I said I wasn’t going to write any more blogs about being a woman in comedy. I lied. Again. My experience last night convinced me that the majority of female comics should consider performing exclusively at female open mics (which we need to create in greater abundance).
Last night I performed in a “show” (a bunch of comics in a basement) of primarily male comics, many of whom you would not classify as your standard Comedy Misogynist. I had a decent set, but a terrible night. My comedy went over, my soul felt violated. The final blow for me came with the telling of the ubiquitous Fat Girl “Joke” by a male comic who for some reason deserves our sympathy in the trials of dating. The Fat Girl Joke is always the same story about how said comic witnessed a “fat girl” who said or did something that doesn’t sufficiently express the level of shame and humiliation she should feel for failing to live up to society’s standards of beauty. How dare she still go out and live her life, instead of spend her nights crying at home in front of “The Bachelor” re-runs amidst tattered issues of Cosmo because guys (like the comic telling the story) would never find her SEXY?! Would this girl care if said comic didn’t hit on her? In the story it’s assumed that all women care about the judgements of said comic who ironically cares enough to TELL A STORY ABOUT IT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. The rest of the “joke” goes towards humiliating this woman not in attendance. The message is the same, if you’re existence doesn’t focus on becoming a physical ideal for men – particularly this comic – then you are worthless human being.
The small audience consisted of other male comics, with the exception of me and two other women. I stared at my phone. The other comics nodded their heads and laughed, even if they were tired of the bit and believed in their heart that his words were fundamentally wrong…because comics embrace FREEDOM OF SPEECH.
I’m still trying to figure out…IF THERE’S SO MUCH FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN COMEDY WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DEFEND THE FAT GIRL?
One theory is that they agree with it. Or they want to support the comic and not hurt his fragile fat-girl hating ego. I wish I had the balls to awkwardly heckle him in the moment. But I don’t have balls. I am more closely aligned to the fat girl, or the desperate old lady, or whatever woman-hating paradigms exist for these guys to enact their freedom of speech.
I went up second. My set was early in the night. I had planned to leave right after like any other self-involved comic, but decided to stay and watch the female comics. I generally try to support women in comedy. I watched a younger female comic talk about the guys that hit on her, how men sexually view her and how she acts in bed. A lot of younger female comics who go to open mics end up with an act that sexualizes themselves. In a more supportive context, like a female mic, sexualizing yourself might be an expression of rebellion or an assertion of independence and freedom of choice. But in front of a group of men, especially comics, it’s the verbal equivalent of a strip tease. Maybe young women who do this type of comedy have an authentic comedic voice somewhere deep inside or maybe they just want attention, either way the response they get from a room full of men is not exactly laughter. It’s the energy of guys getting turned on. Gross. GROSS.
The comic after her, a man close to 50, got up and said, “I actually liked her act” as if he were referring to a five-year-old who talked about trucks for ten minutes. Her act was genuinely funny, despite being oversexualized. But it’s true that most stand-up comedy is terrible, and there is an argument made for a process of art that starts out as a terrible mess (if you can indulge me for a moment in classifying stand-up comedy as “art”). But rarely do male comics openly condescend to each other. BUT IT’S JUST US GIRLS TRYING TO TELL JOKES.
He then went on to discuss how turned on he felt by her. *wave of nausea* So, this moment has happened in my presence, where a small intimate room suddenly gets incredibly creepy and while nobody is being openly harassed or assaulted, I feel like my feminine soul is being raped and nobody is doing anything about it. At this point, I usually leave, but I wanted to stay and see a friend. To be fair, maybe male comics don’t notice because awareness of creepiness is not in their man-DNA-code, but in these moments I have to ask myself, like David Byrne…HOW DID I GET HERE?!
I wrote to the last female comic I saw (the last act I saw) on Facebook today and she said “If you talk about how mad you are, people freak out.”
I’m tempted to say that female comics MUST primarily attend all-girl mics if they want to develop an authentic comedic voice, free from the need to impress men. For the same reason why girls do better at all-girls schools…Tina Fey, what would you do?