After being coined the “Straight Gay Guy” by his family and friends, Owen Alabado took that name and worked it into his standup routine. After tackling musical theater and acting, he is now showcasing his sense of humor with the world.
Alabado, 30, was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, to a Filipino father and a German mother. His parents divorced when he was three, and soon after married other partners. He is the eldest son of his parent’s eight children. Five of his siblings were adopted by his mother and his stepfather, but they are still related by blood.
“My mom had a really hard upbringing,” Alabado said. “Her mom died when she was six and then my grandfather wasn’t fit to take care of a kid, so she got put into foster care. I didn’t really know my mom’s side of the family that well, but one of my uncles had five kids. He was sent to prison and their mom was a drug addict, so they got put into foster homes. My mom sat [my family and me] down and says that she was going to take in her nieces and nephews. [My cousins] are actually brothers and sisters themselves.”
Life in the farm state of Wisconsin was not always easy for the young bi-racial gay man.
“Let’s just say it wasn’t a very accepting, tolerate town,” Alabado said.
If the name of his hometown sounds familiar, it should to a few. It was the same place where reporter and talk show host, Geraldo Rivera, was punched in the face on national television by a member of the Ku Klux Klan during a taping of his show.
“It has gotten a lot better since I was a kid. But Janesville is mostly white. There was a lot of racism and, of course, homophobia back then,” said Alabado.
His home life was not the best, either. “My mom had me when she was 16 years old, and since my parents divorced when I was 3, I was kind of like the third parent [to my siblings],” Alabado said. “That is kind of why I act like a kid sometimes because I never really got a chance to be one.”
Since his parents were so young when they had him, they did not graduate high school. Alabado was the first in his family to complete high school and then go on to college.
As for his sexuality, that was something that was not a surprise to him. “I was young and I knew that I was different,” Alabado said. “I was a smart little kid. I tried everything that I could to not be gay, but I just had to accept who I am. I was too strong-willed to be in the closet. I just couldn’t do it. My family didn’t take it too hard. I think that my mom always know that I was [gay], but my dad and I had a little falling out. I was happy because I got more [trouble with classmates] before I came out then after.”
He does not feel that being openly gay will hurt his entertainment career, either. It will help him to stand out and bring gay male comedians to the forefront with fellow lesbian comedians, like Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell and Wanda Sykes.
He always wanted to be an entertainer. “I have been performing since I was a kid,” he said. “I have been singing and dancing since I could remember.” He was also in a show called, “The Kids from Wisconsin” for a few years. His family was supportive of his decision to become an entertainer. Well, half of family needed a little bit more time to come to terms with it.
“They are pretty supportive now,” Alabado said. “My [German] side of the family was happy that I was going to school. My Filipino side was definitely a little upset that I was going to school for acting. They wanted for me to be a lawyer or a doctor. They know how hard this business is, and they are just hoping that one day soon, I will be working consistently.”
Alabado attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. “It was the only one state that had a B.F.A. in musical theater,” he said. “That is what I originally went to college for, but I ended up with a B.F.A. in acting. I knew thatwas my strongest suit. I was not a strong enough singer to go to Broadway.”
After he graduated, he had a few jobs lined up.
“I did musical theater in Kentucky, I did a theme park in New York, and then I went to Memphis and did some more musical theater,” Alabado said. “I was burnt out. I was like, ‘I’m over this.’ I stopped musical theater and I quit my job. I went home and then to L.A. to pursue acting and now standup comedy.”
Alabado has had a lot of success as an actor. He was cast in the starring role of Clifford in the 2007 movie, “Rock Haven.” It is a typical coming of age story that deals with religion, sexuality, the summer love interest and self-acceptance. “Rock Haven” was directed and written by David Lewis.
“I auditioned for the part,” Alabado said. “After my first callback, [the director] said that I was the one. He cast me first before the character of Brady. Brady was the main role, and my role [as Clifford] was second. [The director] actually used me for during the auditions as Brady, and he called back eight guys. I had to audition with all eight of them. He appreciated my input when it came to what I thought about each individual actor. The guy who ended up playing Brady was my first choice. I definitely felt a good connection with Sean Hoagland, and we definitely acted well together. It worked out perfect.”
He also was awarded the role of Gavin Arvizo, the main accuser in the re-enactment of the Michael Jackson trial on E!
“That role was really intense because it was something that was never done before,” Alabado said. “I was 25 playing a 15-year-old, but they had to have an actor who could handle it. I was acting off of a teleprompter. Not only was the material difficult, but everything had to be word for word. It was the court transcript from the actual trial. Everything that was said in the trial was said on the show. If I said one word wrong, I had to redo the whole take. It was very difficult, but I pulled it off. I remember the day that Michael Jackson showed up in pajamas and we were three hours behind in filming. I had to do a whole day of court because I was the only witness that day.
“The director was like, ‘Listen, I know this is hard, but you have act and read at the same time,’” Alabado said. “I was actually saying these words for the first time and acting at the same time. It was definitely the hardest thing that I have ever had to do as an actor, period. It was actually the [most fun that] I have ever [had], because it was a challenge, and I love challenges.”
Being that Arvizo was a minor at the time, he was referred to as “John Doe” during the trial.
Alabado is not only a talented actor, but he is also a man of various laughs. He said that the majority of his standup “[Comes] from my personal life and my personal experiences. I pull a lot from my life.
“I have been labeled the straight gay [in my routine],” said Alabado. I make fun of myself because I hang out with all straight people. I talk about that a lot, being biracial and being from Wisconsin. A lot of my stand up is observational. Observing people and the stupid things that they said or how they react. I would pick at certain topics like the economy and racism in an airport. I try to be broad in a sense. I don’t just talk about gay stuff and being biracial. I try to touch on other things.”
Of all of his career paths, Alabado gets his biggest high from being a comedian, for personal reasons. “I love being on stage, telling stories and making people laugh,” Alabado said. “Professional-wise, acting is what feeds my creative soul. It gives me a purpose, and the feeling that I am doing to right thing. Every time I feel like I did a role really well or a scene really well, it makes me feel like a whole person.”
Comedy, on the other hand, is more of a personal little joy for him. From a career standpoint, acting is what he loves to do the most. As for Alabado, behind closed doors, standup is definitely what he loves to do.
“Musical theater will always be in my bones,” said Alabado. “I will always love it. Someday I hope to have a career where I can use my film and television clout to go on to Broadway and do shows like John Stamos, Molly Ringwold or Catherine Zeta-Jones. All of these actors have used their notoriety to go into Broadway and to do musicals.
He has expressed his desire to be a polymath, also known as a Renaissance man, and be successful in the fields of acting, standup and theater. Alabado can soon be seen in the upcoming movie, “Trick of the Witch,” which is an indie horror movie. It should be released by this coming fall, and he is also set to be working on an upcoming martial arts film. He is going to be the acting coach for three major martial-arts stars from France. Alabado is also looking to work on one more film over the summer season. With acting, theater and comedy under his belt, Alabado has demonstrated that he is here to stay.
“I am determined to be one of the best male gay comics in the industry,” Alabado said.