So what does a female comic do when she’s at a bar and the only woman who is dressed?
One of the things I’ve learned from watching the pros at The Comedy Cabaret, and from my own stage experience, is if there is anything weird going on, acknowledge it. It helps get rid of the weirdness, and it’s often funny, at least in the moment. Especially if you can make a bit of a joke out of it. It also helps to keep the set fresh, and gets people’s attention, perhaps partially because it shows them that you have been paying attention, and shows them the world with new eyes. Generally talking about what is going on in the room is something I try to do for every open mic, especially the really tough ones. It usually works too, even if what I might say isn’t completely hilarious. Overall it’s a skill I am always trying to work on and improve.
This time, however, I would be acknowledging another woman’s mammary assets. Ack! This is another one of those risks I mentioned earlier in the year that paid off.
It had been a really tough night for the comics that came before me. Really tough. And that only added to the tension I already felt in the room. My spot was roughly in the last third of the lineup. I was also nervous about what I was going to say.
I took the mic said: “I’m not sure if I’m the woman here you are the least interested in seeing, or the only one you can look in the eye.” And that got a pretty good laugh. More than a few guys seemed relieved too. Potentially they might not have cared. But I think it helped expand their view of the awkwardness of the whole situation.
I then started to talk to the waitresses at the bar - a couple of extra waitresses had showed up during the evening — and found out that a bit about them, like that they were all lying about their age and a bit younger than what they said they were (but still legal, in case anyone is checking!). That, of course, was funny, probably because everyone started to realize that the situation of the girls being under-dressed was way worse than what they imagined. Potentially the waitresses wouldn’t want me in their business, but they were all pretty sporty about it. I also acknowledged the truth: that even though people say it takes guts to do stand up, it takes way more guts to work in fetish underwear and be on display. (More on that later.)
It was a risk I wasn’t sure would pan out, but the waitresses told me later they loved what I did. And it was pretty evident that the guys were digging it too. But a guy doing the same thing would have probably seemed like a douche. Some male comics might have gotten away with saying something, but likely only more experienced or professional ones or ones with a particular style. I can think of one, but he used to be a stripper.
That, and a few other things I played around with in my set that night reset the room. I had quite a good set, and the comics after me did too. The whole vibe in the room changed. I do feel that Robin did better than me that night, but as he acknowledged, his performance was helped by my set. The most valuable player isn’t always the one scoring the goal, sometimes it’s the one who does the assist. Who would that be in hockey? Wayne Gretzky? Bobby Orr? Hmmmm. Oo! Magic Johnson in basketball! Hooray!
So that’s my little story about how male and female comedians might experience comedy differently.
And on a little feminist note, the waitresses’ outfits were changed after I went back and commented from the stage a second time, this time with the owners present. The original very nice young waitress was on the verge of having her areola pierced by the cheap underwire in the bustier – hello potential wardrobe malfunction – and it was impossible not to notice. I’m guessing that my pointing this out embarassed the owners, who were dressed in a way that suggested a religious affiliation and who looked like they might be the girl’s father and grandfather. They say that the outfits got changed because they were too expensive, but I don’t believe it, they looked pretty cheap to me. I think the owners being called out on what they were doing had the real impact. Serving up young girls for consumption just isn’t a good look for religious folk, not that religion is antithetical to serving up women for male consumption, indeed, in some cases, that seems to be the purpose. And really, who wants to be the guy responsible for piercing a young woman’s breast? [Okay boys, I really don't want you to answer that question by raising your hands.]
At any rate, the girls now dress in very respectable, slightly lacey tank tops, and even get to wear a nice, warm zippered sweatshirt too. Still a little sexy, but not ridiculous, or apt to permanently injure someone. The waitresses seemed pretty relieved (and thankful) for the change, and I bet most of the guy patrons are too. Obviously not the one guy who goes there every night for apparently no other reason, but hey, they’ll probably get more customers now anyway. I consider the outfit change my little feminist achievement for the year. Not one of my goals frankly, but achievement by accident is still an achievement, and history books are filled with the names of guys who took credit for accidents, or just noticing stuff. No reason women can’t too.
Had a great time performing at Absolute Comedy on August 24, 2011 to a capacity crowd, approximately 260 people!
I got great feedback on my set, lots of big laughs, big cheers as I left the stage, and a few people even sought me out afterwards to chat me up and tell me they really liked my set, which has been happening pretty frequently over the last few months.
All that, despite a tornado warning, the fact that I forgot a joke and blanked out, stumbled a bit, and had to add a contingency joke at the end so I wasn’t short on time!
And I was even impressively spot on with my time according to Ryan with the stop watch!
Thanks to everyone who came out! I appreciate the support: Diane, Roc, Courtenay, Cosmin, Micaela, Chris, Dmitry, Ekatarina, Dave, and of course, Robin, who was also my videographer.
I’ll provide my full analysis in a later post, in the meantime, click here to see the video.
UPDATE: Got a couple of more bookings post show