Ah, the British really know how to do television properly. They may not have the glut of reality shows that America currently gorges itself on, but they can do a panel show like nobody’s business.
And that’s where comedian David Morgan really shines. He’s currently the host of a fabulous game/panel program Safe Word, where celebrities are matched with comics who take over their social media, sending out humiliating tweets until the celebrity begs for it to stop with a safe word.
It’s the role David was born for. His superpower, he says, is detecting whatever makes a person self-conscious and exploiting it. In retrospect, he probably developed that skill because he was so self-conscious himself growing up gay.
“I’m very good at picking up on somebody’s insecurity and then weaponizing that,” he says. “I think I have that because when I was little I was constantly trying to mask mine. You become so heightened at how you are presenting yourself to people that you start being able to read what people are presenting to you.”
David talked about his childhood on a recent episode of The Sewers of Paris, a podcast on which gay men share intimate, personal stories about entertainment that changed their lives. For him, a closeted teen in the late ’90s, it was characters like Jack on Dawson’s Creek that made a big impression.
“I didn’t ask for a gay son,” says Jack’s dad on the show, “but boy am I glad I got one.”
David’s mom was similarly supportive. At one point, when the head of his school suggested that David’s homosexuality should disqualify him from holding a position in student government, she cooly threatened a media shit-show to humiliate him into submission.
These days, David’s far more open about who he is — not that there was ever much hope of hiding it. “I didn’t come out,” he said on The Sewers of Paris. “I confirmed rumors.”
At first, he avoided telling audiences that he was gay when he did stand-up comedy. But then during one performance he accidentally slipped, and mentioned his boyfriend. And at that point, “the audience audibly went ‘ohhhh,’ as if that’s what I’d been hiding from them.” Suddenly, he found himself connecting with audiences far better and more authentically than he ever had when he was closeted. Imagine that.
Now he talks about his private life all the time — and in fact, he toured with a one-man show where he confessed all. Baring the aspects of his personality that once shamed him has been an excellent way to conquer his fears.
And now he helps celebrities do the same: On Safe Word, he’ll grab a phone from a dismayed contestant and zero in on the things that scare them most. Sometimes they react with horror, and retreat into a cocoon — much like queer kids often do when challenged. But many seem to find a certain epiphany in letting go, in investigating their anxieties, and learning that sometimes the stuff that scares you is actually pretty fun.