The Austin Chronicle

Emmet Hunker Has a Gay Agenda

By Mac Irvine, August 19, 2019, 8:00am, Qmmunity

Emmet Hunker’s schedule is packed these days concocting The Gay Agenda, and August’s show promises to be the gayest, sexiest, most ambitious iteration yet. The comedy-centric event comes to the North Door Thursday, Aug. 22, for Rendezvous Pride, the show’s fifth edition.

It’s a three-ringed circus of sorts – part market, part dance party, part variety show – united by The Gay Agenda’s core tenets of comedy, queerness, and sex positivity.

Hunker unveiled The Gay Agenda in March at Mutual Feelings, an East-Austin vintage shop and new but frequent venue to queer popups. The first version offered a humble setup, but Hunker’s ambitious vision was (and the ongoing agenda of the Agenda is) to “celebrate otherness through togetherness.”

“There were no chairs, so everyone was just sitting on the ground with blankets and pillows,” Hunker says. “It was really intimate and was BYOB. People had wine bottles, because, like, gay people, and it was great turnout. I was shocked.” The lineup was primarily standup but being located outside of a comedy club offered performers a unique opportunity. “I found that our first show was a lot of attendees’ first comedy event ever,” adds Hunker. “It can be intimidating to decide to go to a comedy theatre. That’s also a lot of what we’re after, what I’m after: Showing people art that they wouldn’t otherwise bump into.” The immediate interest in what the show offered validated Hunker’s commitment to continuing the event. “People want this.”

With The Gay Agenda, Hunker and co-conspirators prioritize “opening minds and pushing boundaries, while also creating a queer space for support and collaboration,” space that was crucial for Hunker as they honed their skills as a stand-up performer. Their first time on stage (since a two-line solo in seventh grade choir concert) was in early 2018 at the monthly LGBTQ storytelling showcase Greetings, From Queer Mountain. There Hunker told the story of their childhood imaginary friend Spooky, the plastic ghost (who may or may not make a reappearance at Rendezvous Pride). The support of the audience and fellow storytellers was revelatory, explains Hunker. “I was like, ‘fuck this is my art?’”

Hunker’s desire to expand the network of opportunities and resources available to queer comics stems from the community and support they’ve found since delving into the comedy scene. “I’ve lived here for six years and never felt a part of Austin until I started comedy and until I thought I could create this space for people who were desperately seeking this as well.”

They are quick to rattle off the names of others in the Austin comedy community who've been doing the work of supporting queer comics, including but not limited to GfQM’s founders Ralphie Hardesty and Michael Foulk and Mase Kerwick, Laura de la Fuente, and Javier Ungo of QueerTowne. Hunker seems to have a running list of potential collaborators constantly ruminating, thinking aloud about possible lineups, events, and opportunities as the ideas arise. It’s clear that collaboration and collectivity permeates not just the diverse lineups that Hunker curates, but also their future vision for The Gay Agenda as a collective.

With the support of a grant from the city of Austin, Hunker has been able to build the foundation for the vision. Most notably, they’ve hired Kassidy Curry to help as an administrative assistant. “The number of excel sheets I’ve made since she’s started? Muah,” they say. “It’s beautiful. … It’s something we can build on and not stuff that we need to scramble to make later when it would be way, way harder. The Gay Agenda has a bank account bitch.”

Additionally, Hunker was able to secure the event’s first official theatre space (and the largest venue to date) and better pay for the show’s performers and collaborators – two accomplishments Hunker is particularly excited about. “It feels really good to have these amazing comedians in Austin, who performed when we didn’t have chairs or when we didn’t have A.C., at The North Door,” they say. “For many of them, including myself, it’s their first time on a big stage and with a green room and getting paid well. I’m so psyched to treat these people.” The event will feature a market of queer wares, a variety show featuring 15 acts over the span of two acts separated by an intermission, and a dance party featuring tunes by DJ Body + Soul.

In the future, Hunker plans to bring more core collaborators into the collective of The Gay Agenda and expand its scope beyond the monthly variety show with things like workshops, retreats, and festivals. But for now, they are feeling a unique combination of nerves and excitement in the leadup to this Thursday’s event. “It feels like The Gay Agenda is my girlfriend, and it’s going so well.”

The Gay Agenda: Rendezvous Pride returns Thursday, Aug. 22, at The North Door (501 Brushy St.). Doors open at 7pm; the show starts at 8pm. There’s a suggested donation of $10 for general admission, but nobody will be turned away for lack of funds. Tickets are available online. Cash bar.

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