Tag Archives: stand-up comedy

FUNNY FEMINISM #4: Missed Connections – An Interview with Aparna Nancherla

A monthly column, Funny Feminism features conversations with feminist-identifying artists who use humor in their creative work.

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Last month, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite comics, Aparna Nancherla on what happened to be the coldest day in New York history since 1950. We were mistaken for NYU students “doing their homework on a Friday night” while carrying out the below interview at Oro Bakery. The included quotes are taken from Aparna’s Twitter account.

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Photo by Doug Ault

 

“There needs to be an affirmative action program to get more white men in jail.”

ON COMEDIC BEGINNINGS

Cathy de la Cruz: I know you’ve mentioned this in your stand-up, the “I know you’re surprised I’m here, I’m surprised too.”

Aparna Nancherla: I started performing stand-up regularly 9-years ago. I got to stand-up a little bit in a more random way than a lot of other comics in that my friend was like, “Oh there’s this open mic near where we live that we should go check out,” just as like a free entertainment thing, not even to perform, but just to watch. We went one night during the summer and people were funny, but then there were people who weren’t as good, so we were like “This is something we could try” because we were both interested in humor. And I think that was my first access point to stand-up comedy. I didn’t grow up watching a lot of stand-up. I had seen it maybe once or twice on TV and I definitely didn’t think it was something that anyone could do. I came to stand-up from a direction of not knowing a lot about that world.

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Three Pieces of Feminist Advice From Jackie “Moms” Mabley

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Before there was a Paul Mooney, a Red Foxx, or a Richard Pryor, there was a hilarious woman on the comedy scene who could probably get a shoe to giggle. If you haven’t heard of Moms Mabley or listened to some of her stand-up, you have been missing out on a beautiful piece of American cultural history and downright comedic genius. To put it simply, Moms was fly. Her artistic prowess traversed the lines of singing, acting, and comedy. Mabley’s career spanned nearly forty years and included performance on film, television, and in clubs throughout the nation and abroad. In the 1930s she performed regularly at the Apollo alongside artists such as Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and Billie Holiday. By the 1960s she had crossed over into the mainstream, making multiple appearances on shows such as The Merv Griffin Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. Moms not only used her voice to garner laughs but also to engage in political activism. She became famous for her rendition of “Abraham, Martin, and John,” a song about social change, which hit the top forty in 1969. Moms was also one of the boldest pre-sexual revolution celebrity voices of the 50s and 60s. Through her comedy she perfected the art of sexual innuendo. Moms was feminist. She was funny. And she said what was on her mind for the good of us all.

Check out a few of my favorite pieces of Moms Mabley feminist advice below.

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FUNNY FEMINISM #2: Failing, Falling and Jumping In – The Comedy of Sarah Adams

A monthly column, Funny Feminism features conversations with feminist-identifying artists who use humor in their creative work.

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It's Easy to Be Pro-Choice

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I’m a very busy lady. This lifetime I plan to do the work of 600 lifetimes. I don’t have a linear scope. It’s all mashed up in there together. I do everything at once. This is just the business of being Sarah Adams. And that is the work of high comedy. Mostly because I’m just a dork. Just accidentally funny because I’m falling down. And even though I look like a stylish babe, I’m really just an overgrown child fumbling around. So I have to primarily focus on that. Just feeding and bathing myself. Wiping my nose and making sure I have lunch money. With what little time is left over, I give people psychic readings, I sew clothes, I write a horoscope column, I emcee events, I’m active in city government, I’m a nearly professional coffee drinker, I give people tattoos, I make movies, I’m an activist, I run a fashion label with a retail location, I’m a really bitching DJ AND I do stand-up.”– Sarah Adams

33-year old Olympia, WA comedian Sarah Adams remembers her first stand-up performance very clearly. She performed with a PowerPoint presentation, which provided visual gags such as an image of a brick wall behind her. While Adams admits she’s “seen enough stand-up to know that there’s some weird shit out there—it’s a very generous art form,” the ubiquitous brick wall background helped mark what some might see as performance art as stand-up comedy.

At her first performance, Adams remembers hearing her name announced as she walked out to the stage and purposely falling down, using the struggle to literally stand up again as the icebreaker for her first stand-up routine. This part of the performance wasn’t planned, but occurred to Adams in the moment, like so much of her material still does. Continue reading

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