MAYBE YOU KNOW James Adomian from Childrens Hospital, and his epic simultaneous impressions of Madonna, Rihanna, Louis CK, Freddie Mercury, and Kate Upton. Maybe you know him from the comedy podcast circuit: Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Dead Authors Podcast, and WTF with Marc Maron. Or maybe you're lucky enough to have seen his stand-up, a hodgepodge of political and pop culture commentary, surprising and spot-on impressions, and gleeful, improvised riffing. He's all over the place, but the point is this: You should know him.
When I get Adomian on the phone, he's walking through Los Feliz, interrupting our conversation to cross the street or greet a friendly fan. ("Yeah, yeah, thank you, I do it all for you.") He's about to kick off a short tour of the West Coast and says he's excited to return to Portland, a town he's gotten to know and like from performing at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. He's vague about whether he'll return for this year's festival—he has "a lot of plates spinning"—but in the meantime, Portland's got a chance to catch him at a tiny club show, presented by the reliable curatorial team at Funny Over Everything.
In 2012, the New York Times spotlighted Adomian in an article about gay comics who have the potential to break through to a mainstream audience. When I ask him about the article, Adomian takes the opportunity to rattle off names of other gay comedians he admires: the crushingly good young comic Guy Branum; Drew Droege, an improviser whose Chloë Sevigny impersonation videos went viral a few years back; the calmly cutting stand-up Brent James Sullivan.
"There's a sort of burgeoning phenomenon of gay male comics who are out of the closet, finally, and not just performing for gay audiences—they're also able to affect comedy at large," says Adomian. "It's sort of inspiring as part of a healing process, I suppose, where people of all sexual and gender identities can come together and enjoy the same comedy show. That certainly doesn't happen with perfect symmetry or at a level where it needs to be, but it's more and more like that, where subcultures are having a lot more back and forth and communication with each other."
Adomian's work embodies just that sort of back and forth—a reconciliation of ideas and styles that might seem contradictory. He talks politics, but he's not preachy. He does impressions, but they're not hacky. And though his comedic voice is shaped by his experiences as a gay man—including what he describes as a "rough coming-out experience"—he has broad appeal to both gay and straight crowds. As he points out, "A lot of what I talk about has to do with everybody's life. I talk about stuff that's just going on in the culture. It's not like, come hear an hour of me screaming at you about gay things.... There's probably about 20 minutes of that in there."