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This past Sunday, Matteo Lane opened his “Al Dente” Tour at The Kennedy Center for the first night of its two weekend run here in Washington, D.C. The show touched on the experiences of gay, straight, lesbian, and transgender comics in a way that didn’t make it feel like they were only hitting one note the whole time.

The MC of the night and the show’s opening act was Aminah Imani, a comedian who was way too relatable. In a show where each of the comedians focused on their respective sexualities to narrate jokes, Imani was a breath of fresh air. She hit a couple of different notes throughout her set, focusing on traveling internationally and the tribulations of dealing with boys around the globe. Her impeccable comedic timing, accompanied by her own giggles every now and then that were also timed perfectly, was met with thunderous applause that made her stop several times throughout her set. She was a fantastic opener and kept the show moving as MC.

Next to the mic was Jes Tom, a comedian who focused mainly on the trans-masculine experience – and in a room full of girls and gays, it surely resonated. I was worried that focusing on one topic would get old quickly and make the set feel longer than it was, but their set was actually informative and hilarious at the same time. They started their set by easing the tensions, joking that using they/them pronouns makes them feel less lonely, and gave a humorous glimpse into life on Grindr, the gay dating app, from a trans person’s perspective.

Rounding out the opening acts was ”My Honest Ignorance” creator, Paris Sashay. By this point of the show, I had felt my cheeks hurting from laughing too much – and Paris only made it worse. She joked about the trials of abiding by “gay rules,” such as not eating at Chick-Fil-A, and how she doesn’t like these rules because the chicken isn’t homophobic (again, very relatable), as well as touching on her love for marijuana – but only smoking it, because taking edibles is like setting an alarm to get high.

After 30 minutes of stellar openers, Matteo Lane finally hit the stage, equipped with a slew of impersonations (among them, Cher, Mariah, Jen Coolidge, Italians and Australians and, of course, Liza Minelli) in addition to jokes about his close friends that his fans have come to know and love. He spoke of his journey as a gay comic, dying to fill spots in empty shows across the country and mainly performing for straight audiences, to now sharing his humor with a room full of primarily queer people in notorious spaces like The Kennedy Center and Radio City. Somehow, there still aren’t enough spaces for queer people to truly live authentically, but for ~90 minutes, Matteo Lane and crew not only provide that space, but ensure that everyone within it is laughing the whole time regardless of their sexuality.

I highly recommend that not only queer people, but allies too, take the opportunity to catch Matteo and friends on the Al Dente Tour because you just might learn a thing or two about Italians… and queers.

Grade: A+

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