The Scary Piece
Today I published this piece in Punchnel's: A Woman Walks Into A Life-Changing Sex Comedy Show.
This piece is a big deal for me, although it's possible that won't be clear in reading it. It's not written in my usual style (long-winded, endlessly verbose, looooonnnnnng-winded). That's because the editors at Punchnel's were like, "Hey, we will consider publishing this piece, but it needs to be edited a LOT." The original version started with a bunch of paragraphs about women in comedy. Here are some of the paragraphs that got cut:
I remember once in high school, I was flipping through the channels with my then-boyfriend, when we came to an episode of Comedy Central Presents starring Laura Kightlinger. My boyfriend said, "Yuck," and changed the channel quickly. "Wait! I like her! Let's watch that!" I said. He said, "Nope. Female stand-up comedians are never funny." I am ashamed that I didn't just break up with him right then and there. Instead we watched "Alien 3" on SciFi, and that's 114 minutes of my life I'll never get back.
We actually can't completely blame that ex-boyfriend of mine for his ignorance. The idea the women aren't funny -- while idiotic -- is unfortunately an ancient and popular one. Last year Bitch Magazine published a "Brief History of 'Women Aren't Funny',"beginning with a quote from William Congreve written in 1695, which reads, "I have never made an Observation of what I Apprehend to be true Humour in Women." There's also the well-known Jerry Lewis statement, the Adam Carrolla comment, and, of course, the now-infamous Christopher Hitchens essay published in Vanity Fair titled, "Why Women Aren't Funny." The whole notion that ladies can't make people laugh is such a common trope that McSweeney's Internet Tendency recently published a satirical list of "Reasons Women Aren't Funny," which includes "Ryan Gosling is just too dreamy for women to ever fully focus on coming up with a good punch line," and "Penisless."
Of course, no one with any common sense (or who has ever seen "Bridesmaids") entertains the possibility that women aren't funny. It pretty much goes without saying that women have had a sense of humor since having a sense of humor was a human characteristic. Somehow, though, just asserting that women are funny is still dubbed a feminist statement. Not that that's a bad thing.
I like the edits Punchnel's made. Honestly, I think I put those paragraphs in to try to lessen the blow of what happens next here.
I realized on a plane going to Seattle to open Jamie Kilstein that I needed to come out as a rape victim. This was something that I hadn't even told my family about -- just assorted ex-boyfriends so they knew that I was gonna be weird if they wanted to have sex with me. There are lots of reasons why this has always made me uncomfortable. Namely, I felt like I was whining; drawing too much attention to myself in a world full of hurt. There were so many women who had endured so much worse; I was afraid I would come off as selfish.
At some point on the airplane, I realized that it's crazy that we live in a world where even smart, powerful women feel like they are complaining too much if they tell people they've been raped. Honestly, I know I'm not alone. We're all afraid to talk about it. "Yes, but, aren't there much BIGGER things we need to discuss? Don't we have a responsibility to just kind of swallow it? Rich, white women being raped is like people who get addicted to cocaine: it's a first world problem."
Here is our responsibility: to tell the truth. By telling our stories, we are not saying, "My story is more important than everyone else's story. My business trumps yours." Rather, we are contributing to the collective conversation around difficult subjects. When you speak out about what you have been through, you automatically agree to also listen to others who want to speak out about what they have been through. Voices are powerful. Not necessarily alone, telling solitary stories about sad things; but in numbers; in solidarity; in unison; in conversation.
I put all three of my names on this piece and put it out into the world, and that was scary. My hope is that it is an invitation for all the people I love and admire and believe in out there to also do scary things. Cheers.