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The Open Mic and My Vagina

I wrote this in July of 2016. It has been over six years since I started doing stand-up comedy and I have grown so much as both a comic and a woman. Had I experienced the same things today, my reaction would not have been so passive--I wouldn't have thought twice about shutting down some misogynistic "comic". In fact I did that a few weeks ago when my exact words were "put your fucking hands down" while he made heart shapes at me with his hands during my set. To all you women thinking about doing comedy, go for it. The world needs your voice and anyone who tries to make you believe otherwise is simply afraid, because you're about to do something amazing.

I’ve only recently thrown myself into the world of standup comedy. Sometimes I think I’m crazy and I want to quit with the idea in mind that I tried, which is a lot more than most people can say. But then I remember that sharing my thoughts in a unique way--that will hopefully make people laugh--is part of who I am. I owe it to myself to keep going. With every open mic I attend I learn something new, whether it be about my stage presence, how to reword my material, or how to interact with the audience. I’ve also observed several other comics and typically walk away with an appreciation for their creativity and bravery. Aside from writing, rewriting, and performing, I’m finding that part of this journey is going to be enduring endless jokes about vaginas, which are told by people who do not have vaginas. But let’s face it; they are hilarious. They do all sorts of hysterical things like hold in tampons and other objects, they provide an exit for one’s uterine lining, they provide an entrance for that duckbilled speculum thing used for pap smears and other thrilling activities, and they push out small humans. It is just one long list of knee-slappers.

I know it’s shocking but it’s rarely these points that are brought up at an open mic in a dive bar with 20 men and maybe two vaginas. Instead the jokes are based on their own experiences with vaginas, like the noises one’s bejeweled girlfriend makes while running up the stairs or a heartfelt tale about that one time they shoved an unsanitary, inanimate object up one. What a lucky vagina.

At a recent open mic, I sat through about two hours of this. Now I should mention that there were some awesome jokes told by people without vaginas. Then one of the comics looked in my direction and asked, “Are you lost? Are you waiting for a Tinder date?” I did not know what to do so I filled the pause with nervous laughter. One of the comics that went up before me mentioned that women should be paid more because our vaginas are so powerful. Then he went into this well-though-out list of all the things he apparently thinks vaginas can do. Then I went up.

All I can remember before my set was that I was exhausted. I sat through 14 eight-minute sets and I had to wake up in six hours. But I was going up there anyway. I walked up to the mic and said, “I agree, I should get paid more. But that has less to do with my magical vagina and more to do with my masters degree.” I wasn’t going for a huge laugh there, I just needed to say it. And laughter I did not get. Instead I received a glare. The vagina-less comic before me did not appreciate that comment.

I went on with my set and got quite a few laughs. Overall, I thought it went fine. But I left the bar with an uneasy feeling. I almost felt like going back in to apologize to the young man and explain that I wasn’t trying to insult his joke. I went to sleep and dreamt that I did go back to the bar to explain myself and help him to understand why after two and a half hours of hearing those jokes, I just wanted to say something that maybe the other woman in the bar might appreciate. Then I woke up and realized those thoughts were ridiculous. Why should I feel bad about anything I said? Maybe I thought I had broken some sort of open mic rule and accidently insulted another comic. Maybe it’s because I have a history of making sure everyone around me is comfortable without thinking about my own feelings. Maybe it’s because some women have a socially constructed urge to apologize for having opinions. Maybe those are things that are still inside of me, despite the personal growth I’ve gone through these last few years.

Of all the things I will learn on this journey, this lesson will be the most valuable: I am not going be sorry for standing up and saying something that may not be well received by some guys at an open mic. I’m not going to let a bad reaction from another comic make me feel like I don’t belong in the comedy world. I’m not going to apologize for having a different point of view. I’m going to keep writing and going to painful open mics and performing in any venue that will take me. And I will probably hear a thousand more jokes about vaginas. Hopefully some of them will be good, or at least accurate. Oh, I probably should have mentioned earlier that I would be using the word Vagina a lot in this piece. Sorry.


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