When it comes to laughter-inducing topics, few are less comedic than sexually transmitted diseases. The mere mention of STDs and STIs is enough to make most people cringe, squirm uncomfortably, and immediately change the subject. After all, sexually transmitted diseases are the downside and risk of having sex, not the fun part everyone’s willing to talk about.
But New York-based performance artist, blogger, and sex educator, Lucas Brooks, doesn’t feel that way. He wants to talk about them. He wants to talk about them a lot. And not only does he feel like talking about them, he decided to discuss STIs through his very personal comical collection of first-hand stories.
In his hilarious and borderline-terrifying one-man show, Cootie Catcher, Brooks takes us through his many close encounters of the sexually transmissible kind and tries to balance the pros and cons of promiscuity and paranoia around sexually transmitted diseases.
Directed by David Drake, who is the creator of one of the longest-running solo shows in New York theater history, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, for which he won an Obie Award, and written by Brooks, who is also the creator of the blog “The Intellectual Homosexual” where he analyzes gay culture and sexuality, this show is the perfect fit for the Montreal Fringe Festival, known for its ‘anything goes’ attitude and its support of sex-positive subjects.
I caught up with Lucas for a quick Q & A.
Where did the idea for this one-man show come from?
Over the last eight years or so, I’ve had various incidents where I thought (or knew) I was exposed to some sexually transmissible infection. While they started out terrifying, they eventually became hilarious, in their own dark way. A couple years ago I realized that I had enough of these stories to make a full show out of them, and then I began typing them out furiously.
Are these personal experiences or those of friends/clients?
These stories are all 100% autobiographical. When I was developing the piece, my director often made suggestions of fictional things that I could add for flare, but I was determined to keep this show completely nonfictional. Although the show is a comedy, I still want people to take the subject matter seriously, and I was worried that if I got too far from the truth, the audience would see right through me and walk away from the show with less of a fire underneath them.
Have you found that the topic has proven shocking to some?
It definitely is. To be honest, I was surprised how uncomfortable people were with the subject matter. I work in a sex shop for my day job, so I’m in this weird little sex education bubble and tend to forget most people are a lot less comfortable talking about their sexual health. But when I started traveling with this show and saw the tension in people’s faces when I tried to tell them about my show, I remembered how tough it is for most people to talk about this stuff. And it’s my goal to change that.
Can STDs seriously be an entertaining subject?
I certainly hope so! We see a lot of comical reference to sexually transmissible infections in pop culture, but usually they come from a place of shame, which I think is extremely unhealthy. I have seen so many people who have battled STIs, many of which will carry them for the rest of their lives, who have gone on and had awesome, healthy, happy sex lives. There’s so much room for sex in comedy that doesn’t involve slut-shaming, but sadly most people who choose to approach the topic reach for the lowest fruit on the comedy tree.
Is your goal to a) raise awareness, b) remove the stigma and taboo, c) educate and entertain, or d) all of the above?
All of the above! I began writing this piece purely as entertainment, but the more I performed it, the more people were describing it as educational. And being a professional sex educator, I wasn’t about to complain about that. I think the best way to deliver this kind of information to people is to make them laugh while doing it. It eases the tension and let’s the ideas flow more smoothly.
Is this your first time performing this show in Montreal?
It’s my first time in Montreal, period! I’ve heard so many great things and I’m totally stoked to be here!
Cootie Catcher runs from Friday, June 12 to Saturday, June 20 at the Mainline Theatre. For specific dates and times, check the Montreal Fringe website.