The Netflix comedy special Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready premiered recently on Aug. 13. Haddish hand-picked her favorite comedians to spotlight on various segments. One of them is Chicago's very own Flame Monroe, who is the drag persona of bisexual Marcus Parker.
Monroe graduated from Chicago Vocational High School and went on to attend Life University in Marietta, Georgia. Parker eventually moved to California with three children to begin a new adventure. This has led to BET's ComicView and the current Netflix special.
Windy City Times: How often do you visit Chicago?
Flame Monroe: I get back often, but not in the cold. I'm so spoiled these days…
WCT: When did you move away?
FM: I moved in 2006, then we moved back to Chicago in 2009 for a year. There has been a lot of back and forth because I didn't want to leave home, but couldn't take the cold weather anymore. I didn't want to raise my children in the crime and the cold, so we moved to Long Beach.
WCT: You are from the West Side of Chicago?
FM: I was born on the West Side, but educated on the South Side of Chicago.
WCT: Where in Chicago did you perform at previously?
FM: I used to run the city. The first time I ever did a show was at The Baton. I hosted shows at The Generator, Biology Bar, Clubhouse and Convent. I was the Chicago staple for a long time!
WCT: Talk about meeting Tiffany Haddish.
FM: That happened about 10 years ago. We met at a club. She was so cute and dainty. She came up and asked if I was a drag queen. We just became fast friends on the comedy circuit after that. She would come over to the house for barbecues and even gave us a dog one Christmas.
She was always a generous, sweet person and still is. She's a woman of her word because she said she would come back and get me. She stuck to her word!
WCT: When did you notice her becoming famous?
FM: I knew she would be a star when I did the TV show Botched and she introduced me at the reveal when they repaired my breast. After I saw all the hoopla over Girls Trip, I knew there was no turning back. She was off like a rocket!
WCT: How do you come up with your set of jokes?
FM: Most of it is real-life stuff and I just change parts on how it actually transpired. As a trans person, I could take things either way, be combative, argumentative and defensive about it or I can make light of the situation.
What happens to me happens to just about everybody. I just look at it from a transgender person's point of view. I try to make it funny so everyone else can relate to it. Truth is always funnier than fiction.
WCT: You did a good job of balancing the funny and the serious on the special.
FM: With the LGBT community, we are in a bubble. There's a whole world out there. I love my community, but if we keep asking them to include us, we need to include them. We don't want their problems. We haven't even fixed our community yet.
WCT: You must be very comfortable being on the mic after so many drag shows.
FM: I hosted for 17 years in the clubs in Chicago, including Miss Continental and many pageants. I wasn't big in Boystown because of the subliminal racism there. Like I said, we need to fix our community. I didn't want to deal with that. I didn't have to because I worked everywhere else. I am not going to work at any place that I don't feel comfortable.
I feel Boystown has evolved and changed, but I just read an article about a club there not playing hip hop music, so maybe it hasn't changed much.
I hope we can change things in our own backyard soon.
WCT: What do you think of the television show Pose?
FM: I love to see my trans girls getting a break. We didn't have these opportunities when I was young. When I did BET ComicView in 2004 and 2005, before RuPaul's Drag Race and any trans woman was on TV, they didn't even try to market me as a trans woman. They marketed me as a female! [laughs] I have never looked convincing, but we just rode with it. I hope I was one of the trailblazers that kicked down the wall.
I am getting a second chance to show the world what I do. Give me a microphone, a pretty dress, a fabulous audience and get out of my way!
WCT: Your pansexual joke worked because many people are still confused by it.
FM: Well, let's break that down. When we get through with all of these alphabets of L, G, B, T and adjectives and pronouns, all you can like is either penis, vagina or both. You can put all the labels and titles in front of it but it still breaks down into liking penis, vagina or both.
WCT: Have you ever gone too far with a joke?
FM: Is there such a thing, as a comedian? [Laughs] They have censorship now and try to change things. I miss the comedians of the past because nothing was off limits. Comedians have always been political, controversial and educational. We teach at the same time. We say things that people are terrified to say.
Now, we can't even do that in our own community. They will get on social media and come after you. It has turned into a nightmare, but I don't think anything is off limits, especially when I show an audience it's okay to attack myself. I'm smart enough to know that I'm going to attack me first. I am going to show you all of my weaknesses before I decide to take down yours. I am completely unafraid.
WCT: Are you planning on taking this act on the road?
FM: No. I just signed with a huge management company. Comedy is my launching pad to do what I want to do. I like to emcee and want to host all of the awards shows. I want to host everything. Nobody does it better than me!
See Netflix.com .