By DeoVonte “Deo Means
Sampson– a one word name that perhaps conjures up some distant recollection of a slightly different spelled, bible-based warrior with supernatural powers, who was able to combat his enemies and perform heroic feats… or it may remind you of a Hanna-Barbera TV show of the late 1960’s, featuring another superhero, also imbued with great strength, endurance and agility. Or you could be talking about Sampson, the self-described, out, gay, black comedian, activist, writer, speaker and fearless advocate of issues and concerns that speak to the challenges of those whose daily lives are marginalized and threatened. So you would not be far off no matter which Sampson/Samson comes to mind. Even though those comparisons are not entirely complete. Because Sampson, the comedian, is distinctly unique: a thinking, funny, passionate comic- who bridges culture, race, age and community with fresh humor, straddling an understanding and a perspective of the world that both an African American straight mom and a young white DL bisexual teenage boy could both equally relate to, while trying to recover from non-stop laughs and serious reflection.
Sampson McCormick first came into the Flyy-Life peripheral at an intimate dinner party held last spring. The host suggested that we do some research and become familiar with a talented young comedian – originally from North Carolina- that was making waves on social media. His performance at The Howard Theatre in Washington D.C, was going viral online and had the cognoscenti talking. A quick google search produced endless amounts of material from this young man whom was not only extremely attractive, but also refreshingly funny and provocative. Doing further due-diligence, a quick look at his Facebook page revealed that this young man was not only held in esteem by our community but also highly respected and photographed with MOST of the leading figures within his industry. How impressive was it to see a talent of our community frolicking with Whoopi Goldberg! September of this year, the announcement was made that the team at Coalition for Justice & Respect were partnering with fella’s from BlackGaysRock to bring Sampson to Chicago and headline their National Coming Out Day event, Laugh Out Loud a Queer Comedy Experience at The Baton Show Lounge. I connected with Sampson who immediately touched me as warm, genuine, hilarious, down-to-earth and engaging. I discovered Sampson has been performing somewhere most of his young adult life- literally working the smallest of stages, as he puts it, “in coffee shops, STD clinics, gas stations, and apartment kitchens” to most recently in the largest of venues, headlining the Howard Theater in his own show, as the first African American, out, gay male comic. Sampson is also a gifted writer, penning two successful books and he has gained a serious following as a prolific public speaker, invited to campuses to lecture at places like Harvard University.
We sat down to dig deeper into the person whom is Sampson and this is what he had to say…
FL- Using 5 adjectives, describe your personal style of comedy.
SM- Genuine, Down to Earth, Quick Witted, Intelligent and Conversational.
FL- How and when did you discover you possessed this talent?
SM- I’ve always known that I could make people laugh. When I was a little boy, I remember doing things and people always laughing about them, but didn’t know that I was “funny” until I got in middle school. The teacher would put me in the back of the class, and everyone would be turned around, watching me the entire class and I would do things, the entire class would roar with laughter. I was a smart ass and flamboyant clown, maybe that’s why I didn’t get teased for being gay a lot when I was little, because I had a naturally flamboyant personality, as I got older, especially in high school, when I wrote, spoke at assemblies or to friends, presented work to our class, was in plays, it got the laughs, and realized after a while, “Hey now, I’m onto something here.” (laughs)
FL- Where do you currently reside and what has been your reception from your home state?
SM- I was a long-time resident and my heart is still in Washington, DC. My ass is in Oakland, CA (Bay Area) and thank GOD, when I left DC and came to the Bay, I started getting the same love that I got in DC, which is a real blessing, because, home should always love you first. And both love me, and I love them.
FL- Viewing your clips, I noticed you are skilled at working diverse crowds. What’s normally the biggest obstacle to overcome while delivering a successful performance?
SM- Well, I love all people. And being someone who has had to deal with knowing what it’s like to be looked down on, because you’re different, has allowed me to know compassion. In compassion is humanity and true humanity is genuine. And people appreciate something that’s genuine, they know when you’re bullshitting them. So, that allows me to connect very well with folks. The biggest obstacle depends on who you may be in front of, if I’m performing at a Red Neck convention, my biggest obstacle would be saving my ass from getting torn out the frame. (laughs), so I think that each performance has its own challenge maybe or thing to focus on. And not even really a “challenge” but it’s just that each audience is different, a collective person, I’d say and just like interacting with folks, you have to know how to deal with that collective individual.
