"Who here masturbated already today?!"
This was the opening line of a cabaret I just saw at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where I'm performing my solo musical satire show all month in Scotland. Interestingly, it was asked not by a man as might have been your first guess, but by a tall lanky woman in a sequins dress, black bobbed wig and a French accent. But the most interesting thing was the response. The men shouted "Hooray!" (or some Scottish/Irish/Australian version of that), and the women giggled and remained silent on the issue.
Now, what did I read into this as a feminist observer? Is it simply that women are, perhaps, more classy than men in a public setting?! Less drunk? I'd like to think that, but I fear it's deeper. Women are still not allowed to say that they... shall I remain classy and say, "self-pleasure." I mean, really, have you had a conversation about that, if you're a woman, in the last month? With anyone? Even your sexual partner? If you have, believe me you are in the minority. And Men? How bout you? And I'm talking even joking about it. Yes. Yes, you probably have.
We created a web series recently called "Bench Warmers" about 4 soccer moms discussing every aspect of sex and loving it (and I mean everything), but when it came to masturbation, the moms were suddenly quiet on the subject. Here is our episode titled "Let's Talk About Masturbation." My producer wrote a blog here on Huffington Post about how our web series was considered "not-advertiser friendly" and yet there are a million examples on Network (!) TV where men are talking about it. And here, at this cabaret, across the Atlantic, I was seeing the proof first hand.
A week into the show and I came across another enthusiastic opening question: "Anyone here had sex already today?!" And the answer was yes, across the board. Of course it wasn't the truth, but everyone -- men and women -- were willing to say yes to that. Well, that's a good start I guess. As for my mission here? Well, I'm not going to over-share at a mixed company dinner tonight my personal habits, granted, but I have started the conversation going with women friends.
And in my show? Look people, I'm not saying I'm classy either. But I'm sticking to my opening question: "All the ladies in the house who pee when they sneeze, yell Hey!"
I didn't count how many, but it was a lot.
Walking around the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this morning, the barkers were out in full force promoting over 2,800 different shows. And to get their point across quickly as potential audience members breezed by, overwhelmed with choices, the barkers had to have a four-word pitch. Those who were hawking the shows with women comics went something like these:
"A female George Carlin!"
"A female Chris Rock!"
"A female Dane Cook!"
"A female Tim Minchin!"
That last one was from my barkers, so we're not immune either. And it works. It's helpful to give potential audience members a quick image so they can choose. Now it's not that no one's ever pointed out the fact that we use men to describe women in an industry that is male-dominated. It's just the sheer volume of examples that got me this week. And as I said, even me. I got a great review comparing me to the musical satirist Tim Minchin. I've also had reviewers compare me to Flight of the Conchords, call me a female George Carlin, a female Alan Sherman, a female Tom Lehrer, a female Lenny Bruce, even Garth Brooks meets Eminem. That was a weird one. Of course I'm going to use any and all of this in my p.r. materials cuz these are great compliments and it helps people quickly get an idea of what I do. But have you ever -- and I mean ever -- seen this reversed? Unless it was a joke? Would we ever see an ad for a new Paul Rudd movie saying "Just like Bridesmaids, only with dudes!"
So I suggest, all you marketing moguls and comedian fans, let's come up with a list of some favorite male comics and give them a female to be compared to, favorably. Just for fun. Add them in the comments below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll compile a list. (Things like, "Chris Rock! A male ______!" etc.)
(At the end of this post, check out some Edinburgh Fringe comics I've seen and can recommend.)
Maybe we should try it in the next election: Hilary! A female Obama!
See?! You'd NEVER do that!
And okay, okay, this is certainly a first world problem but it's just a little indicative of where we are that it is still so incredibly natural for us to compare women to famous men, and not vice versa.
Just a little whining for the day... or "whinging" as we call it here.
I have this tampon joke. And it's really one of my faves. You can see it here. And as you can see on the video, even men like Drew Carey and Eddie Izzard could laugh at it. But Scotland? Eesh. Not so much love for the tampon joke. What I can't figure out is, is it just simply disgust? ("How could she cross that line?!") Or something else? My next verse after the joke is, "Okay, maybe that was over the line..." And that gets a bigger laugh. Not so in the US. Listen to the US laughter here at a live show and go to 2:15 min in and see the laugh. It's literally 18 seconds. That's looooong. Or, is it possible that, like my observations above, (re women not saying they masturbate), are they afraid to laugh? Like it might out them? No one wants to be the only one laughing hysterically in the theatre. I find this difference here in the UK so intriguing. I have had to make my response to my own joke more and more sheepish each night to try to drag the laugh out of them. It's working, but it's a totally different experience.
Well, those are my three feminist observations of the Edinburgh Fringe so far. I am here another week and a half and will be taking in many more female comics and plays. I probably won't be shouting out "YES!" to anything, either. I will be hunkered in the back, hoping not to be noticed, while I observe and try to figure this out... I'll be a kind of Jane Goodall of comedy, a Marie Curie, a Christiane Amanpour, a Margaret Mead, a....
Here are some great female comedians I've seen and want to recommend:
Here are some male comics and actors I want to recommend to you, either to check out on-line, or if you go to the festival this month:
Follow Katie Goodman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/katiegoodman