Monthly archives "November 2015"

Body Image and Comedy

Rebecca Blanton

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Post by Auntie Vice

Most of the time I write about body image, it is in relationship to representation in porn. I actually spend a lot of time thinking about how bodies are represented, sexualized and marketed. When I have filmed my own porn films, I spend a lot of time thinking about casting and how the people will be received. I have an extended post on producing porn here.

Comics, like porn stars, have body image issues. I have lost count of the the number of guys who joke about being overweight and having “dad” bodies. Louis C.K., Gabriel Iglesias, and Doug Benson all have extended bits on their bodies. Iglesias has created a whole persona and running theme about being a “fluffy” guy.

Women also joke about their bodies. Carrie Snow, Amy Schumer, and Elvira Kurt are the first to come to my mind, but there are plenty of others. Like men, women tend to joke about their bodies when they are overweight. Hell, I even have my joke that of course I like giving blow jobs. I am a fat girl who smokes. I am always putting something in my mouth.

What is interesting to me is there is a powerful intersectionality between body images, race, and what seems to be okay to joke about. Fat White people are completely comfortable joking about being fat. I have seen fewer Black men and almost no Black women joke about being overweight. The Latina/o comics I have watched almost never acknowledge body image except Iglesias. There are a lot fewer well-known Asian and India comics to look too, but I have found almost none who talk about weight (dick size is another topic).

However, female comics almost never talk about their bodies when they are hot. Other than one special hosted by Jenny McCarthy with four female comics, I have rarely seen very attractive female comics reference their bodies. Women comics who are traditionally hot often never reference their bodies at all. People like Anjelah Johnson and Whitney Cummings rarely, if ever, mention their looks. Its almost like acknowledging you are a hot woman on stage is too intimidating for people to deal with.

It is more common for a good looking man to point out that he is hot. This seems to be acceptable for White and Black men. Again, there are too few comics of other racial descents to make a decent comparison beyond Black and White. The fact that Aziz Ansari cast a Chinese male comic as a sex symbol is getting a lot of press – mostly about how odd/rare it is to see a Chinese guy as sexy.

As a new female comic, I spend some time thinking about how, as my body changes, it will impact my comedy. Right now, I am a big White girl. That is well-traveled territory for making body jokes. However, in the past year, my chronic condition is causing me to lose weight at a rapid pace for an unknown reason. While I am personally glad to be dropping sizes while doing nothing but going to bars to tell stupid jokes, I do think about what might happen if I ever hit an acceptable weight.

I rock a decent pair of tits, I know that. They have been acknowledged by several comics on stage at mics around town. I am use to people pointing out by breasts and am not overly uncomfortable with these jokes. However, I know when someoneĀ actually considers me attractive and acknowledges it, I am vastly uncomfortable. Being on stage when I know people aren’t thinking about me as a sex object is comfortable. I can joke about my body and it doesn’t bother me now. Honestly, though, the idea of someone watching me crack dumb jokes and think I am hot freaks me out.

I am not sure where this goes with my comedy, but I do spend time thinking about it. I am kind of hoping that by the time I am to goal weight, I will be outside the age range for “hot.”

On Anger

Rebecca Blanton

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Post by Auntie Vice

There is a great TED Talk about the importance of anger in the world (see here). The basic idea of this talk, and several of the sources its author draws on, is that anger is useful in identifying grave wrongs and motivating change.

In the United States, we are terrified of anger and supposed to repress it. One of the largest issues President Obama has faced in much of his speaking is not coming off as an “angry Black man.” Honestly, the crap that has happened in the United States in the last eight years should make most people incredibly angry. But as a Black man, his anger is seen as threatening and dangerous. The closest he has come in being visibly angry at a press conference was one after the OCC mass shooting (see here). His anger is powerful, justified, and panned by most reporters.

We teach kids to suppress their anger, to swallow those feeling and to love their enemies. We prize a false peace over open expressions of anger. The only point where anger and outbursts are valuable is in reality television. And those outbursts are generally only allowed in women fighting over something like a man or a weave. Anger is something we now mock and something that generates click-throughs to vines for people to laugh at.

However, in recent years, I have seen a few comics harness anger in a powerful way. Lewis Black is the prime example of this. His acerbic style of comedy that attacks political corruption and social harm. His commentary is very smart and he has incorporated anger into his style. However, this also has Black relegated to the “angry old Jew” category and not too many people take his commentary as deeply serious.

John Oliver has a more tempered anger and I think his British accent soothes most Americans into accepting his commentary in a way they can’t with Lewis Black. Oliver’s commentary on police shootings (see here) is a brilliant example of taking something he is incredibly upset – to the point of anger – and turned into a comedy bit that is a wall of power I have seen matched by few.

I think anger has a place in comedy. When done right, it can increase the power of a comedy bit. As a new comic, I have a difficult time writing about things that make me deeply angry for the stage. It is one of the stumbling blocks I have in developing my political bits. Honestly, my knowledge of politics and the way that world operates is pretty deep (I have a grad degree in Poli Sci and worked in it for years). I would love do to commentary about a lot of what is going on politically in the United States. However, when I start to write, I want to just yell at people, “How the fuck don’t you see what is going on? How can you give these motherf%^* voice and legitimacy? Do you not see they are literally killing people to get you vote?”

Several non-comic friends have made the statement to me, “You must love the Trump run for presidency. So much material!!!” No, I don’t think this is great. He is literally using the moves out of the 1935-38 playbook from the Nazi party to create a society that is comfortable with depriving rights of minorities and allowing mass killing. Doubt this? Please readĀ Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.

I am not sure how to get past this hump. I would like to develop a political voice on stage, but I start writing and just want to scream.