During his tight five on Conan last year, Solomon Georgio joked, “Just to let you know, I am openly gay — most of the time. I took a break for Martin Luther King Day. Sometimes you just want to be black and nothing else.”
Sure, black and gay are two ways you might describe the 33-year-old stand-up comedian, whose face recently graced television screens on the Viceland comedy Flophouse, but there are lots more: immigrant, Ethiopian, refugee, wit, recovering addict, trill dude and L.A. transplant — three times over.
Born in Khartoum, Sudan, to Ethiopian refugees, Georgio came to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old. He says his memories before that are mostly black-and-white. “The first memory I ever have is coming to America … that’s my strongest memory,” he says over coffee near Babe Island, his house in Highland Park. “I remember asking for yogurt. Before that, all I’d ever had was just plain, flavorless yogurt. And the stewardess gave me strawberry yogurt — the first time I’d probably had anything sweet in my life — and I was like, ‘Uh, why were we eating this any other way? You guys were flavoring this with salt before? I am a child!’” It’s a prime example of his trademark feigned indignation.
That flight took his family to Missouri; from there they moved to Fresno and then to Seattle. “That’s where my brain settled,” he says of the Emerald City. “‘Oh, these people are docile, I can judge them harshly without fear of painful repercussion,’” he jokes, but then relents. “I came out in Seattle. I made friends there that I was fully honest with. I was like, ‘This is it, I feel regular.’”
But, of course, Georgio is not merely regular, and like many other not-regular folks, he wanted to be in Los Angeles. In conversation, he glosses over his first brief stint here in 1999 as a runaway teen, when he crashed in hostels and shelters and bummed around Hollywood, except to say that it yielded his first crucial open mic. And he bombed. Obviously. “I was just listing people I didn’t like from high school … and then I got a solid ‘boo’ … and I said to myself, ‘I’m never doing this again.’”
At 24, he came back, and spent two months working normal-person jobs. “And then I got mugged,” he laments, “and that was that.” He returned to Seattle penniless, and went all-in on comedy. He forged friendships, found his voice and learned his trade to the point where he could return to L.A. and triumphantly … bus tables. Undeterred by the shitty jobs that he’d already mastered back home, he just hunted for stage time and found it was offered up with open arms. Unlike other cutthroat communities of strivers and wannabe-famous people, the comedy community embraced him.
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“You’re just relying on the help of other comics. That’s why there’s this great camaraderie among us,” he says. “That’s why we put up with some shitty people, because we have to be good to each other.”
Now that he’s here to stay, and he’s embraced L.A. as home, he has a wizened perspective. “This is the third time I’ve tried to live here and now it’s taking me to the next chapter, where I want to go with comedy and I can work with people who I want to work, people with integrity, and not have to chase fame like an idiot. I don’t think L.A. is allowed to do that for most people. Even if you can’t make it in L.A., you can at least enjoy the ride.”