Can We Stop Being Horrible, Please? (A Challenge to Women)

29 Aug

Just imagine riveting tales of condescending club owners, disinterested audiences, scrutiny, fondling, and boobs made out of jello.

Women in stand-up comedy have a strange and unique road. And yep, even though people don’t like to talk about it, and like even less when I talk about it (so I’m probably an absolute idiot for saying this right up front) it is more difficult for women! For those of you who haven’t just clicked away to check up on your fantasy leagues, I can point you to a delightful documentary by female comedian Bonnie McFarlane, called Women Aren’t Funny, that shows this truth on a profound level that I’ve not seen since I experienced it firsthand.

Now, I’m not going to get into all the reasons why the road is more difficult. I don’t have time to write a book right now. I’m not saying there are that many, as I can simply be long-winded and tell lots of stories with lots of adjectives and probably not enough commas. If you attended my women’s empowerment program, SuperPowerment, you’ve heard a few of these stories. If not, just imagine riveting tales of condescending club owners, disinterested audiences, scrutiny, fondling, and boobs made out of jello.

I do want to get into one particular reason why the road is more difficult for women: other women.

There aren’t many women in comedy, whether traveling as comedians or working behind the scenes as a club manager or booking agent. And I didn’t make friends easily with a lot of them. Yes, I do know some wonderful women in the biz, but many women in comedy are just plain horrible to each other. They want to be the only “token” female. These not-so-nice women are catty and backstabbing, conniving, or just plain mean.

It’s not just in show business where this happens. It’s everywhere, because that’s how women are. You know, because if you’re reading this, you probably are one. We’re always competing with each other. Like that thing where every time we meet another woman we have to check her out, make sure she’s got more flaws than us, and if she doesn’t, then we just hate her.

We all need to stop.

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One time when I was spending a night off in West Yellowstone, Montana, I ventured out to a local pub where they were having open mic night. It was a very small town, but the mic had a decent crowd of people. It was an “all performers welcome” open mic, so I thought what the heck and signed up to do some comedy.

Two acts before me was a woman who sang. She had a beautiful jazz voice and just absolutely blew me away. She had soul. I have always wanted to be able to sing like that. And then I just got up and told jokes. After my set, this young woman came up to me and told me she thought I was amazing. She said she wished she could do what I could do.

We are all unique. We all have our gifts.

Back in high school, one time when I was curious about the culture and heritage of one of my Indian friends, she explained to me about the closeness of the Indian community. She explained that all the Indians in our city knew each other, had big events all the time. Then she went on to tell me how anywhere she traveled in the country, if she and her family came across another person or family from India, it was as if they were family as well. At the time, I didn’t have any context to wrap my head around that kind of sense of community.

But as I’ve lived more, I can see it. This is a sense of community present in many groups. Sports fans are a great example. I can’t wear my Green Bay Packers T-shirt without making a friend. There are fraternal clubs, like the Elks, the Moose.

So I want to make a request. I know it’s a lot to ask, and it’s not going to happen overnight, but I want you to help me out on this. I want women to be a community. I want us to make the decision to stop competing with each other. Compete with our fears instead. Outdo ourselves with each scary thing we do. We can use that superpower that’s within us all, go live fearlessly and achieve our dreams, and support each other while we’re doing it. Let’s help each other in big ways and in little ways. Hold open doors for each other. Stop and listen to each other. Give each other the sweet spots at open mic night. Study with each other. Buy art from each other. Help each other be unstoppable.

Now wouldn’t that be one heck of a women’s movement?

– Christina Irene

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