BEING A WOMAN AT OPEN MICS IS LONELY. Night after night I go to open mics so full of men that I choke on the testosterone the second I walk through the door. If I see another woman in the room she’s bursting with hearts and flowers. I don’t need to know her or even like her, but she just became my best friend.
Now male comics aren’t evil. Some of them act like assholes, but most of them lack a clue or two. And others actually sympathize with the handful of women stuck in a man situation. I don’t think it’s their fault, individually. Sure, there’s no welcome committee for women, but there really isn’t one anywhere in show biz. (Assuming for a minute that open mics have something to do with showbiz). Still, dudes can and do provide a supportive fraternity for each other. They can hang out and talk about how badly they bombed. I see lots of young female comics come in to open mics, sometimes tear it up, only to never return. Gone. Why am I still there? Maybe it’s because…
IT DIDN’T USED TO BE THIS WAY. I started comedy a long time ago. In the dark ages. Before Twitter, Internet Porn, and Pinkberry. Back then, with the exception of the Comedy Store I rarely had the experience of being the only woman in the room. I never thought that being a Woman Comic made me unique or strange. If you told me in the 90’s that I was living in a feminist heydey I would have cranked up the Alanis Morisette and raged against my ex-booty call.
NOT A LOT OF JANEANE GAROFALO’S. I remember watching one of Garofalo’s Comedy Central special where she called on women to “fight back.” Holy shit, I thought. Here’s a beautiful, smart woman speaking her truth on TV. I was inspired. She wasn’t the only woman comic who used her comedy as a platform for her feminist ideals. I don’t see much that now. I hear plenty of rape, abortion, and “back door” jokes. Plenty of sexy talk in comedy. Because when a woman stands in front of a room full of young men…HOW ELSE WILL SHE GET THEIR ATTENTION?
LOTS OF MAN LOVE. Plato wrote in The Symposium that the highest form of love is that between two men. I don’t know if he was a comic as well as a philosopher, but he would have gotten along at open mics. In comedy dude comics love other dude comics the way football players love each other. I think Bobbie Barret on Mad Men said it best, “Nobody will tell you this, but you can’t be a man. So don’t even try.” But then what? If we’re not blowing them or cheering them to victory WHAT THE HELL ARE WOMEN DOING THERE?
IT’S PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE TO HATE ON WOMEN IN COMEDY. If a comic said something like, “I’m a misogynist” in the 90’s some angry big haired woman might throw his scrawny ass through the window. “I hate women,” is a fairly common phrase spoken at open mics in LA. I don’t ever hear, “I hate black people” or “I hate Asians” or “I hate gays.” BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE WRONG. Everyone hates people who hates gays. OF COURSE. GAYS ARE VICTIMS OF A BIGOTED SOCIETY. Women…well, THE WHOLE WORLD HATES WOMEN. (Are my caps making the point clearer?)
NOW I’M BRINGING HILARY INTO THIS. Do you know what Hilary Clinton said she would do if she doesn’t run for office? Advocate for women’s rights around the world. Spending time outside of western culture made her realize how much “society” has minimized the plight of third world women. For much of the world being a woman means bearing children, working to the bone, and dealing with the the possibility of being beaten, maimed, killed, and having your lady parts mutilated. Being a woman comic just means being openly hated.
THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN COMEDY. I started going to open mics in 1997. I had many older female comic role models. Whether they intended to or not, they created a protective environment at open mics for other women. But more importantly they demonstrated to me how women can be funny in front of an audience made up of men and women. The 90’s produced Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian, Chelsea Handler, Janeane Garofalo, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Tina Fey…did these women survive a male dominated field because they were destined for comedy? Or did that era provide some support for authentic female expression?
Lots of women kill it on Twitter, but there’s something about live performance that shoots straight through the heart. But we’ll never have a chance to see women develop their live voices if they don’t go to open mics now. SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE.
TO BE CONTINUED…