Comedian Rich Kiamco finds ‘freedom in laughter’

He came out to his Filipino Catholic parents (below) at age 14.

FilAm standup comic Rich Kiamco is one of eight LGBTQ individuals whose stories were put on spotlight in the ABC’s special series “Our America: Who I’m meant to be.” He joins a fire chief in Fresno who is a woman, an out gay Muslim, a biracial personal chef and others who share the challenges of being LGBTQIA+ and how “race, religion, class, gender and sexuality” define who they are. In Rich’s case, his comedy adds another dimension to his narrative. 

In his own words…

“I’ve been an openly gay Filipino American comedian…I was 14 years old when I came out to my Filipino Catholic parents. I looked at my dad and realized I gave him something to cry about. He looked at me and said, ‘Stop singing, stop dancing and stop sewing.’ When I came out, the first thing my dad did was take away my sewing machine. My dad loved me, he was just terrified that his son was gonna fail.

Photo: ABC

“The first paid gig I had back in the olden days, the guy said, ‘Get off the stage you “f” word!’ and the whole room started chanting it. I stopped doing comedy…But I’m back.

“I’m nervous. I have a traumatic memory. Everything I’ve joked about was probably really painful when it first happened. But being able to laugh is like turning it around. That’s the payoff.

“When I first was doing it, I’m like, this is all the validation I’ve been seeking. And now it’s like, do not expect this to fill the hole because I’ve seen people consumed by it. I’m a complete person, whether or not I get that laugh, because if this laughter is my only source of oxygen, I’m doomed because it will never be enough.”

“I was in Indiana carrying Chinese takeout. They took my food and tipped me. They literally thought I was delivering food.

“When (my partner) Sandy died from COVID, like two days after I buried him, I was doing jokes about it. It was really dark, but I needed to do it for me, so that I could feel alive – not to dishonor him, but to not let COVID win.

“There’s freedom in laughter. We can take something really painful and flip it and transform it.

“This is New York. People understand that this brown (points to his face) is Asian or gay.

“Comedy is one of the things that’s kept me alive.”

© The FilAm 2022

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