This past weekend I traveled to the Women’s March in DC. In the spirit of the monumental day, I’ve been thinking about the different kind of women I find to be strong and inspiring.
Women in comedy, specifically those in stand-up, belong in that group.
Women in comedy have the most intimidating job in the world. Aside from working in a male-dominated field, the grind is relentless and expectations are always high. Imagine standing in front of a room full of strangers and having to make them laugh. And of course, keep in mind, it’s always harder to make people laugh when they’ve been told to expect to laugh.
Relatability and humility are where I think most comedians succeed in connecting with their audiences. Adopting their carefree mindset could benefit women everywhere.
I recently listened to an encore episode of Buzzfeed’s Another Round podcast featuring an interview with Margaret Cho. During the candid conversation that covered everything from race and sex to smoking with Snoop Dogg, Cho dropped this golden nugget:
“There’s a certain kind of woman who becomes a comedian and that’s the kind of woman, in general, who does not care at all about men,” Cho explained. “Because we don’t care … that in itself is such a feminist act that it’s very offputting to heterosexual males. Because by the nature of society and how we’re supposed to act and socialize, it’s a very aggressive act to take the mic.”
Aggressive and powerful. Performing stand-up comedy involves exposing your flaws, weaknesses, and secrets. For women, not caring what other’s (especially men) think about any of our personal truths is power.
On embracing change
Ali Wong is a writer and comedian that exudes self-confidence and is all around #goals. It’s worth watching Wong’s hilarious Netflix stand-up special, Baby Cobra, which she filmed while seven months pregnant.
Pregnancy is not something often seen in comedy. Often, women in stand-up who do become pregnant step away from the spotlight, which Wong discusses in her special.
In an interview with Elle magazine, she describes how her pregnancy actually contributed to her success:
“When you’re pregnant, you’re hungry, tired, and fat, so you have this ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude that lends itself really well to performance. You let go of all dignity and shame, and it’s beautiful.”
Just before taping Baby Cobra, tickets for a show that she headlined in her hometown of San Francisco were selling so poorly that the venue owners put them up for sale on Groupon. Post-special, the club sold out five of her shows in minutes.
Look at the power of leaning into life’s changes and making them work for you!
On relentlessly pursuing your passions
The first time I watched Joan River’s documentary A Piece of Work, I was wowed by her drive and determination. Even into her later days when she was already a certified icon, slowing down was never an option for her.
Joan has overcome canceled shows, being publicly shunned by former mentor Johnny Carson, bankruptcy, a husband who committed suicide and constant mocking from the media. Still, she pursued her passion, which resulted in an iconic career that lasted until the day she died at 81 years old.
How could you not be inspired to continue to push through any and all of your setbacks?
On coping with life’s lemons
Rivers said that whenever she gets on stage, she feels rage for every woman on the planet – and it’s that rage that fuels her comedy.
“As comedians, we are all laughing because life is so horrible,” she revealed in a 2014 Telegraph interview. “Life is so difficult and I cope with it by making jokes about absolutely everything… You have two choices: laugh or die.”
Simple as that.
And finally… on choosing a life that suits YOU
Loni Love splits her time between daytime talk show The Real and weekends doing stand-up. In an interview with New Yorker Magazine, Loni described her decision to live her life for no one but herself.
“I have an engineering degree, so for eight years, I was an engineer. It was a natural progression for me because my mom taught me to get my education, to get a job, and to get a husband. But I realized that I wasn’t really happy. It was coming close to the point where I was going to be getting married, and that’s when I decided to change what I do. I knew that being a female comic was a hard role. It’s not that women aren’t funny, you just don’t see a lot of women out there because it takes so much to survive being a female comic. If you have a kid, you can’t be on the road every weekend with your kid. I processed all that and I made that choice and I’m happy.”