Host Danny Black (right) with coproducer Angela Vela
Host Danny Black (right) with coproducer Angela Vela Credit: James Emmenegger

Many a mental health professional advises that if you’re really afraid of something, the best thing to do is confront your fear. That’s sort of what comedian-musician Danny Black is up to with the God, Sex, and Death Variety Hour. During his opening monologue at the August show, Black, who plays host, admits he’s terrified of death but swears that “talking about it makes it better.” In reference to the god part, Black says he had a religious experience on a retreat once—god spoke to him, obviously—but he mostly ignored it at the time; so giving the guy (or gal) a nod now seems like the polite thing to do. The inclusion of sex as a topic—at any time, in any universe—seems self-explanatory.

Each month the show’s producers invite comedians, writers, storytellers, sex workers, clergymen and clergywomen, and people from other walks of life to discuss one of the three themes. The most recent installment featured writer Micki LeSueur reading a fiction piece she wrote about one Muslim man’s really disappointing assortment of virgins in the afterlife (god), a game of “Guess That Fetish” with producer and storyteller Lily Be (sex), and an autobiographical account from 18-year-old storyteller—and son of producer Lily Be—Xavier Jordan about witnessing a shooting (death). Full disclosure: I have a hard time resisting opportunities for audience participation, so I vigorously and immediately volunteered to play “Name That Fetish”—which was actually called “Which of These Is Not a Fetish”—and I won a bumper sticker that says “P.T. Barnum was a chiropractor.” I’m not sure what that means, but I like it.

The show crams a lot into an hour—there were also musical interludes, an interview with local comedian Tamale Sepp about being a queer woman, and an assault of one-liners from Dan Shapiro—and the range in tone, from irreverent to sobering, makes for a roller-coaster ride of an evening. I guess they don’t call it a variety show for nothing.