Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Update: My Guest Blog Post for WICF: "No Offense, White Boys: Diversity in Comedy and the Rapeprov Happening"

I again was honored when the Women in Comedy Festival published my piece in reaction to a disturbing incident at a NYC improv show this summer.

I started this piece a week or so ago, aiming to write about how important racial, cultural and gender diversity is to the whole improv community, and how vital WICF is to reaching that far-away goal, but to tell you the truth, my interest petered out around the second paragraph. “Too soapboxy,” I muttered as I closed the document. Then the “Rapeprov” story broke, lending renewed vigor to my conviction to state publicly that improvised comedy will benefit enormously, both as an art and a craft, from a greater diversity of people and perspectives on stage. So here are those first two paragraphs, and a couple more to boot. (And, oh, by the way, I totally got the “Rapeprov” moniker from Sharilyn Johnson ofwww.third-beat.com. Mad props to her.)

Freshly released from the fabulously musty, sweltering audience of the Del Close Marathon, I ponder the highlights of the 15+ hours of improv viewing I'd clocked in. Although there was the usual brilliance of the big players from the major theaters, I have to put my vote on The Jamal as #1 in my highlights reel. The Jamal is an exclusively African-American comedy troupe that performed a loose Armando structure. They were sharp, smart and, of course, extremely funny, but that only got them onto my favorites list. What pushed The Jamal to the top of my list is the refreshing, much needed expansion of the cultural perspective in improv comedy. To be blunt, I can only take so much of the white boy humor that dominates improv. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, white boys. I laughed my ass off at wicked fast improv excellence, all-boy frenzy of UCB’s “Facebook” show at DCM. I sent Paul Scheer a “wish you were here” fan letter. I bow at the feet of both TJ and Dave. I LIKE white boys, but as with anything, in moderation.

I came away from DCM with renewed support for the Women in Comedy Festival as a vital component of the festival circuit and a guiding force in the improv world in general. Improv needs more people of color, and not just with their own troupes but represented amply in as many groups as possible. (And not just in the “the black guy, the woman, and the fat one” token way that is so prevalent.) Improv needs more women. (Duh.) Improv needs more older people (She writes self-servingly.). Improv needs more LBGT performers. (And whatever other letter of the alphabet you identify as.) Improv needs more diversity. Yeah, it’ll be different. Yeah, comedic paths might diverge. Yeah, there might not be as many fart jokes. But the whole improv world will be brought up by an expansion of perspectives. We will all become better players.

When the Rapeprov story broke about the ASSSSCAT show at this year’s DCM, I was relieved that I missed it. I would have gotten a stomachache from watching that guy dig his own fucking bastard fishhooking hole and sympathy nausea for the intrepid performers. But I am buoyed by reaction comments like Hallie Kiefer in Splitsider, who was at the show, “As for how the performers handled it...well, I wish for a million reasons that there would have been at least one woman on that stage.”

Personally, I wish for a million reasons there would have been a half-dozen women on that stage.

Maybe next year …

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