Normal at Nite: Good Times & Family Matters with Perfect Strangers opens tonight at the William Way (7:30 p.m.) with R. Eric Thomas and Kelli Dunham. We talked to Thomas about the inspiration for the show – sitcoms from the 70s and 80s – and how they impacted his own life growing up and why he always wanted to be a Huxtable.
How did you and Kelli first start working together?
I first met Kelli when I submitted to her “Queer Memoir” reading series. After a couple different appearances here and in New York, she asked me to open for her “Why is the Fat One Always Angry?” show at Stonewall. I was totally shocked that my jokes on Grindr and my stalker-like dating habits went over as well as they did with Kelli’s fans and we realized we had a winning chemistry.
How do stories about growing up shape the show?
For me this is a show about mixing nostalgia with reality. Now that I’m an adult I can look back on my childhood and see things that I never knew were going on and this perspective helps me to replay them in funny ways. The stories Kelli and I share definitely show how wacky our families can be, but everything we talk about is with the kind of affection you feel like the Huxtables or the Keatons had for each other.
What’s one of the most memorable moments from your own childhood?
Despite the award-winning dramatics with which I lead my life today, some of my fondest memories from childhood are of normal moments, like when my mother shockingly beat my brothers and me at Trivial Pursuit by knowing who Solzhenitsyn is (I’m pretty sure he was a figure skater) or when, the morning we were set to leave for a cruise, we all came downstairs with three-to-four pieces of luggage each and spent an hour watching my dad try to fit them all into a Mercury Sable. We’re a family of divas.
If you could have moved in with a fictional family, who would that have been and why?
Oh, definitely the Huxtables. No doubt. I adored them. I thought Claire Huxtable was the most glamorous woman on Earth besides my mom – and Patti LaBelle. Even their name is fancy; it’s like a tuxedo of a name. We should all be so lucky. Plus, they had a white neighbor, which I found to be charming. I still debate with myself whether I’m more of a Rudy or a Vanessa. Though, in reality, I’m totally Denise.
Normal at Nite, May 25, 7:30 p.m., William Way, 1315 Spruce Street.