TOUR Day 1 - Houston and Feminism
A long time ago, I told people I did not like to travel. I think felt like, in a sort of backward way, this made me more exotic; sort of like not having any tattoos. Also, when I was 16 my family took me on this really nice trip to Italy (it’s so hard when your class strata forces you to go to Europe — UGH), and I really missed my boyfriend, so I sulked the whole time and sullenly ate (delicious, delicious) pizzas.
But recently, I have started to enjoy wandering — especially in and around the United States, which is big and complicated, and which I am consistently learning I have a lot to learn about. I spent the last month crawling from Knoxville to Portland to Berkeley to Austin to D.C. (I say “crawling” because I move slowly, and a little like a baby). Portland, Berkeley, and Austin are essentially all the same place — just add or subtract a gender fluidity descriptor, or a mustache and a plaid shirt, and they’re synonymous. Knoxville was beautiful and fascinating and different. In D.C., I stayed in the fancy hotel where my conference took place the whole time and worked and thought about work. I don’t feel proud of this, but, um: EXTENDED CABLE, and also, CENTRAL AIR. And there was a gym. I hate that I love these things, but they’re kinda the coolest; Eloise had it made.
That all felt like it was leading up to this, though: I’m going on a nationwide Air Sex (file under: comedy) tour with some of my friends. This means spending the entire month living out of a van, and driving dozens of hours late at night, and depending on the kindness of strangers to sleep comfortably on assorted couches. I have never done anything exactly like this before (although I did go on tour two years ago — it’s just that that one was half as long and took place exclusively along the leisurely east coast). I want to blog about it. Obviously.
Normally, I try to keep my Internet presence to essays and… just essays. Well, essays and inoffensive watercolors. But while I am on tour, I would like to experiment with travelogue-ing (is that what it’s called?), which might mean that there will be less of “a point” than usual. I actually have no idea. In my mind, essays involve narrative arc and higher purpose, and I intend for none of that to happen here.
Let’s get this out of the way: I like Air Sex. I might even go so far as to say that I like like Air Sex. It is exactly what you think it is: people come up and stand on a stage and pretend like they are having sex with the air. It’s funny and weird and — in treasured cases — kind of disturbing. I fell in love with it when I went on tour with the show two years ago and first watched a strong, no-nonsense woman do a routine. It wasn’t a strip tease — it was this very sex-positive, powerful performance. She started it by watering in an invisible plant; and finished it by “watering” an invisible Robert Plant. I was crazy about her. She seemed to be saying, “I am in control of my sexuality. If you think it’s weird or gross, then that sucks for you. I’m the one on stage right now. I win.”
My entire life changed after that tour. I had been taught (and am still told) that girls shouldn’t talk about sex on stage — even comedians. “It looks cheap,” people would say; “it doesn’t seem intelligent.” You might think I’m exaggerating, but I literally heard people say that, like, all the time. Most popularly, perhaps, is, “I don’t like when women depend on shock value in sexuality to get a laugh.” I don’t really like when anyone depends on shock value in sexuality to get a laugh. But sex is one of the most central, silly, and absurd parts of our modern lives — to act like it’s anything else (specifically, to act like it is this sacred rite that women only discuss in hushed tones at nail salons when they’re “being bad”) is even more absurd.
I think a lot about sex. So, sex is a big part of my comedy routine. If you think it’s weird or gross, then that sucks for you. I would only invite you to make sure you’d feel the same way if I made the same jokes, but had different body parts.
This is not to say that all jokes about sex are awesome. All jokes about the Internet are not awesome; all jokes about cats are not awesome (or so I assume; I’ve never actually heard an un-awesome cat joke yet). But Air Sex, which (at its best) highlights and makes fun of the incredible, perfect absurdity of human lovemaking rituals, is an excellent space for us to laugh at ourselves. That, of course, is one of the things comedy is supposed to be all about.
We also get to do standup on this tour in gigantic, rowdy houses, which is great practice. If you can kill it in a room full of people who want to watch other people have sex with the air, you can probably kill it anywhere. That’s the kind of thing I could have only dreamed of as a comedian a few years ago, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.
I am writing this introduction from a crazy-hip (but amazingly high quality) coffee shop in Cherrywood, Austin. Every single person here has a semi-rironic Lone Star tattoo and a MacBook Air. The coffee tastes just vaguely like smoke, and it’s good enough that I started to seriously entertain the idea of moving here. We did our first show last night in Houston; it was wild and raucous in all the best ways. I liked the guy who wore a pink sweat suit under his daywear, and stripped down to it while Aerosmith sang “Pink” and he pantomimed crying while trying to get to third base.
There was also a woman who signed up last-minute and got up on stage to simulate her first time — nervous, shy, semi-religious, and at moments ecstatic. Watching her, I felt a swell of pride. The audience, too, was full of women cheering her on. (I did an unscientific count, and the women in the audience outnumbered the men two to one at this particular show.) During moments of her routine you might have mistaken that room for a fourth-wave feminism rally-type event; I think that’s awesome.
When the future of feminism does descend on America (as I believe it is right now, in Twitter movements and Internet memes — from #YesAllWomen to Beyonce’s “Beyonce” album and the subsequent debates around it), I hope we remember to laugh. The best moments in life are the ones we can laugh at, and all the world’s dark seriousness needs some silliness to off-balance it. I hope we hit the ground laughing at ourselves, intelligent and strong enough to make short-sighted sexists redefine their own definition of “feminism.” We are smart, sexy, funny women (all shapes, sizes, sexualities, races, ethnicities, persuasions, religions, and iterations included). That’s all. And that’s a lot.