Jason Stuart at Comedy Catch

photo Jason Stuart

IF YOU GOWhat: Comedian Jason StuartWhen: 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 24; 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25Where: The Comedy Catch, 3224 Brainerd RoadAdmission: $14Phone: 423-622-2233Website: www.thecomedycatch.comJASON STUART BIOJason Stuart has done dozens of film, television, commercial and theater projects, as well as a veteran stand-up comic who has performed around the country. Also an entrepreneur, he markets T-shirts with the line "Come on straight people ... if you let us marry each other we will stop marrying you."SCREEN CREDITSTelevision: "Everybody Hates Chris"; "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"; "Fat Actress"; "Will & Grace"Film: "Holy Land"; "Big Gay Love"; "American Bistro"; "The Guest House"; "Dawg"; "Puff, Puff, Pass"; "Kindergarten Cop"Theater: "Above the Line"; "Mister Roberts"; "The Sand Castle"; "Harvey"; "Pinocchio"

Comedians often draw on their upbringing or family life for their material. Being born in Brooklyn as the son of Jewish parents provided Jason Stuart with plenty of material. So did moving to Los Angeles and living there as a gay and Jewish comedian/actor.

"Oh, yeah, it has colored my material," he said. "All of these things color my material. They don't just color it, they've created it."

Stuart was one of the first, if not the first, mainstream entertainers to come out, doing so 20 years ago on the "Geraldo" show. He says going public did affect his acting career, though his resume is several pages long with credits including almost three dozen feature films and numerous television guest spots.

Coming out was a life- and career-changing moment for Stuart. Mostly, he said, it changed how some people looked at him, particularly film and television talent scouts. He said telling people that he was gay seemed to influence their expectations of how he should act, and that made him see himself differently, he said.

"I remember one reporter, I wish I could remember who it was, said, 'When Jason Stuart came out, he became so much more masculine.'

"I thought, wow. I realized at a young age that people had expectations. People would say, 'Oh, you're gay. You must be very feminine, so that was who I thought I should be.

"It's not bad to be feminine if that's who someone is. We should all be who we are, but we should also have a choice."

Stuart said when NBA player Jason Collins announced to the world last month that he was gay, it shined a light on how far the world has come and how far we have to go.

"I was sad," he said. "Not that he came out. I'm happy for him, but that he hadn't told his family and sad that he would wait this long or that he felt he had to."

Twenty years after coming out, he said, his sexuality is still an issue, even in Hollywood.

"Some people hear that and go, 'Oh, that's old news. Been there, done that,' but I do know I don't have the same opportunities as my straight counterparts," said Stuart, who is founder and chairman of the Screen Actors Guild's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Committee.

"The new thing for me is being over 40 and being gay," he said. "The gay community is all about youth. It's like being a woman in that regard."

Stuart said people in Hollywood seem to have a perception of who he is and what he can play.

"In Hollywood, you're either too old or they can't see me playing someone away from who they think I am."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

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