Jack Antonoff Throws Annual 'Gay Talent Show'

Jack Antonoff Throws Annual 'Gay Talent Show'

By Erica CampbellDec 21, 2023

“Is this a gay talent show?” comedian Sam Jay jokes from the stage as a crowd of mostly college-age students burst into laughter. “Alright, I’ll start” she continues. Jay’s hilarious set (which includes a side-splitting bit about a Hollywood conspiracy that Jamie Foxx was inviting ‘90s singer Sisqó over for naked basketball) is only one example of the musical and comedic talent driving the audience to unbridled laughter on Tuesday, December 19 as The Ally Coalition (TAC) held its ninth annual talent show.

Led by founders Jack Antonoff of Bleachers and fashion designer Rachel Antonoff, this year’s showcase took place at NYU’s Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts TAC with a stacked lineup of stars, including Bartees Strange, Jason Isbell, Clairo, Sarah Sherman, Red Hearse and more giving it their best in front of a tiny, New York City crowd.

The self-proclaimed “most queer-looking straight person” on SNL, Sarah Sherman, put on a perfect mixture of high- and low-brow self-deprecating humor at the crowd who was happy to get in on the joke. Sherman’s riotous set followed Jack Antonoff’s opening performance of Bleachers' “Good Morning” with the front row finishing his sentences, and cheering before a spiraling, saxophone solo filled up the theater.

Other stand-out music moments included indie-rock purveyor Bartees Strange, who shared the stage with his mother Donna Mitchell-Cox. The duo sang a rendition of “Summertime” that made the original sound like a replica. Not to be outdone by the night’s comedic genius, country superstar Jason Isbell put his own bit to the test before performing a John Prine cover. “You know why they don’t have sex standing up in Alabama?” he asks the crowd. “Because they don’t want anyone to think they’re dancing.” Other surprise performances from the night came by way of Antonoff collaborator Redhearse, who transformed the stage into a bedroom studio, Clairo who performed her track “Blouse” and indie upstart Claude, who did a duet with Jack’s dad.

But the most mind-blowing moment of the night came when St. Vincent (Annie Clarke) joined Antonoff for a stripped-back performance of her nostalgic and yearning, heartbreaker of a track, “New York," her delicate vibrato coating the venue from the floor to the balcony in a shattering silence. The surprise performance (dotted with jokes that attempted, but failed to bring levity to the emotional biography of the song) has become canon for TAC, who have annually brought once-in-a-lifetime performances from the world’s greatest talents (Taylor Swift, Lorde, Boygenius) in front of an engaged, charitable audience.

On December 16, leading up to the show, TAC held its secnd annual Day of Services at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. The event included LGBTQ organizations from across the city as well as the at-risk youth they support, as they provided them with hot meals, new clothing, hygiene kits and medical services. According to TAC, there are more than 4 million unhoused youth across the US, with more than 40% identifying as LGBTQ+ and dealing with higher instances of depression, violence, bullying and suicide. Unfortunately, the growing stressors leading to these stats continue, with The American Civil Liberties Union tracking nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country. This year’s talent show raised more than $430,000 in support of unhoused LGBTQ+ youth. Over the past decade, the TAC Talent Show has raised more than $2 million to support LGBTQ+ youth.

Photography: Toby Tenenbaum