A few weeks ago I met a brilliant young designer named Emma who interviewed me about an exhibit she plans to curate about Women in Comedy. (Details will be forthcoming.) Prior to meeting her I sent her all the blogs I’ve written about being a female comic (like this, this and this). When we met she asked me why I stopped writing about this delightful topic and I came up with something about not having the energy to be angry and how a lot of these misogynist comic guys are a little sad anyway. Kind of true.
Then last night I went to an open mic near my apartment that I would consider relatively friendly, not a cold dungeon of social misfits, more like a hippy enclave of West LA misfits. I have not felt “triggered” (therapy word) by an open mic in a while. Years of open mics, (ugh on the word “years”) have taught me to develop some measure of built-in psychic ear plugs to filter out bad jokes, general disturbing ideas, hackneyed premises, and, yes, misogyny. Maybe it was the PMS, but several of the “premises” I heard threw me into the old “what-am-I-doing-with-my-life?” existential plunge — a pretty common experience in comedy for all genders — that kicked in my instinct to flee any place with an amp, coffee, and depressed white men.
What did I hear at the mic last night? Nothing that unusual. A guy said that he’s getting married because he likes to “suck on his wife’s XXX.” So you can see the level of comedy genius we’re working with here. The problem I have with such remarks has to do with the numbers, the volume, (not the mic volume, though that too) but the amount of material of this vein.
It struck me as odd that a liberal wealthy enclave of Los Angeles would tolerate the lady hate vibe. This coffee shop is in Mar Vista, next a soap shop, a pet store, and a vinyl store. People sip on $4 on coffee while they wait their turn to play their ukelele or read poetry. People who would not tolerate gay bashing or racism. And, yet, a white male can go on stage and talk about how he humiliated a prostitute and call it “comedy” and nobody bats an eye.
When people talk about political correctness ruining comedy, I’m a little confused. If we are politically correct now, what did comics say about women thirty years ago? Comedy seems more violent and denigrating to women than ever. Even a smart comic might seem like a really intelligent and astute about everything, until he talks about women.
But maybe it’s just a reflection of our society. Compared to the bloodied images of women’s naked bodies on TV, video games and movies that making a clearly offensive joke about a prostitute seems almost tame. Violence against women has become a “television staple.” The serial killer who employs genius and bizarre creative executions of sex murders has been played out on True Detective, The Killing, The Following, and now Wicked City. I recall watching Kevin Bacon have a whole casual conversation on The Following in front of a bleeding crucified Jesus-Christ-style blond sorority girl.
I rarely, if ever, address this at open mics. There is some comic credo of not attacking other comics for their material. But I also wonder if I should spend precious stage time reacting to these dumb ass jokes that usually bomb anyway. But this type of comedy behavior is exactly why I’m the only female comic in the room. If I speak up, I fear I’m less of a comic…but second to writing a blog (done), it’s all I can do.