By George Kevin Jordan
Comedian Sampson McCormick has never been afraid of challenges. At 16 years old, the D.C. native was already finagling ways to perform on comedy club stages.
“I had to sneak in,” McCormick recalled in a phone interview. “Sometimes a bouncer would be cool and let me in. Sometimes I had to pay bouncers to let me in. The bookers who hired me would have to walk me in, and I couldn’t sit at the bar.”
Regardless of the method, McCormick was determined to break through that barrier and make us laugh. As a Black and openly gay comic, knocking down doors is part of the job. So was being funny.
Thankfully for the 33-year-old comic, fate intervened as he has been invited to perform at 7 p.m., Oct. 11, at “A Speakeasy Evening” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), 1400 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20560.
Sampson will be making history as the first LGBTQ comic to perform in the space. It was an optimal opportunity for the comic who spends his spare time in Black history museums while on tour. He is as much a fan of the NMAAHC as it apparently is of him.
“The National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the finest institutions that exists that’s dedicated to showcasing our history,” Sampson said, who has visited the museum several times. “It’s always been a soul stirring experience.”
“They have a slave ship down in the basement of the museum. So when they told me it was going to be an interactive experience I was like hold on….what do you mean interactive?”
Sampson remembered walking through the space and finding Black LGBTQ historical figures proudly mixed in with the rest of Black legacy.
“I was on the second floor, they had Bayard Rustin in there ,” Sampson said. “It is the first museum that I’ve ever been to that acknowledged he organized the March on Washington for jobs and justice [and] was a Black gay man.”
“I was like wow. Then you go through it and they acknowledged Audre Lorde, they acknowledged Black gay folks in the Harlem Renaissance. Moms Mabley. They have Marlon Riggs, a Black gay filmmaker. They acknowledge that part of our history. And it was at that moment I said to myself, ‘I want to work with this museum.’ I didn’t call anybody. But they contacted me.”
The comic points out the evening is more than comedy however. “The ‘Evening’ is not just entertainment,” McCormick said. “They will also have workshops where they teach people [how] to use art for resistance and community building.”
The event also features Charlene Carruthers, a Black queer community organizer, political strategist and author, as well as spoken word artist 2Deep, on the roster.
McCormick left D.C. for the west coast about six years ago, and has since been keeping busy with comedy albums, producing short films like 2017’s “I Live Here”, and touring all over the world. But the young comedian said he is always happy to return to the DMV when he can.
“I am ecstatic”, McCormick said. “D.C. is where it all started for me.” Then the comedian paused and offered with his classic sense of humor, “I like coming to D.C. cause you see all those fine Black men walking down the street.”
This event is free and open to the public.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.