Funny, furry! Genderqueer ex-nun comedian to debut album at cat cafe

kelli dunham
Cat comedy: Comedian Kelli Dunham will release her new comedy album at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe on Feb. 8.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

She’s just kitten around!

A genderqueer ex-nun comedian will convert a Brooklyn Heights cat cafe into a comedy club on Feb. 8 to launch her new stand-up album “Not the Gym Teacher.” The Flatbush comic said that she is using the occasion to own the stereotype of the cat-loving queer person.  

“It’s a little bit cliché, so I’m kind of embracing that stereotype,” said Kelli Dunham. 

The night will feature excerpts from the album, brand-new comedy routines, and an audience Cat Quiz from Mary Phillips-Sandy, host of the “Let’s Talk About Cats” podcast.

Dunham said she began performing cat-related comedy after she inherited her late partner’s cat Lulu. Despite Lulu’s objections, Dunham soon formed a close connection with the cat because of their mutual grief — which became a story she often told in her routines, Dunham said. 

“How she was feeling was evidence of how I was feeling,” she said. 

“Not The Gym Teacher” also touches on her experiences working as a nurse at a Canarsie high school, where students often assume Dunham is a gym teacher due to her butch appearance — something that she just finds funny. 

“It’s not, ‘I can’t believe you think I was the gym teacher,'” she said. “It’s that she’s cooler than me.” 

Dunham’s routines also touch on her experience as a nun, when she lived in a convent for nearly two years. 

“I was very very bad at that. I was kicked out after a year and half for having too much self-esteem,” Dunham said. 

Performing in a cat cafe is nothing new to the comic, who has told jokes while on a skateboard ramp, during a livestock auction, in a Scottish cave, and on the A train. She began embracing unorthodox, and often queer-identified, venues after getting into a fight with a heckler at a traditional comedy club, who called her a “fat d—” during her show and tried to stab her afterwards.

“He chased me in the parking lot with a broken bottle, and I thought that I either have to find different venues to perform in, or get really good at running,” she said.

The Feb. 8 performance will be Dunham’s first in a cat café, and she hopes she can outshine the dozens of felines who will compete for the audience’s attention. 

“There’s two things you can’t compete with as a performer. You can’t compete with a small child because they’re cuter than you, and you can’t compete with an animal,” she said. And cats make a particularly tough crowd, she added. 

“They’re hecklers. They’re not giving you anything for free.”

Kelli Dunham at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe [76 Montague St. between Hicks Street and Montague Terrace in Brooklyn Heights, (347) 946–2286, catcafebk.com]. Feb. 8 at 5pm and 7 pm. $20.