Pretty and witty and gay

The daughter of an ordained Southern Baptist Minister and a deaf mother, Lianna Carrera has ample material for her comedy act. Carrera, 25, has toured nationally for three years, with appearances at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, The Tennessee Performing Arts Center, and dozens of colleges and festivals in the United States. She's also been a featured guest at clubs in South Africa, Ireland, and numerous other international locales. Her life as an out lesbian is common fodder for her uproarious live performances.

A graduate of Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., Carrera now resides in Chicago. She recently shared her comedy act for students of Belmont and Vanderbilt Universities as part of a twin bill with recording artist Jennifer Knapp. Carrera explains the winning recipe for comedic success with Out & About Newspaper.

There seems to be such a difference between being a Christian and being part of the Christian community. Could you talk a little bit about your faith and spirituality and how it's served as a driving force in your life?
I believe that the desire to be a better person is a universal truth that we can all accept, regardless of where we find our faith. How we relate to God is as diverse as people who seek to relate to Him. To name a few, Confucians regard teachings of Confucius, while Buddhists seek the teachings of Buddha. Christians find spirituality through a man named Jesus. I happen to find my faith through the Christian framework; which to me simply means that I aspire to be a better person in all that I do, to serve others openly and honestly, meeting them wherever they are in life. I seek to edify others and love them with the same grace I have been afforded a million times over in my own life.  
How does performing with such unabashed honesty on stage help you in your personal life?
I think the same qualities that it takes to get on stage certainly carry over into my personal life. There’s vulnerability, there’s excitement, there’s risk and bravery and all that good stuff that comes when you’re living a truly challenging life. In spite of what it may seem to my audience when I grab the mic, getting on stage is not second nature to me. The point is not to do what’s easy. This is a message I really take to heart. When I’m living my day-to-day life it’s important that I’m constantly challenging myself to keep learning and growing. I’m developing very specific tastes for wine and people and coffee, I’m learning how to ski proficiently, and I’m starting to have wanderlust for mountains and oceans and drive-in diners. I think the same ambition that makes me want to be a successful comic is the same motivation that makes me want to experience the most abundant life I can imagine when outside the spotlight.  
In what ways have your grown as a person since you became a noted entertainer, and how do you think the
audience can learn from these performances?

I’ve learned that I am so much more than the labels that define me. I'd hate for anyone to come to my show just because I’m gay or not gay, or because I’m a Democrat or a Republican, or because I’m a Christian or an Atheist or whatever else in my life attracts their attention. I want them there because they appreciate my craft and want to laugh. Rumi says, “Out beyond the ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I will meet you there.” It is my hope that people walk away from my show with a greater understanding of what that field looks and sounds and feels and tastes like.  
Your father was a Southern Baptist minister, but yet he's grown into such a strong supporter of your life and career since his early fears about you coming out. What lessons do you think can be drawn from his example?
I think my father’s journey is an example of what happens when you take a pastoral approach to scripture and not a literal one. The Bible is not meant to be a fatiguing book of rules put in place to break your back, nor is it there to give anyone the authority to judge others. Rather, it’s a book that tells an incredible story, one that demands overwhelming compassion and love and nothing less.  
When you begin to look at scripture through a lens of compassion and then subsequently put verses in their cultural context to understand how they best apply to today’s world, the result is a Christianity that looks very differently than the picture that the fundamentalist evangelical community has created.
To be a Christian has never meant to proof text a specific scripture and hold that scripture to be more important than the overall theme of the Bible. We have seen the church fall many times on the wrong side of history because they have decided to disregard the teachings of Jesus in favor of a few verses that support common interests of their day. Just as the church has since changed its Biblical position on slavery, civil rights, divorce, and womens' rights; I am confident that the wrongs being done to the gay and lesbian in the name of Christianity will join the list of things that the church will have to reconcile in the coming years.
And of course it's become a staple of your show to discuss your deaf mother. Tell me about her and her inspiration.
My mother is the reason I am who I am today.  She has provided me many moments of laughter, of sadness, of motivation and joy. Through my mother’s eyes, I saw what it was like to be on the outside, to be different. It has given me a pretty big heart for people.
My mother is also hysterical, without trying to be. I call her the female version of Pat Robertson. She insists that wine gives me the devil’s smile and that we need to attach Bible verses to the candy we hand out on Halloween.
At the end of the day, my mother appreciates that I’m able to share what’s been funny about having a deaf mom. All too often, deafness is viewed as only a disability. The fact is, Deaf culture is filled with beautiful people. There are many proud deaf folks that lead enriching lives because of or in spite of their deafness. Through my comedy, many people find themselves relating to a culture they never expected to care about. It's been a rewarding experience to encourage that dialogue.
How does your dating life bleed into your live show?
Dating life! What dating life? I think the question is how does other people’s dating lives bleed into my show. People in love are crazy, people pretending to be in love are crazy, people falling out of love are crazy. These observations happily dance their way into my set.
The comedy act is obviously going quite well, but can you imagine another career or possibly branching out into another form of entertainment?
Within the scope of the entertainment industry I would love to be hosting a television show. I think that’s my ultimate goal. Insofar as a career outside of comedy, I always tell people my backup career is Congress!

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