Al Stafford: Inappropriate Questions by Inappropriate People
Matt Clifford • August 20, 2016 • Boulder Fringe Festival •
Al Stafford’s Inappropriate Questions by Inappropriate People is a what is and what is not of life as a contemporary transgender man. Cast solely by Stafford and a string of theoretical audience members with no shame for interruption, the show is formatted as a well-intentioned and informative PowerPoint lesson in “Trans 101” gone awry. Briefer than the brief schedule allowed for, the messages finally do manage to be made, albeit in a painfully realistic less-than-desired fashion.
Billed as a stand-up comedy act, Inappropriate Questions is also part lecture, part memoir, and part public service announcement, with a nod to the dramatic appearing through Stafford’s justifiably exasperated rage. While planting computerized voices in the crowd that intrude into the presentation with all the questions you hope you never thought of asking serves to break the fourth wall, it is Alex’s raw emotion and hard-won assurance that actually connect the room. Here, we see this is no act, that time has not healed all wounds, especially when time seems to be moving backwards around this country lately.
Inappropriate Questions achieves its purpose of recentering a particular trans narrative on an actual trans person, and not the nosy unaffected around him, but largely stops there. Indeed, the content Stafford presents is so effective, it compounds the disappointment that there is not more of it. What would he teach us, a ripe curious audience already at the Fringe Festival in Boulder, in “Trans 201”? Most of the comedic effect stems from his irritation with incessant ridiculous questions; how powerful it would be to see him turn that into a joke. Humor holds a deeper understanding than anger. He quips about “going through menopause at the same time as my mother,” then exits the premise before teasing all the comedic value from it. He offers “How was your weekend?” as an appropriate question to ask a trans person just like any other, a classic stand-up setup. Stafford passes on the chance to stray from the show’s initial scope and show us those stand-up chops, though. Not that he was in any way obliged to, but why not when the stage was already available and warmed up?
Again, though, this just speaks to the charisma and talent of the performer, buoyed by a bit of personal preference. Perhaps the poignant insights Stafford is able to provide would have been detracted from, dimming the progress already accomplished. In any event, the show is a bold, courageous, and vulnerable experience; a vastly important demonstration advocating for the visibility of the trans community and the diversification of comedy. Totally appropriate.
You can experience Al Stafford: Inappropriate Questions by Inappropriate People at Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place