It doesn’t take much digging to find out that in addition to being a writer, I am a standup comedian. What can I say, I just really wanted to bring honor to my family. Also, as you probably guessed from me writing for Playboy, I am not a clean comic. There’s a spectrum of dirtiness in comedy that ranges from casual cursing, to acknowledging the existence of sex without being graphic, to boldly leaping into the humor of bukkake and beyond.
Which brings me to my point: being a woman in comedy is very different than being a male comic. Some people might be saying, “duh!” But I’m kind of sick of having to think that’s an obvious truth. It’s also a truth that female comics are expected to operate under, without ever acknowledging or complaining about. I think the emphasis on being clean or dirty is revved up when you’re talking about a female-identifying comic. I’ve heard some of the most fowl (and funny) shit come out of a male comic’s mouth, and he’s just a comic at the end of his set—when it’s a woman, she leaves the stage a dirty comic.
I’m not a fan of Amy Schumer (partially because she exploits feminism for her own gain without understanding it to begin with, which I’ve written about), but she mentions this same phenomenon in an HBO special saying, “I mention one UTI, and suddenly I’m a ‘sex comic.’”
The other problem with this lump generalization of women comics who talk about sex is that many men take it as an invitation to hit on us, or worse, sexually harass and abuse us.
I was on tour in a major city, when a man approached me at the bar. This man proceeded to harass me about comedy for 10 minutes until my friend and I went outside to wait for our Lyft, where he continued to loom in the background until he was told to, “fuck off,” by my travel companion. He’d seen a target, and he was waiting for me to let my guard down or end up alone to pounce. He’d lied to me and told me he was a comic, which was obviously untrue as I hadn’t seen him talk to a single one of the many local comics there or get up at the mic.
It’s not male comics’ responsibility to be our daddies on the road, but a simple, “you good?” goes a long way.
I let the other comics know what was going on. They told me to let them know if I wanted them to step in. I was worried about making a scene as an out-of-towner at a big club, and wanted to handle it as quietly as possible. We got there, and I did my best to avoid the stalker man, but he was persistent. I sat at a table with friends where there was no spot for him. He dragged a chair up. I went to go to the restroom. He followed me out. He asked me if he could buy me a drink, and I said no and went to buy my own in front of him.
Finally, I was smoking outside when he stormed out and yelled, “Nice to meet you, I guess. I’m fucking leaving.” I kept my distance and tried not to escalate anything. I simply waved and said, “Have a good night.” I was briefly relieved he was gone until, I shit you not, 20 minutes later he stormed back into the club. He proceeded to awkwardly stand nearby, trying to interject into my conversation. I had chills. Part of me was terrified he’d gone home and gotten a weapon to hurt me or someone else. I texted my friends that we needed to get out of there fast. I looked back as we got to the car, and he was following us. It was over, but it was certainly a wake-up call to the realities of touring while female.
Women in comedy are already slogging hard up the “women aren’t funny” god-forsaken hill, maybe have their backs if someone pulls their dick out in front of them.
This man used my sexual material as justification for a 24-hour campaign to date rape me. I would love to meet a male comic that’s happened to before. Or a male comic that’s been sexually harassed or abused by another male comic. I’m not saying it has never happened, but it happens at a fraction of a fraction as often as it happens to women. And yet, male comics do very little to protect female comics. The same good guys who get mad when men are generalized rarely come to the defense of women. That’s a generalization in itself, but I’ve seen it too many times to not know it’s true.
I’ve been told of female comics being sexually assaulted by the fucking sound guys at comedy clubs, only to have the male comics who were around immediately laugh it off. The night I was stalked in another city, there was a comic I knew and had worked with before who is typically very nice, but he left without so much as a goodbye. It’s not male comics’ responsibility to be our daddies on the road, but a simple, “you good?” goes a long way. But that’s too much breath for them to waste sometimes. You bet your ass though that they’ll use that breath until they’re blue in the face to defend Louis C.K. and their other fallen faves.
Not all male comics are the same. I have been blessed to work with some incredible men. One of whom I was recently on a show with in Ohio. Without prompting, he asked if I had everything I needed and started talking about how he worried about female comics on the road by themselves. This shouldn’t be ground breaking, but it was. There’s a spectrum. There are the dudes that abuse women, there are the dudes who don’t care, there are the dudes who don’t ask, and then there are guys like the one I just mentioned. Women in comedy are already slogging hard up the “women aren’t funny” god-forsaken hill, maybe have their backs if someone pulls their dick out in front of them.
Photo credit: Africa Studio