Shann Carr Is Laughing Through Life
Shann Carr distinctly remembers her first discussion about gay people. She was a senior at La Salle Catholic College Prep in Milwaukie, Oregon, when one of her classmates asked a nun about gay people.
“The nun said gay people were fine, but we didn’t have any of them in North America,” she remembered. “What the heck did I know? My parents were military officers so my brother and I spent our childhood in Panama, three places in Germany and all across the U.S. So after she said that, I said to myself, ‘well that’s good, I don’t have to worry about gay people because we don’t have any here.’”
By the summer all of that had changed.
“While it’s not what parents want to hear, I fell in love with a girl while working as a camp counselor. I came out after camp and 12 weeks later, after seeing a gay comedian perform, I set out on the road to do standup.”
At just 19, Shann went town to town for almost a year, searched for the local LGBT clubs and bars and got herself booked to make enough money to keep the trip moving forward.
Shann eventually joined Atlantis, the leading gay cruise line, where she worked from worked from 1999- 2016.
“It was incredible. The cruises were filled with gay men, a couple of moms and fag hags,” she said. “It was a new country, a new adventure every couple of months. I was part of an entertainment team. Normally the road is solitary work, but with travel companies you are together. That sense of camaraderie and family is amazing.”
Want to know what it was like? Ask Shann about “Out for Laughs On the Ocean,” an independent docu-comedy she produced.
“On one of the last tours I did, I brought along a filmmaker to record the lives of three comedians, a drag queen, piano player and hypnotist on a gay cruise line. That was us. Just describing it is funny.”
Once returning home, Shann couldn’t sit still and hit the road again. This time in an RV. Ninety days, 40+ gigs and 13,255 miles.
“I bought the RV having never owned or driven one. I took a fan, a sweet and funny guy who wanted to get into comedy. I gave him 5 minutes at the start of my show and coached him. We also hired a camera person. We painted the RV pink and put rhinestones all over it. We painted sunglasses on the front. Can you imagine that thing pulling up behind you on the interstate? Almost every morning we woke up, we had a crowd of people outside wondering what the heck we were doing.”
And don’t forget her dog, Beckham.
“I had just placed a foster dog, but it ran away. He was found 13 miles away near my house. We were leaving for the tour, so we just threw him in the RV and he came with us. Nine years later, I still have him.”
Beckham has helped her through some recent tough times.
“I was stupid happy my entire life. I’m a sensitive flower and the losses of friends and family have been hard on me over the last several years. But I know it’s up to me – and all of us – to inject goodness into our day. We can all do it. I make sure I do. When I have a bad moment, I take Beckham and put his head in my really big boobs where I’m afraid he might suffocate, so I can feel his love. That’s all I need.”
She also stays pretty busy.
Along with producing films, for the past 11 years Shann has been a curator, identifying the movies to be shown at the Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Cinema Diverse. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, a fundraiser to support 400 local LGBTQ 7th-12th graders.
“We raise a bunch of money for student alliances and activities. This year I interviewed 20-30 kids for a short video so they could educate adults about what is important to them. You can see times changing. The groups used to be called GSAs – Gay Straight Alliances. Now the kids have so many new words, they came up with GLOW – Gay, Lesbian OR Whatever. Then the Whatevers got offended. So they keep adding new words!”
Shann is also a radio host for KGAY, a new classic dance radio station. And she’s in real estate too.
“Real estate is the most lucrative job I’ve ever had,” she said of her work with Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Leaskou Partners. “And, just like about everything else I’ve done, I kind of fell into it. Another comedy fan was starting a real estate firm and he asked me to do funny commercials for him. That’s how I ended up with my license.”
But she still has a few upcoming gigs.
August 11-18 will find her hosting a five-night film festival on Vacaya, the world’s first fully inclusive LGBT cruise line that sets sail from New York to Canada to Provincetown for Carnival.
And then, October 1, its Shann Carr’s Big Gay Mid-Mod Bus Tour as part of the NAGLREP Convention in Palm Springs.
“When I did it two years ago, I didn’t want to do a traditional comedy gig. In fact, I had never even been on a bus tour. I like being a little in over my head. But that bus tour has changed me. I updated the design inside my house and now I curate tours for Modernism Week.”
Along with an immersive look at Palm Springs architecture, this year’s tour will include touring several homes that were redone by West Elm to honor the mid-century origination. Shann will also share the wonder of Palm Springs, a community that she finds full of amusement.
“The gossip here is great. And for anyone who ever wondered what would happen if LGBTs took over a town. Just look at us. Our City Council is all LGBT – we run the gamut. Gay, lesbian, transgender and bi. It’s just the greatest place ever!”
Click here to register for the NAGLREP Palm Springs Conference October 1-3 and secure a spot on Shann Carr’s Big Gay Mid-Mod Tour.