Saturday, September 10, 2011

Feminism and Comedy: Do they mix?

I am starting to wonder if comedy has changed who I am as a person.  I am around it at least once weekly, am friendly with some of the talent (many of them), and...well okay I live and breathe comedy.  I am also a feminist:  loud, proud, and continue to work towards equality for all marginalized people in society. The two have not always mixed so well!

Last night at an open mic in comedy, a local comic, Skip Phillips told a joke that basically ended with "i was looking for used cars, and all I ended up with was used whores".  Skip and I are buds, but let me tell you a year ago my response would have been "what an ass.  I can't stand it when men casually refer to women forced to the streets to sell their bodies because of their tragic life circumstances and objectify them and their life circumstances for the point of a joke".  Last night my response was "hmm, I've got a good tag for that joke.".

I literally went from horrified to helpful in one year.  Am I less of a feminist now that I am ingrained in comedy?  One year ago I would not even swear on stage, and now part of my act is hitting on a young man telling him I am not sure if I want to adopt him or F!@K him.  Who the hell am I?

First, yes there is a certain desensitizing that occurs when around something all the time.  Young men and women are less sensitized to violence due to violent content on video games and movies.  Am I now less sensitized to misogyny?  Do I now find the objectification of women in comedy form acceptable?  Have I changed????

The answer to his is no.  I am not less sensitized to any of the above.  If anything, I am more sensitized to bad jokes!  (not saying Skip's joke was bad, better make that clear here)  I have discussed topics such as bigotry and dark and dirty comedy in past blogs, but today this is a very specific issue.  I still deplore jokes that objectify women without a point.  Stop.  Read that again.  Without a point.  Like comedy featuring some degree of cultural insensitivity I will always support comedy that may be using objectifying women as a point to discuss how bad objectifying women is.  If Skip had gone that extra mile and added something to the end of his joke to make a point about what exactly is a "new" whore?  He could have done as Josh Williams has done to discuss racism and made a social commentary while entertaining.  

Maybe I am asking too much from comedy.  Maybe I am asking comedy to do more than entertain.  I know my comedy does not have much social relevance, but then again, I am not taking many chances in comedy; I talk about myself, my life, my upbringing etc.  I am not making generalized statements about women and using derogatory words.

Skip is not alone, and did nothing wrong.  (remember folks, we are buds and discussed this at length)  Men dominate the comedy scene, and half of them think nothing of calling women whores, cunts, sluts, slags etc.  All I can say is if you are going to do it, do it right.  If your intention is to be a jerk and alienate your audience, then go ahead and do it.  I will not support you and will be up in arms, but I think there is a place for genderized comedy, as long as that comedy has a point.  Without a point it is nothing more than speech of a hatred nature.  The line between pornography and art is very thin, and the same can be said for comedy. 

I still work as a feminist in my job, as a mother, partner to my husband, business owner and member of society.  I have changed since I started in comedy for sure.  I am more neurotic with less self-confidence, but I am also aware that most of the men out there doing comedy objectifying women and marginalized societies are doing so because they think the masses will like it.  What does that then say about the masses?  

Let's use comedy to provide some degree of social change.  Let's use comedy to bring attention to the fact that women and children are forced all over the world into trafficking their bodies.  Let's use comedy to discuss the high rape (sexual assault) rates that are STILL prevalent in today's society.  Let's use comedy to entertain first and foremost, but if you stray into the darker material, do it right or don't do it at all.  I look forward to seeing Skip's joke again, to see if he can take his premise, and turn a one line groaner into something more, something that will make the audience think and challenge their perceptions. 

I started this blog asking if I had changed?  The answer is yes, just a little bit.  I have grown to understand and comprehend that the comics are working out their material, and as a reviewer/lover of comedy, I hope they work it out to make the world a little better.  

I have to jump on another soapbox, so for now get your ass to a comedy club and support local comedy.  That's an order from this feminist bitch!

j hayward

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Folks, jam packed action at the finale of the Yuk Yuk's Pro-Am Summer Comedy Competition!  Actually, I am kidding, it was an excellent show, and all comics did great, but nothing really to report but the winners.  All the comedians pulled out their best, which of course I had seen before.  No one really veered off course, the amateurs were solid for amateurs, and the professionals were professionals, so that's the most boring report ever.  A comedy show happened, people laughed, the end.

But it's not the end.  Please go relive the last eight blog posts on this subject to see the journey these comedians took to get here.  What I can tell you though is what I learned last night, what I think, and future happenings of Yuk Yuk's Ottawa and JH5 Promotions and Consulting.  

First, without pomp OR circumstance, the winners of last night were:

Amateur:  Greg Stringer
Professional:  Graham Kay

This was not surprising results, these two dominated their fields each week.  It was close though given this was the finals, with Trevor Thompson giving Graham a run for his money, and Josh Williams proving why he is lovable, charming and very funny.  Alas as my second grade teacher used to say "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades".  So kudos to all the comedians, but special congratulations to the winners.

For those still saying "comedy competitions are bull", please see our first column on competitions HERE.  What JH5 aimed to achieve in this competition occurred:  

1.  A new demographic was introduced to local comedy in Ottawa.  This is always a great thing.

2.  Every comedian in the competition upped their game, gave their best performances, and no bad can occur from this.

With that, let's turn our attention to what was learned in this competition.  Here is my definitive top ten list on the competition:

10.  Matt Carter has a handsome face.  I was not sure about this fact until he told me in his act 7 times!

9.  Trevor Thompson dispenses the most energy on stage.  He's like a rock star with his energy!  Charisma?  I think so!

8.   Greg Stringer can only milk his age for another two years, then he's gotta write some grown up jokes!

7.  Some comics (unnamed) have poor sportsmanship, while others (also unnamed) have extreme amounts of class!

6.  Yuk Yuk's Ottawa is and will continue to be THE place to be for comedy on Wednesday nights!

5.  JH5 and Yuk Yuk's Ottawa work very well together!

4.  The owner of Yuk Yuk's Ottawa supports local comedy and is willing to take risks!

3.  Graham Kay will now become a big superstar, all because of this contest, not because of the years of sweat and toil he has put into comedy!

2.  We need more women in comedy:  Only one woman signed up for the competition!  (Yay Jessica Salomon)

1.  This should be an annual event, and all comedians should continue to give the high delivery and presence that they did for this competition!

There you have it, lessons learned.  Sensational work by Stringer and Kay, hence their gentle ribbing in the top ten list!

What's next?  Well, Yuk Yuk's Ottawa has revamped it's Wednesday night format and lineup, and what was good will now be great!  You can call 236-5233 to make reservations each week!

For us, JH5, we have two show coming up!  Check our website for more details at

This competition is officially closed, bringing an end to summer.  Get those snowsuits ready!

Until next time,