FL- What has been the biggest obstacle to overcome as an openly gay comedian?
SM- Oh, baby! Being pigeonholed, or looked at as a novelty. You know, like you said earlier, you know that I entertain for diverse audiences, I know that, people know that, they know that I just don’t do gay or straight crowds, an audience is an audience. But, the bookers and agents, etc. look at me a lot and say “we don’t know how to package you.”, I’m like “Bitch, there is nothing to package. Ya’ll love putting things in boxes. Don’t put me in a box, put me in front of audiences, all audiences!” I’m constantly having to either kick a door down, or build one. And building a door isn’t hard, I have butch lesbian friends. (laughs)
FL- A lot of your material is referenced from stigmas and experiences within the gay community what has been the general response from the gay community itself and how are you using your platform empower?
SM- It can be mixed at times. There are parts of the gay community who LOVE me, and I LOVE them! And there are some who, I’ll show up and they will throw me shade. I don’t know, I guess it’s because I’m not Beyonce. (laughs) But yeah, the community has become extremely supportive of me over the years and for that I’m blessed. But gay folks who aren’t receptive to it, seem to not be, because they are just that self-loathing; especially those church queens, and some folks are just shady. And that’s ok.
I remember when I first REALLY started addressing real gay issues through my work, I did it because it was an outlet to help me battle my own demons dealing with feeling shame for finding men attractive, or because I thought I was sinful, or whatever, and by being open, allowed me to connect with my audience on a deeper level, because we healed together. And I love having that connection and will continue. Laughter and healing and enlightenment and inspiration are all good! And at most of my shows, cocktails are served, so that’s good too! Hallelujah for the cocktails, baby!
FL- What has been your most uplifting personal experience since coming out gay?
SM- My most uplifting personal experience since coming out, is realizing that I can survive anything. I heard a quote from Winston Churchill that said “If you ever find yourself going through hell, keep walking.” and I believe that, eventually, you get out. And lord knows, a lot of us go through absolute hell! Coming out on the other side has allowed me to realize how beautiful it is to be black and gay and how beautiful it is for two men to love each other, be in love, make love, have a relationship with GOD, the universe. Just coming out on the other end, and being grateful that I made it, and embrace self-love.
FL- Where do you see you and your craft in 5 years?
SM- Well, I already tour the world, but I’ll be touring on an even more consistent basis. I’ll be a very well-known name and very heavily involved in not just doing comedy, but helping to breathe life into our communities. It’s going to be amazing. I’m going to have a fabulous career, and I’m never gonna retire.I’mma be a fabulous old black queen on stage, in Prada and Depends!
FL- Performing in front of sold out audiences must be overwhelming at times. What do you do to relax and re-channel your energy?
SM- I love it. Again, very blessed to be in such high demand. To relax? I disconnect from everything and everybody. I don’t like to be seen before shows, a lot of times because I’m cute, and I don’t want nobody to see my outfit till I walk on stage (laughs), but seriously, I don’t talk much or do much before shows, except get quiet and go crazy in my head. Once I silence those voices, and feel a sense of serenity, I’m ready.
FL- Comedy is a major component of your life but you also produce very informative YouTube videos on topics such as hygiene and “need to knows” for gay sex. Describe to me what triggered this transition and what’s behind the success of it.
SM- What triggered is, grown ass 35 year old gay men still going through trial and error during their sexual experiences! Some of them are just triflin’, but some just never learned how to practice sexual hygiene and health. And it’s understandable in a way, because I remember, growing up, you know in school, how they use to have sex-ed, and your parent had to sign the permission slip for you to go?? My mother NEVER signed my permission slip. I use to have to forge her signature to go. But I could never ask her honest questions about sex. And I know that there were a lot of homes like that. So, of course, if you couldn’t talk about hetero sex, then you know gay sex was definitely off the table. And because we never had anybody to explain it to us, a lot of us had to learn from listening to people, experience and trial and error, and baby, that trial and error is a muthafucka! We try to keep as many of the kids from doing that as possible, so I just started talking about the things that I wanted to know growing up, or when I was first becoming sexually active. Thank GAWD, I didn’t have too much trial and error, but my life and my nerves would’ve been a lot better if I would’ve known what I was doing for real, as I think is the case for a lot of us.
FL- You are in Chicago to perform at a much respected HIV testing charity event. What are some of the HIV initiatives that you have been a part of?
