Feminist Comedy, By Women, For Everyone

FemComedy2-2 (002)Perth has a lively comedy scene but a new night aims to tap into a specific audience, this month the aptly titled ‘Feminist Comedy Night’ has its third outing.

Event organizer Alyce Wilson traded emails with us to bring us up to speed on why feminist comedy needs its own space.

How would you describe feminist comedy?
Tough question, and I feel like my answer is overly simple, but I would describe feminist comedy as any sort of comedy that doesn’t portray women as this mysterious (and ultimately unfunny) Other—whether that means we are the enemy, the stereotypical foil to some honest bloke who just wants to drink late at the pub without being nagged, or any other tired stereotype some cis-het guy came up with in the early 1980s and many more cis-het guys since have been unable to let go of.

So, any comedy where women have personalities/are human people? A radical notion. Pretty sure I just paraphrased a popular T-shirt slogan there, but what can you do.

 Why is it important we have a space for this type of comedy?

It’s important to me on a personal level because I’ve found it difficult to perform after the type of aforementioned humour—I mean, if the audience is laughing AT women (or more accurately, this woman character the extremely uncreative male comedian has drawn for his audience), I felt like whatever I was going to say automatically had zero worth. I mean, if everyone just laughed at what he said, why would they relate to whatever I’m gonna say? Stronger women than I can follow that material—and absolutely kick boring, patriarchal ass. And so much power to them for that. But my own “comedy career” was short lived due to that pesky anxiety, so I started wondering if there were other women who wanted to get on stage but felt they couldn’t yet play with the big boys. Or don’t want ever to play with the big boys. Or simply want a night of original, all-female voices.

On a broad (sorry) level, these nights often allow the audience to be privy to narratives and lifestyles unlike their own, which is both refreshing and necessary for progression both within feminism and entertainment itself.

Who will be standing in front of the mic at your next event?

One of the many things I like about this event is that many of the performers keep coming back for more so if you’ve attended one of these nights, there’s some familiar faces. I literally can’t get rid of them. They’re part of the furniture at this stage. Lucky they’re so funny! Speaking of which, Alissia Marsh (the ukulele-wielding powerhouse in the photo) is running the show on September 11. The lineup is always a mixed bag of emerging and established female comics, and I’m still adding to the current bill, so shoot me an email at [email protected] if you’re reading and want to give it a shot!

Do you think feminists should laugh at themselves more often?

I do! I think we are living in an interesting time of social change and progression and we are simultaneously succeeding and failing on so many levels with equality. Comedy is a vehicle for expression like any other art (haha) form, so absolutely use it explore your position in society! Embrace the self-deprecation and uncertainty- we’re laughing WITH you. Promise. At least at this event we are.

Can men be feminists or should the sisters be doing for themselves? I declared myself a feminist a few years ago after a persuasive argument from Annie Lennox.

There are a lot of things male feminists are never going to be able to understand, and there’s no tangible way to bridge that gap between somebody holding power/privilege and somebody who doesn’t have that stuff but wants it, no matter how good everyone’s intentions are.

I frequently grapple with this question and don’t have an answer to it right now. I’m weary about men proclaiming themselves as feminists/allies via social media and whatever, but failing to reflect their proclamations in their daily lives.

It’s just so hot to suddenly care about women’s comfort/basic rights now, right? Then again, men listen to other men?! Look, I’m weary about a lot of things. But one thing is for sure, I’m definitely listening to ‘No More “I Love You’s”‘ right now.

Who are your comedy idols?

I really like satire that borders on absurdity because I grew up on Big Girls Blouse, which falls in that broad (sorry, I did it again) definition of feminist comedy I was talking about earlier.

I remember this old interview with Jane Turner where she was talking about promoting that show, and how the men interviewing them kept asking “oh, so in this show, you’re gonna be making fun of blokes” like that’s a) the only thing women would have to say and b) such a threatening thing. I’ve been asked similar questions while organizing this event and it’s just like… suck it up like we always have.

My comedy idols right now are local women I’ve met through Twitter, the Her app, Facebook or their blogs who reduce me to cry-laughter with one flippant remark, and have let me hassle them onto the stage. And continue to let me hassle them onto the stage.

Feminist Comedy 3 is at the Rosemount Hotel on Sunday September 11, tickets available from The Rosemount

Graeme Watson

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