Creators of Austin's Queer Mountain talk 4 years of storytelling
Greetings, From Queer Mountain just celebrated its four-year anniversary as Austin's premier monthly LGBTQIA storytelling show. Queer Mountain is consistently hilarious, equal parts defiant and vulnerable, with a narrow gap between audience and participant. In short, all the feels are felt.
This is due in large part to the natural, living-room style of hosting by hosts Micheal Foulk and Ralphie Hardesty. We chatted with the two co-creators to discuss the next installment of their show, which will take place at Cheer Up Charlies on July 26.
CultureMap: We love a good origin story. How did Queer Mountain begin initially?
Micheal Foulk: In the fall of 2013 we wanted to put together a showcase featuring all LGBTQIA comedians, and as we were reaching out to folks we realized that there honestly weren’t that many who we knew of in Austin. Like, we knew enough folks for an hour’s worth of comedy, but what if we wanted to do it again. So we formed Greetings, From Queer Mountain with that idea in mind, it would be an LGBTQIA curated open mic that was geared towards giving new people a stage to come out on. The show's at its best when we’ve got new folks and veterans on the lineup together.
Ralphie Hardesty: Yeah, we wanted to make a really entertaining show, that was the original goal. And while I think Queer Mountain is still extremely entertaining, it’s taken on lots of other important tasks like community-building and catharsis for our audiences.
CM: What were your expectations at the beginning?
MF: Well you never expect a show to last all that long. You can’t start a comedy or storytelling show with any high expectations for turnout or longevity because there’s absolutely zero guarantees. There are too many other things that can pull attention. I think after the first couple of shows we were really blown away by how large the audience response was. And at the beginning Ralph and I didn’t really know each other very well, so when we discovered that we naturally had a great chemistry together my expectations were really surpassed.
RH: We really got to know each other through hosting this show, and so I think at first we were both just kind of hoping that the show would happen. Once it did, and we had a few shows with a ton of great audience members, is when we started expecting awesome shows with insanely talented, heartbreaking, funny readers.
CM: How’s it looking from the top of Queer Mountain right now?
MF: We [celebrated] our 50th regular programing show (we’ve done quite a few more if you include festivals) on June 28. It feels really cool! And in New Orleans our spin-off show run by Amanda Golob at The New Movement just hit 18 episodes I think.
RH: Growing! Very often now when I meet queer people in this city and tell them about myself, they usually tell me that they’ve been meaning to come to Queer Mountain and they’re sorry they haven’t made it yet (that’s quite alright). July is when we premiere the Greetings, From Queer Mountain Dancers and we reveal Micheal’s and my new catch phrases. JK.
CM: What opportunities has Queer Mountain provided you in your creative work?
MF: So damn many. For me it’s mostly been educational. I’ve learned so much about gender, queerness, and identity while curating this show for four years, way more than I have any class I’ve taken. And I was approached to produce another LGBTQ show, Queer Film Theory 101, for Alamo Drafthouse based on my time with Queer Mountain. Getting to run a show that is consistent and well-respected is so wonderful. Once folks know that you are able to hold your own and create a great thing, they are way more willing to book you or pay you to perform.
RH: I’d say the greatest one has been working with Micheal. We’ve both changed so much as performers and hosts since we started this show, and now in large part due to Stand Up Empire on PBS, we occasionally perform stand up sets together, which is a ton of fun. The other big, big thing that Queer Mountain has done for me as a performer is be able to dig our show out of pretty much any ditch. The way we’ve designed the show is pretty much a reflection of our personalities: we cover very serious stuff, but we never stop cracking jokes. Sometimes, we return onstage after a performer has just cursed out the audience, or even talked about trauma from their pasts. Reconciling my need to entertain with our goal to keep this space for Austin’s queer communities has made me a much stronger host and comedian.
CM: What advice would you give to someone that wants to appear on your show?
MF: Do it. We’re honestly open to anyone who falls under the LGBTQIA community banner (and occasionally we’ve had an ally on but we typically steer queer). It’s a very welcoming crowd that’s ready to support whatever you’re ready to share. That said, don’t be a jerk or throw folks under the bus on our stage. If we hear something super racist or bigoted, we will comment on it and let folks know that we’re not here for that.
RH: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and when you see the show calling for [performer] contributions for this month’s show, email or message us! And seriously, do it. We both perform regularly, like most nights a week, and Queer Mountain is regularly the best audience that I get in front of.
CM: Every month’s theme is different. What’s on tap for July’s show?
MF: For July 26, I had an idea for a theme that revolved around stories with a specific purpose. Like, "And The Moral Of This Story Is." I just love the idea of ending a show and reading a long list of bizarre and perfect lessons that we learned.
RH: What she said.