Tired of racist and/or homophobic humor? Repulsed by rape jokes? Then this might be the stand-up show you've been waiting for. It's an idea who's time has come -- an evening of comedy featuring equality and social justice activists that might just inspire the audience to take action for peace and justice while they roll in the aisles.
On June 5, Brouhaha: the LGBT Activist Comedy Corps will debut as a part of the National Queer Arts Festival. The laughs will commence at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the African American Art & Culture Complex (762 Fulton).
SF Weekly chatted with show co-producer Manish Vaidya, and headliner Jezebel Delilah X, about this groundbreaking comedy concept. Both have backgrounds that are no laughing matter, yet which inspire the thought provoking humor they bring to the stage.
SF Weekly: Tell us who you are.
Manish Vaidya: I was a scrawny queer Hindu kid going to school in a town that had KKK activity. I got my start in activism by producing a documentary on the Klan. In college and grad school I worked on LGBT rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, prison abolition. I noticed that I was way more effective on a stage with a microphone than at a march with a megaphone.
Comedy can reach people who'd never come to a rally or a protest. Comedy can either reinforce some awful thing like sexual violence or it can change culture. It can hurt or it can heal. I want to use comedy for good. I want to use comedy to help build a world where peace and justice are the norm. So I started Peacock Rebellion, an org of Queer and trans people of color who use the arts for social justice and for healing from violence. Our political messages are serious but we share them in a playful way.
Jezebel Delilah X: I am a performance artist, an English teacher, an editor for Black Girl Dangerous and a writer. I am a queer, Black womyn of size, a Faerie Queen Mermaid Gangsta for the Revolution, and a radical femme. I grew up in LA and moved to the Bay Area in January 2005. I found home in Oakland when I submerged myself in a radical queer community of other anti-capitalist, anti-oppression, mutual aid touting love radicals.
SF Weekly: We understand why people would take offense to racist/sexist/homophobic humor. How do you respond to those who say we should learn to laugh at ourselves?
Vaidya: I think you gotta ask yourself what's the punchline? Who am I punching? One of the most common jokes in US stand-up comedy is the "rape joke". Because the funny thing about rape is nothing. There's nothing funny about sexual violence. Sexism, homophobia, racism, discrimination against people with disabilities, etc, are the norm in the US. With Brouhaha, we're cracking jokes to help build a culture where freedom and safety and liberation are the norm.
Jezebel: I think we can laugh at ourselves in a way that is not rooted in regurgitating systematic cultures of oppression and violence. There are so many things to laugh at that relates to our autonomous self, that even relates to our communities and cultural groups, that are rooted in critical inquiry and social examinations. I think it becomes a problem when the punchline enforces hegemony, prejudice, harm. If the joke hurts someone and causes pain, is it fair to say we are simply laughing at ourselves?
SF Weekly: Many people of color have said that the larger LGBT sphere has been unwelcoming to them. Is this still true?
Vaidya: Definitely. Peacock Rebellion and our Brouhaha program work with queer and trans people of color specifically because the larger LGBT sphere has so much work to do to stop being so damn racist. We want to support that journey through hilarious jokes.
SF Weekly: Will the humor harken back to TV shows like All in the Family, which made people laugh, cringe, and think about social issues?
Jezebel: Our jokes will definitely make people think and consider more ways for us to exist amongst each other. They will also make us feel good, warm, connected, and occasionally forget the struggles of the world as we revel in each other's laughter.
Peacock Rebellion Presents: Brouhaha on Thursday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the African American Art & Culture Complex (762 Fulton), tickets can be purchased through the peacock rebellion site.