LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS: Celebrating Marriage Equality's One-Year Anniversary in the Midst of Grief


Ours was supposed to be a show celebrating the one-year anniversary of marriage equality, capturing the giddy elation (for us) and exasperation (for 'them') of that day last year when Obama announced the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of marriage equality.

But now, it almost feels like a requiem.

REWIND, to June 26, 2015:

As soon as Obama made his now-famous Rose Garden announcement, "Where were YOU when you heard?" would, for a short near-year, become the new conversation-starter amongst LGBT folk. (How quickly--and sadly--things can change.)

On that historic morning, I was on a short holiday from Los Angeles, visiting my husband (at least he was in some states) Laurence in San Francisco where he was working an out-of-town gig.

I could use the break. It was six months after Old Dogs & New Tricks, the comedy web series I write and act in (amongst a truly gifted ensemble) ended its third season. And I was suffering from a monumental case of writer's block.

I knew how the cliffhangers would resolve, and where the boys (four gay best friends navigating middle-age in West Hollywood) would go from there. But I was stumped on how to get it going again.

Alas, while it was great to spend time with the Hubby, my blockage remained. That is, until I woke up on Friday, June 26, 2015.

"We won," Laurence whispered.

"Whhaaaaaaaaaaat?" I asked.

Since wondering when (and what) the Supreme Court would decide had become a national LGBT guessing game that week, it didn't take long for even a late riser like me to get it.

We squealed like kids. Hugged and kissed like adults. We spent an hour or so watching the recaps, then spent 90 seconds watching FOX News before feeling nauseous.

I knew instantly how the new season of Old Dogs had to begin. A special expanded episode would show our characters hearing and reacting to the news for themselves.

FAST FORWARD, to Sunday, June 15, 2016

I woke up early to work on "Where Were YOU When the Rights Went ON?", the resulting special episode we had shot in May. I had a long day of work in order to release it on June 25, to celebrate the first-anniversary of that historic day. But first, a quick peek at Facebook.

My plans for the day immediately changed.

I rushed to the TV. Like all of us, I was in shock at the horrible news from Orlando, unable to tear myself away from the real-life horror movie endlessly repeating on cable news. A grief-stricken mother looking for her son. Another reading the texts her son sent her in the last seconds of his life. Their pain is palatable.

Why are they repeatedly showing the killer's selfies on a loop? Don't they realize that's exactly what he hoped for?

The unfathomable brutality, the carnage, was, and remains, unimaginable. As if it wasn't horrific enough, we'd been attacked in a gay bar, our one place of sanctuary.

My force field--the one I developed as a long-bullied child--was gone. I was a trembling first-grader, wondering, all over again, what the hell I had done to make everyone hate me.

Then I remembered. The marriage-equality special! How could we possibly release a light-hearted, slightly political gay comedy less than two weeks after the most epic hate crime ever? I'd have to email my producers, and figure out what we were going to do.

Then, that first-grader in my head, the one who had realized somehow those childhood bullies were the ones who with problems -- he was fabulous -- shouted!

"Don't you dare! You've never let bullies push you around before! Why the hell start now?"

(What can I say? I was a pushy, potty-mouthed six year old.)

LGBT has always used humor in the face of adversity. Hell, we practically invented the concept. It's been our way of keeping in touch with our humanity while surrounded by a populace that sees us as less than human. Our way of making unbearable suppression a little more bearable. Our way of identifying and bonding with our brothers and sisters. And one of our ways to show the rest of the world we have a heart.

I realized the show had to go on. We had to honor our victories even as we mourned our dead.

Watching the finished episode now, I'm moved by the unintentional poignancy of moments that were, until two weeks ago, intended as light-hearted, albeit slightly political, gay comedy. One character warning the others of backlash to come. Another character's explosive reaction to a Bible-thumper. Two characters (the show's long-term couple), slowly, silently taking each other's hands as they sit, transfixed, watching TV news.

Of course, our pain still exists, and will for ... who knows how long. We might not be ready to laugh again yet, but I hope we bring folks at least a weary, self-recognizing smile. God knows, two weeks after the lunacy, our community could use a little levity.

After all, like Truvy in Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

You can watch more ODNT at


Old Dogs & New Tricks stars Jeffrey Patrick Olson, Curt Bonnem, Leon Acord & David Pevsner