CollegeHumor's A.G. Beardsley on making comedy inclusive, what's next for trans representation, and more

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image credit: A.G. Beardsley

CollegeHumor's A.G. Beardsley on making comedy inclusive, what's next for trans representation, and more

March 19, 2019

A.G. Beardsley is breaking binaries and smashing the stereotypes of comedy. As the only nonbinary cast member on the critically acclaimed YouTube comedy channel CollegeHumor, Beardsley is navigating the comedy industry through a unique lens. After growing up in a religious household and attending a conservative Christian university, Beardsley utilized comedy and acting as an escape. Now, as a lead actor on a YouTube platform emassing millions of views each month, Beardsley leads with humor—and inclusivity.

Most recently, you can spot Beardsley in CollegeHumor’s new competition show, Total Forgiveness, alongside fellow queer comedien Grant O’Brien. Beardsley and O’Brien compete in challenges with the goal of paying off their student loan debt, shedding light on the reality of queer people post-college.

Below, Beardsley talks to GLAAD about their gender and sexual identities, navigating the cyber comedy industry, and shares advice for young performers.

Describe your gender and sexual identities in your own words. What was your journey to determining them?

I love this question! I think my gender identity feels a bit invisible. I’m legible to the world as “a lesbian,” but I don’t identify as a woman. I recently cried at a 2019 calendar of hatching baby birds that my mom sent to me (I think she thinks birds are a gay thing?) I really identify with sweatily pecking my way out. That’s how my gender feels right now. Infantile, slow and frustratingly manual. I’m non-binary and called “she/her” constantly, but would prefer “they/them”.

GLAAD believes in the motto “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Do you think that you would’ve come out earlier if you’d seen your identity represented in media earlier on?

Y E S. More trans actors playing trans roles! But also, I’m craving normalcy in how trans characters are written. Boys Don’t Cry was beautiful, [but] now let’s see some trans characters who don’t get sexually assaulted. I would love to watch a non-binary character eat an apple and rush off to their barista job. A character who’s “trans-ness” doesn’t eclipse them.

What was your journey after college like? How did you get involved in CollegeHumor?

 So, I went to an incredibly conservative Christian university in San Diego where you sign a “Covenant” agreement promising you won’t drink, smoke, have sex or have homosexual thoughts. It was anti-gay. I didn’t come out until my senior year, and when I did I had to keep it a secret. After college, I moved to LA and didn’t really know where to find queer community. I ended up at booming night clubs alone- sincere shout out to all the ripped go-go dancers who made small talk with the butch loner holding a Blue Moon in the corner. I had so much on my mind those first few years. As an escape, I started classes at The Upright Citizens Brigade and got really into improv comedy. From UCB, I auditioned for the cast of Boom Chicago (a comedy theater in Amsterdam) and after three years abroad, I came back and auditioned for CollegeHumor.

Is your workspace super LGBTQ+ affirming? If so, what makes it affirming? How do you adjust to working in an environment that is predominately cisgender?

My workspace is an oasis! Truly so affirming, everyone from production to the writers to the editors use my correct pronouns. I think Sam Reich, sent an email out. I’m a big fan of Sam, he’s the best boss. It helps to work at such a forward facing company.

What is your writing process? How does your identity influence what you write and perform?

I think it pays to be a weirdo when it comes to comedy. The perspective you get on the outside looking in is what I’m attracted to most. When I was a kid, I felt like a total freak, but it made me laugh to realized all the guys in my grade held their arms in the exact same way. Or as a barista, all the assholes has the exact same AMEX card. I usually try to write from a place of small specifics. In the writers room for CollegeHumor, the small pitches get bigger laughs than something big or broad.

Who are some of your most influential comedians and performers?

I love Amy Sedaris and Lily Tomlin. I also can’t get enough “life hack” Youtube videos, the sincerity of an average person looking to camera and stuffing a chicken with a beer can is funnier than anything I’ll ever write.

Comedians like Ellen Degeneres, Kate McKinnon, and Hannah Gadsby have made a name for lesbians in the comedy industry. (*Although all are white and cis) How can that representation be made for nonbinary comedians? Do you want to be a part of that?

I think the burden of representation falls on network executives! Give us TV shows and specials and writers room jobs!  We’re out here doing the work :)

What is your career goal and does your identity play any role in that? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

I want to create my own show. I have pilots written, and I’m currently writing a magical realism show about a girl who’s inner child appears and follows her around Austin, TX. My identity definitely plays a role in what I write. I would like to create a show with multiple queer characters and break out of the tokenism, “one gay character per series” rule we seem to have. There are many different types of queer people, let’s watch them eat apples.

What is your advice for queer/trans writers and performers wanting to make it in the comedy industry in this digital age?

Make a show you want to watch! The digital age is decentralized (er, at least somewhat), it’s not all The CW anymore. People watch TV on their laptops, the same place they’d watch *your* web series! You can get your niche, specific weirdo content out there! Also, remember to take care of yourself :) Take a coffee break and sit in the sun with a dog. It can be exhausting navigating the cis-abyss. Go easy and check in with yourself!

Find A.G. Beardsley on CollegeHumor, performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Los Angeles, or on Twitter.

Leah Juliett is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and recent graduate of Western Connecticut State University with a degree in political science. They are the Founder and Executive Director of the #MarchAgainstRevengePorn. Leah is a 2018 GLAAD Rising Stars Grant recipient and served as the Youth Engagement Coordinator at GLAAD. LJ currently serves as a Junior Editor for amp.

the voice and vision of a new generation