Ok so the thing is, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about comedy and I work in comedy and performance and performing identities and character comedy and bouffon. I make work that is personal and political.
So, when I first watched an Amy Schumer special a couple of years ago, I was pretty baffled – why was she considered groundbreaking? Talking to people I remembered that (generalising here) American attitudes towards sex, women, drinking, body image etc is waaaaaay conservative. Amy Schumer really changed the game in so many ways in very specific circumstances.
Not excusing dodgy comedy. I come across comedians, white or not, feminist or not, making terrible jokes all the time. I would like to move away from labels (e.g. Racist) and call out the racist or sexist actions. (Also passivity as an act of complicity.) People who make jokes that are racist, sexist could be terrible people but they also could be good (or regular, complicated, flawed) people making their way towards working out what they believe and what they want to say.
I have a lot of time for people who make work and put themselves on the line. Who use their public platform to investigate, risk, expose themselves. There’s something already so ridiculously controversial about any woman putting herself in the public arena, be it in politics or on stage. I really do believe that gender constructs are incredibly deep-rooted and there’s a tonne of hatred and fear and hostility surrounding us all day every day.
Believe me, I wince as much as anyone when anyone, again, white or a PoC, says stuff I’m not comfortable with. Some acts or makers are deliberately controversial – I’m not saying Schumer is – and whether or not they are, what do we do? I try not to spend money on people or things I don’t support e.g. Venues or shows. I talk or blog about it. Or because I’m a maker, I make work in response.
I was discussing the scope for being nuanced with political activism and someone suggested to me that forerunners aren’t the ones who make a big messy hole in the wall/ceiling, piss everyone off, take one for the team, over and over again. And the people who travel in their wake have the task of refining and clarifying. I don’t disagree. Again I’m not saying Amy Schumer is doing this. But I am interested in listening to Lena Dunham, Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer etc and other white women (and women of colour) who persist.
As long as I can see them muddling through and fighting, I’m interested in what they’re discovering. And their mistakes, public and catastrophic, help me work out a whole bunch of things.