SM-Which I’m happy to be a part of. I’ve performed at many HIV awareness events and functions, including working with Us Helping Us, and Al Sura Inc. both who focus on awareness and prevention in our community. Last year, I also went on tour with the Testing Makes Us Stronger Campaign, as a featured performer. Also, Whitman Walker clinic, performing for and serving food to the patients, every Thanksgiving. It was a very gratifying experience to be there during the holidays. Every year, I am involved with vigils and performances for World AIDS Day, and very involved with addressing the stigma, one year being one of the entertainment headliners at the International AIDS Conference in DC. Raising money for homeless and HIV affected LGBT homeless youth and volunteering at the Wanda Alston House in DC which gives shelter and treatment to youth who deal with these circumstances. I’ve always believed that if I’m not heading an organization that does the work, then support one who is and I definitely support people in our community who deal with prevention and eradicating stigma around HIV, especially in the black community.
FL- Ok, let’s have some fun. Describe the feeling of performing for Oprah and at the White House?
SM- Beautiful! Well, I didn’t perform for Oprah, I was asked to be a part of a pilot for OWN Network, which was still great. And the White House was wonderful. Joe Biden was getting his life. And I thought that it was an honor, and it is, but I really just look at these kinds of things as another performance.
FL- Are you currently dating and if not why?
SM- (laughs) Well I can’t tell EVERYTHING!
FL- If you had to describe the off-stage Sampson using an animal, which animal would it be and why?
SM- It would be a French Bulldog. . .One, because I love those babies, and they’re cute. Cute? *waves hand* Hello! (laughs) And two, because they are cool, chill, sociable, and very friendly. It doesn’t take much to make them happy, and they just clown around, chill and do their own thing.
FL- What are your thoughts on Chicago?
SM- I LOVE Chicago. I think that it’s a beautiful city, although I did accidentally go to the South Side late one night and had to walk! I was scared. The trade was looking at me, and I heard all kinds of noises and I ain’t see no police. Oooooh! No shade, but I was so happy when I found my way out. I hadn’t been more saved and sanctified in my life! (laughs) But seriously, Chicago has some of the best looking men than any city that I have gone to. Every time I come, I leave with whiplash from looking all around. Fine asses. I drink the water while I’m there. I’m like “If it’s in the water, I want some of it!”
FL- What can we expect from your performance on Monday?
SM- *sings* We’re gonna have a funky good time! I’m coming to have fun, and when a performer is there to have fun and the audience is too, it makes for a good time!
FL- What projects do you have in the near future? What can we expect from you next?
SM- Currently, just touring. And I’m working on my third book, and writing a film. My latest live stand up album “That Bitch Better Be Funny: Live at Howard Theater” (available on iTunes) is currently up for Grammy Nomination consideration, so pray for me on that. I’ll know what happens in a few short weeks. And although a lot is going on with that album, I’m working on recording another concert album next year. Working hard and moving as fast as I can, without having a panic attack, baby!
FL- Where can the reader find more of you?
SM- So, connect with me on Twitter: @OfficialSampson
Check out my videos; http://www.youtube.com/sampson247
And my website: http://www.sampsoncomedy.com (a lot of great info is there, and she’s due for a face lift real soon!)
The time and connection spent with Sampson was perhaps one of my most refreshing & rewarding experiences since my interview with comedic performer Jenifer Lewis. I am excited and look forward to being in the building on Monday to witness his performance. This is most definitely a must attend event and I’m confident Chicago will enjoy his presence here. Sampson is a uniquely talented and extremely funny storyteller. He draws from the brilliant comic stylings of America’s top comic legends, such as Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg– two of his own comic heroes. Sampson draws from a rich reservoir of personal triumphs and everyday occurrences. Finding humor from his tough roots, being raised by a single mother in rural North Carolina to facing head-on, the judgmental cruelty and fierce hypocrisy of homophobic preachers and self-appointed, so-called ‘family values’ bigots. Sampson deals with the toxic daggers of our society’s sometimes judgmental and hateful tendencies with warm grace, intellectual honesty and damn funny jokes
Cheers Sampson!!! And my glass is raised!!!…Deo
~Sampson will be at the Baton Show Lounge on Monday October 13th to headline the Coalition for Justice & Respect, Laugh Out Loud: a Queer Comedy Experience event. Details below.~