Denver comedian Kate McLachlan talks Pride, punchlines and punching down

Listen Now
9min 38sec
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
“Dyketopia” co-creator Kate McLachlan at the Center on Colfax in Denver. May 4, 2024.

Kate McLachlan’s journey from Pride observer to Pride participant is a funny story.

The Denver comedian co-founded Dyketopia, a queer comedy variety show and podcast driven by audience participation. She says it’s a way for the LGBTQ community to share laughter and jokes, rather than being the target of them.

“That's been one of the joys of Dyketopia, is creating a space where queer people are in on the joke, not the butt of the joke,” she said. “I think it makes a big difference in comedy. Who wants to go to a show and just have your identity be insulted over and over again by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about?”

And, sometimes, humor can serve as a defense.

‘“There is something pretty freeing about having a personal experience that did not feel good at the time and then having that bring joy to a group of people,” she said. “There's something nice about that.”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
"Dyketopia" co-creator Kate McLachlan (left) speaks with Colorado Public Radio's Nathan Heffel during Colorado Matters' "A Half Century of Pride Stories" event at the Center on Colfax in Denver. May 4, 2024.

McLachlan attended her first few Prides in Durango before she came out. 

“I was the type of queer person where I was a very big ally for six years … I thought it was an important cause and I made my parents come to Pride with me five times. I was like, ‘This is important. It’s just important that we’re here and support it’ and so I’ve been to Durango Pride many times, only a few as an out person.”

When she did come out, McLachlan recalled, she identified as a lesbian.

“That evolved into bisexual, and then it evolved into pansexual, and now I just say queer,” she said.

Asked to explore those changes, McLachlan offers the teeniest hint of an eyeroll.

“Well, by the time you come out for a third time, it's like when someone gets married for a third time, it’s like, ‘Alright, let us know when you change your mind on this one,’” she joked. “I’ve stuck with this one for a few years now, so I feel pretty good about it.”

These days, McLachlan sees Pride as a place of hope, especially for young people.

“I always look forward to having queer families and queer kids around to show younger generations that being queer is an amazing, beautiful gift.”

McLachlan spoke to CPR News host Nathan Heffel at “A Half-Century of Pride Stories,” a CPR News event marking the 50th anniversary of Pride in Denver. Here are some highlights of their conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On pianist Victor Borge, who once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”:

“I will say that this whole event has made me feel like a huge fraud considering who else is on the panel and that I'm up here being like, ‘we just need to laugh, struggle be damned.’ But laughter's so cool. And I stand by that.”

On her comedy show and podcast, Dyketopia.

“I run Dyketopia with my friend and comedy partner, Lee Robinson, who is also queer … One time we were on a show together and I had recently bought some Tarot cards online after drinking a few glasses of wine, which is not illegal, and I knew that another queer person was going to be on the show so I decided if I showed them the Tarot cards, maybe they could give me some information. Neither of us know how to read Tarot at all and that sort of birthed the idea of doing fake Tarot readings, which is one of our many games that we play at our live shows.”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
From left: Phil Nash, Kate McLachlan and Lex Dunbar were guests in Colorado Matters' "A Half Century of Pride Stories" event at the Center on Colfax in Denver. May 4, 2024.

On audience members who don’t want to participate in the show:

“We honor introverts. We believe that introverts deserve prizes and to live their lives … We have something called the introvert bucket where it feels like a trap, but it's not. We promise introverts can put their name in the bucket and at intermission they will receive a prize while everyone else keeps their eyes on the ground.”

On LGBTQ people as the target of mean humor:

“When I hear someone make a joke at the expense of queer people and they're not queer, they come off to me as inexperienced or just not funny because punching down is literally not an elevated form of humor. You're punching down.”

On how Pride has changed since the days when she first attended:

“My hope for younger kids is that they feel more comfortable and safe to be themselves, and that it's something that makes your life better, to come out, and it's not something that makes life worse. That's my hope for any queer kid is that it opens their world rather than taking it away from them.”