Metro Weekly

Stand-Up Man

Gay comic Zach Toczynski breaks barriers at area comedy clubs

Earlier this year several very straight comics at Nanny O’Brien’s in Cleveland Park made gay jokes during their open-mike routine. So Zach Toczynski began his monologue with a light left jab in their direction.

“Speaking of gay people, I am! ” he told the crowd, who reacted with laughter once they got over their initial surprise.

Toczynski often finds himself going where few other gay men have gone before: the comedy club. “A lot of the places that I go to, I’m usually the only gay person who’s ever performed there, ” Toczynski says. “It’s kind of amazing to think about. ”

The locally based comic is seizing an opportunity to break barriers by mostly performing at straight comedy events. He recently won the preliminary rounds at both the jury-selected D.C. Improv’s Best New Comic competition and the audience-picked Funniest Person in Baltimore Contest produced by the Baltimore Comedy Factory. (The finals for both will be held later this year.)

And to think he only started doing standup last October at Titan’s weekly Wednesday open-mike night. The 30-year-old professional anti-piracy crusader has lots of material to mine for his comedy: He grew up in a “happy alcoholic ” family in an all-Polish section of Buffalo, New York, learning proper Polish at school by day and swearing Polish from his grandmothers by night. He’s a practicing Catholic and a pro-choice gay Republican.

And then there’s the matter of his unusual first celebrity crush.

“I had a huge crush on Bob Barker at like 8-years-old,” he says. “I would walk around with little leisure suits on all the time with a fake microphone, imitating him. ” — Doug Rule

Toczynski will make his debut as host at the D.C. Improv, Tuesday, June 29 through Saturday, July 3, opening for comedian Jim Gaffigan. Tickets are $15-$17. Visit For information on Toczynski’s other upcoming performances, visit

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.