I live and perform in Chicago, where I host a show called Feminist Happy Hour. It’s also a city where white men dominate most performance spaces, especially comedy rooms where rape jokes and victim blaming are celebrated as much as the Blackhawks. And it’s not just the humor that’s toxic, as women who perform in Chicago experience assault that happens offstage as much as it does onstage.
The intersections of power and race and privilege make white-dude comics a very specific trope. Comedy, as an institution, is already inherently sexist (and racist, and homophobic). There is an informal agreement among comics that nothing is off-limits, which works out best for cisgender, straight, white guys. If you’re the most powerful person in the room, nothing is off-limits.
But this issue isn’t just Chicago’s problem, or New York’s. There is a larger cultural conversation about comedy, accountability, and the experiences of being a woman, which was triggered last week by the UCB rape investigation, Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger’s Facebook post, and Schumer’s problematic responses to it all. After engaging in online messaging with a friend of mine, Metzger asked to call in as a guest on Feminist Happy Hour.