Comedian Leo Reich dishes on erotic movies, his new HBO special & his childhood crush on Knuckles the Echidna

Comedian Leo Reich dishes on erotic movies, his new HBO special & his childhood crush on Knuckles the Echidna

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If you don’t already know about Leo Reich…. where have you been?

We only ask because the British comedian and writer has been everywhere lately. His first-ever hourlong comedy special, Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?! made its official debut at the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, then went on to do successful runs at London’s Soho Theatre and Off-Broadway in New York City, racking up awards, acclaim, and adoring fans in the process.

And now, Reich is bringing Literally Who Cares?! right into your living room—that’s right, the twenty-something comic is the latest to having his rising stardom solidified with an HBO comedy special all his own, currently streaming via Max.

Hailed by The New York Times as a wickedly funny “avatar of Gen Z disaffection,” Reich’s stage persona is both hilariously self-effacing and absolutely delusional in the best way. For example, the comics like to share that he feels “very lucky to be queer—branding-wise. Psychologically, it’s a nightmare, but it’s very good for my brand.”

Oh, and did we mention he’s a pop star in the making? Reich infuses his razor-sharp comedy with some shockingly catchy original songs that draw influence from all your favorite modern-day divas, which will have you laughing while bopping along.

In celebration of the premiere of Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?! on HBO this weekend, we invited Reich to sit down with us as the latest guest in our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our chat, the comedian tells us all about the horny movie that blew his mind, his incredibly honest list of childhood crushes, and why he’ll always go to bat for Lorde.

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, theater, video game, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important role in your understanding of queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

Oh my god, there are actually so many that it’s hard to pick one. The one that immediately jumped into my mind for some reason—which is maybe too pretentious to say—is the Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También, which I’m still, to this day, obsess with. i watch it every 10 days. Just, the homoeroticism bubbling through that—as a teenager at an all-boys school, that really blew my mind. I was like, “Yes, they do want to f*ck each other. Of course! We all want to f*ck each other!” It was very a clarifying moment.

Among the great reviews for your show, Literally Who Cares?!, the New York Times calls you an “avatar of Gen Z disaffection.” What does that mean to you? Do you feel like product of your generation? What do you think, say, a boomer might assume about Gen Z after seeing your special? 

Hopefully, in the special, I’m kind of making fun of the the idea of it being possible to be “a voice of a generation”—at any point, but especially now, considering the massively conflicting stereotypes and kind of paradoxical position you find yourself in as someone online. All of that stuff, I think, makes it sort of impossible to encapsulate the experiences of an entire generation—if it ever was possible.

I hope that what happens is that, by the end of [the special,] the non-sequiturs, and contradictory statements, and insane rants, and anxiety, and paranoia, and self-obsession accumulate into more of a mood than necessarily any kind of “political perspective,” any kind of confessional, anecdotal thing about how the specific experiences of being Gen Z.

What I want the audience to feel by the end, I guess, is just a feeling of confusion and chaos. And that’s the thing that I feel like—when I talk to my friends about, “What does it feel like sort of growing up at the moment?,”[the answer is less “Oh, it feels like what we need is this specific set of stuff, or all had this one experience.” It’s much more abstract and existential, like a chaotic angst. And that’s the thing I was really trying to get to by the end of the special

You’re sporting a very specific look for this show, which you joke about being “straight from your dad”s nightmare,” but can you tell us about bringing the outfit together and what you want it to say about the show? Is this an everyday Leo look?

I wish! No, it’s not at all. I guess the makeup and the outfit has a sort of “influencer clown” quality to it, I hope.

The top came from, truly, just me seeing one of the day influencers I follow wearing that on a beach, and I thought it was so funny. Just as an item of clothing, I was like, “What the f*ck is that?” Like, that’s not a real piece of clothing! What really drew me to it is that, literally, the only reason why someone would wear that is to be like, “I AM HOT.” And I thought that was hysterical as an idea—just to wear something that so immediately tells you that the person wearing it thinks they’re f*cking gorgeous, ripped, and incredible. That’s sort of the baseline inspiration for the outfit.

And also, aesthetically, the whole show draws on pop stars, sort of hyperpop-y, slightly futuristic, pop stars were really on the mood board: Charli XCX, Rosalía, Sophie—queer icons, all of them. But it’s that hyper attention to constructed persona and personality, especially in a very futuristic, internet-inspired way.

Since your show incorporates some really hilarious original pop tunes, we’re curious: Who’s your own personal #1 all-time pop diva and why?

Whoa, do you want me to get killed? You’re going to sick, like, nine different fan bases on me with this one

It really changes for me, year over year, but I love Lorde. I’m a big Lorde person. My teens were milestone by those Lorde albums in a really big way. I think I’m her age, maybe? But it really felt like, every time she released an album, she was like, “This is what you’re going through right now.” And I was like, “Yes, that is exactly right!” So I am a Lorde stan.

You know, there’s another rising comedy star who’s making a lot of headlines right now for their new special: Matt Rife. If people could only watch one special, yours or his, why should they tune into Literally Who Cares?! instead?

Because I am more muscular than him. End of list. That’s the only reason I can think of—everything else he’s got me beat.

I have to say, I do not know the work of Matt Rife—god bless him. I saw that he’s got a gorgeous jawline. But if you’re gonna watch one, watch mine, I think, because I just hit the gym harder and can bench more.

Who’s a fictional character you had a crush on at a younger age (or maybe still do!)? What do you remember loving about them?

Again, there are so many. As a real child, on cartoon level, weirdly—and this is the first time ever saying this—t. Knuckles, the echidna, from Sonic The Hedgehog. Very hot!

Who else? I was at Big Chord Overstreet in Glee fan. Can’t even bring to mind the name of his character, but can really bring to mind what his face looks like.

Other ones? Jess from Gilmore Girls. Incredible. I could keep going. Honestly, what I’m doing is trying to remember my Google searches of “their name, topless.” And then Chris Evans in Fantastic Four—I know that’s so basic now, but it’s pre-Captain America, when he looks like a normal person. Come on, I’m human—I’m a human being!

You’ve been performing this show for a minute now, taking it from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to Off-Broadway—do you have any stand-up horror stories of a “gig gone wrong” that you can share?

In doing the show, the thing that was always funny is—because the show relies so heavily on [being] half-earnest, half-cynical. And that’s how a lot of the rhythm of the show works: I’ll say something really earnest, and then I’ll end it by saying something really cynical. And what was funny, especially in the States when I did the run in New York, was getting people—musical theater-y people, god bless them, I am one in a way—really just clap after the earnest setup, and then be very confused by the cynical punch line.

So I’d be like, “I think there needs to be more queer people on Love Island.” Full round of applause. And I’d be like, “No, no, no—ohh…” And I’d feel bad because they’d be like, “Woo! Representation matters!” And I’d be like, “Yes, in a way, but sort of what I’m saying is a more specific, nuanced political point about the limits of that.” So that was always funny, to just crush people’s quite lovely, earnest desire to be in solidarity with me on stage.

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

Oh my god, I’m trying to think of a non-queer artists—I don’t think I follow a single one!

I saw a really great show this year by a comedian called John Tothill that was really brilliant, which I loved. And that will be at the Soho Theatre in London in January. And it was fantastic, I absolutely loved it.

And then, I mean, in the states it’s all people who I think people will know. Like, I loved the John Early special, it absolutely blew my mind, and he’s incredible, obviously. And Cole Escola did a Western, Our Home Out West—f*cking incredible, I love that. And there are so many more people, but I feel like I’m preaching to the choir as the Queerty readers will have a better on-the-ground sense of the queer comedy scene in America than I do.


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