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Comedian Chet Sewell headlines GLSEN's comedy fundraiser in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- GLSEN will be hosting a star-studded, comedy fundraiser at Diversionary Theatre on Sunday, March 9.

Every single dollar of proceeds will go to area high school Gay-Straight Alliances, GLSEN San Diego's Jump-Start Youth Leadership Team, training for teachers and staff on creating safe schools for all students, and providing schools with inclusive curriculum.

The talented comedy lineup includes local stars Sarah Burford, Tony Calabrese, Chris Clobber, Al Gavi, Steve Heyl, Diane Jean and Chet Sewell.

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News chats with Chet Sewell about the event, his activism in the LGBT community, and how he became the laugh-out-loud sensation he is.

Age:

Never ask a gay man his age!!

Hometown:

Des Moines, Iowa

Single or taken:

Taken

How many years have you been in San Diego?

10 years

How did you get into comedy, and what motivates you to keep doing it?

I have always been an entertainer. Growing up in a big family, I needed someway to get attention.

As an educator, I’ve learned laughter and humor is an excellent way to teach. Students learn so much more when they are having fun and being entertained.

I am motivated to keep doing it because there is nothing like the feeling of making folks laugh. To quote Sally Field: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

While this may be a bit vague, are there influences or stimuli or life experiences that drive your comedy content? Where do you pull it from?

All of my comedy is based on life experiences, growing up gay in Iowa, trying to fit in, things I find weird or odd. I have an M.A. in English so I love plays on words. I make fun of myself. Growing up, I used comedy as way to fend off the name-calling and bullying. I figured if I could make people laugh, they’d like me and not make fun of me or call names.

How did you get involved in the Comedy “Fun”draiser?

I am co-chair of GLSEN San Diego and have been involved with GLSEN in Des Moines and San Diego for 15 years. I had the brilliant idea of combining the two things I’m passionate about (safe schools for ALL students and comedy) into an event that would help raise money to further our mission to support schools, staff and students and create school environments that are inclusive and safe.

What age groups are welcome at the fundraiser, and what can the audience expect?

The event is for 21 and up as there is a wine/cheese reception (included in the ticket price) before the show. The show is PG-13. Comedy is much more hilarious when comedians don’t rely on the ‘F’ word for laughs.

The show will consist of myself and 6 other comedians. LGBT comedians are myself, Sarah Burford and Steve Heyl. Ally comedians are Diane Jean, Chris Clobber, Tony Calabrese and Al Gavi.

These comedians are some of the best entertainers in San Diego . Sarah Burford is the producer of Laugh Out Proud, a comedy show hosted by Martini’s Above 5th and is a leading LGBT comic in Southern California. Steve Heyl has performed all over Southern California. Diane Jean has performed across Canada and the United States. Chris Clobber has been seen on Showtime, Comedy Central and writes for top name performers. Tony Calabrese is an international headliner, has won numerous comedy competitions and has performed with the likes of Dat Phan (The Original winner of “Last Comic Standing”), Norm Crosby and Gary Mule Deer. Al Gavi is co-producer of Comedy Heights, a comedy show every Saturday night at Twiggs on Park Blvd. and is a national headliner.

Give us a little piece of trivia we may not know about you?

Chet is my middle name, but to find out what my first name is you need to come to the show. My first name makes for some fun fodder.

Any thoughts on the local LGBT community? What would you like to see change?

I worry that young LGBTQIA folks take for granted and/or are unaware of the struggles that those who came before us endured in order for us to reach this pinnacle in our history. I would love to see young folks taking a more active role in advocating for equality, not just for the LGBTQIA community, but for every community that has been/is still being repressed.

Hopefully, with California’s adoption of inclusive curriculum that requires educators to teach about LGBT history/contributions this will change.

What do you like most about the local LGBT community?

I love the diversity. I think many in the LGBT community are more freely able to express their individuality because we have a “I don’t care what people think” attitude. After all the years I spent trying to fit in in order to stop the bullying, it is liberating to just be me and not worry about what others may think. I feel many in the LGBTQIA community have this same attitude.

Who are your top two or three comedians of all time, and in one sentence, why does each appeal to you?

Lucille Ball. She’s the queen of comedy and what gay man doesn’t love a queen?

Carol Burnett. My sister and I would reenact her skits in our basement for captive family members

Kathy Griffin. She isn’t afraid to push the boundaries.

If you could host a dinner party and invite three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?

Oprah Winfrey. She is a living goddess. Katherine Hepburn. She was way ahead of her time and was a trailblazer for women. Bayard Rustin. The man behind organizing the 1963 March on Washington - an often unsung gay hero in the fight for civil rights and LGBTQI equality.

The details

When: Sunday, March 9

Wine & Cheese Reception from 7:30 to 8 pm

Stand-up comedy by local comedians starting at 8

The show should last about 90 minutes.

Where: The Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in University Heights