When Del Shores came out of the closet to his Southern Baptist family, it became the launching pad to a long-lived comedy career. However, his quick wit has caused a few bumps on the road with these relationships.
“Honestly when my mother first saw ‘Sordid Lives,’ she burst into tears,” says Shores, who performs “My Sordid Best” at the Highland Theater, Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. “One of my aunts didn’t speak to me for seven years after she saw my movie.”
“Sordid Lives,” which started out in a 64-seat theater — before graduating to television and an independent movie, has been called a “black comedy about white trash” and centers around a cast of outrageous Southern characters, many of them based on real-life relatives. For example, “I had a real Aunt Sissie who tried to quit smoking for three days,” says Shores.
Opening as a stage play in Los Angeles, “Sordid Lives” sold out shows and garnered a number of awards upon introduction, eventually leading to a film version and a series on the LOGO cable network (starring Olivia Newton-John, Rue McClanahan, Leslie Jordan, Beth Grant, Caroline Rhea), which became the network’s biggest hit to date.
Shores has been at the helm of a number of television, film and stage projects, and his irreverent take on everyday life has helped him establish himself as a genuine entertainer and storyteller.
However, family members often became reticent to share too much, lest they wind up a character on stage. Shores recalls at one point speaking with his mom on the phone, when she would pause and say, “I hear you writing.” His solution? Write in pen rather than pencil as he talked on the phone, so she couldn’t hear him scribbling notes.
As a director, producer, playwright, actor and comedian, Shores offers this tip for staying relevant in the entertainment industry: observing people around you. “I collect a lot of stories,” he says. “I just observe. I love to watch people. I love to listen to people. It’s really tragic some of these stories, but you cannot help but see the humor in them.”
Shores’ visit coincides with the Gay Games 9 events in Cleveland and Akron. This will be his first Akron visit, and Shores hints that the city being descended upon by gay athletes could be considered a perk, if you will.
Although the “Sordid” franchise is nearly 20 years old, it’s a project that keeps evolving, says Shores.