist, there are so many important stories about our lives that have not been told, that need to be told.
Advice for any would-be queer comics?
It’s safer and a little easier to do than when I first started, but it’s still not easy. But our stories are important, and we are just as funny, as any other comic. You can’t be intimidated by the challenges that come along with it.
Simply focus on overcoming those, by being as damn funny as you possibly can be. My general rule is to respect the craft, respect the stage, work hard, study the art. Don’t be on a bunch of bullshit.
What are you reading, watching or listening to right now?
I listen to all kinds of music. From Gospel to Hip Hop to House. Every day requires something different to get the job done. As far as reading, I have several books on the nightstand next to my bed that I need to get through. I’m reading The Diary of Anne Frank, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Alchemist and The Rose that Grew from Concrete by 2Pac. There are bookmarks in all of them, and I’m enjoying them all.
What would 13-year-old Sampson say to you if you could meet?
Damn, you’ve grown up! ..Let me borrow $20