BARBARA GRAY is a Los Angeles based comedian. Her comedy is a unique mix of archness, candor, and laid-back delivery style. Not to mention brilliant jokes – even her website name is funny: ‘My Jokes Are Up Here.’ On Facebook and Twitter, as well as during her routines, she critiques the male-dominated stand-up comedy scene and the lazy misogyny of some of its members. I caught up with her to hear more about that:
Do you see misogyny as a problem in stand-up comedy? How do you personally respond if it’s a male comedian you are watching or sharing a stage with?
It is a problem in stand-up, but luckily, audiences are growing tired of it. The tides are really changing – it’s so fun to see an audience tighten up on a comic who is being misogynist or racist, just because he thinks the shock value of what he’s saying is funny. I believe you can, and should, talk about anything on stage, but you have to have a logic and have a point to it, and a lot of times guys are just trying to be ‘edgy,’ but not smart.
I was going to say that I haven’t dealt with it much personally, but I have – it’s just that instinct to pretend it’s not a big deal because the world has told me it’s ‘not a big deal’ for so long.
Just the other day, a comic I don’t know commented on my breasts to his friends while I walked by. When these situations happen, I generally wait until I get onstage and then let them have it, in the funniest way I can. So, I later changed into a shirt that wasn’t as revealing and I told the crowd that it was his fault because he made the comment. We could all be enjoying my breasts, but because this creep couldn’t keep his words to himself, you all have to suffer now.
I am strongest when I’m on stage and that is where I have the most power. I do think that misogyny deserves to be shamed and through that shaming you hope that they will be embarrassed enough to realize that their views are outdated and sexist.
I have noticed you, and other LA female comedians, have actively encouraged male bookers to have a female comedian on every line-up. Why do you see this as important?
YES. This is hugely important. There are plenty of people who still don’t think women do comedy or aren’t funny (which is insane considering the amount of talented women that are in the forefront of entertainment today).
It’s really important for people to get used to female voices in comedy, and the fact is that there are just way more white male comics. There are some big shows in town that are known for barely ever booking females and it’s such a huge disappointment, and very confusing to me that they wouldn’t see how necessary it is to give female comics stage time.
Is there something restrictive about being known as a “female comedian” when the men in comedy are never called “male comedians”?
There is a big big push from many comics, male and female, who have asked that hosts do not specify gender when they are introducing the next comic. Too often there is an introduction along the lines of ‘alright are you ready for a girl?’ or ‘this next comic is funny AND pretty.’ Saying this just undercuts you from the beginning.
But sadly, the entertainment world is all about branding yourself, so if you are a female comic you are going to come with that label, always. It does suck that when you think ‘comedian’ many people automatically picture a white dude. But I’m not sure that’s really going to change any time soon.
You recently had your very creative response to a guy propositioning you over Facebook (to put it mildly) go somewhat viral. How did that feel? Did you hear from other women who have experienced the same thing?
To be honest, as soon as I realized he was going to go along with it and still try to ‘cyber’ with me, or whatever he was doing, I was delighted because I love outing creeps like none other.
It was a great way to show men how insanely aggressive and desperate some guys can come off, but to do it in a funny way that was just a big Smash Mouth reference.
Honestly that is my perfect kind of comedy – strange and referential but still making a point. I have realized that many of my jokes have turned into kind of quiet feminist material. I like to sneak it up on the audience so that they are already laughing at the joke, which then turns out to have a feminist point to it. To me, this is how you change people’s ideals.
I had a few women respond and say they were going to try that approach next time a guy creeped on them. Which, oh my god, if I started a trend where girls responded to unsolicited sexts with outdated ’90s lyrics, I could die happy. I would be so glad for that to be my legacy.
You have a podcast – Lady to Lady – tell us about the concept behind this?
Basically it’s just four funny girls talking about anything that comes to mind. Actually one of our recent iTunes reviews summed it up better than I can – ‘Whether you like to hear sex jokes, digging into pop culture, or even serious discussions of contemporary social issues, this podcast has something for you.’
I host it with Brandie Posey and Tess Barker, two comedians and two of my best friends, and we invite a fourth comedian to hang out with us. It’s always so fun, and often a lot of the guests we have are surprised at how much fun it was because they are used to kind of being in a male-dominated conversation.
As I have gotten older I have realized the true value of female friendships, and there really is nothing better than sitting with your best girlfriends and talking about sh*t and laughing your ass off.
To check out Barbara Gray onstage check out the list of her upcoming shows.