May 6, 2014

Double Standards...

Although I am newer in the scene, if you have performed with me you probably know I am a virgin. I talk about it because I think there is a taboo with female sexuality that we need to speak to and get over. Women masturbate. And women sometimes want to wait for reasons other than marriage. The shame and self-worth issues that are attached to female sexuality are ridiculous. Although the double standard of men being promiscuous versus women is getting better, we still have a long way to go.

I have heard many men (both involved and not involved in the comedy scene) say they don’t like Amy Schumer because she is “too slutty”. Eddie Murphy’s specials that talk about sex are labeled as legendary. Although they have completely different comedic styles and strengths, the boiled down point is everyone accepts Eddie talking about sex and not everyone is on board with Amy.

So when I do my set on my virginity I think it is interesting to hear the callback comments other comedians and hosts will tag on to my jokes. Many of them follow up with “I don’t know why you haven’t done it already, I’d fuck ya” or “I know a guy who’d help you out with that problem”. Aside from most of these not really being funny it’s interesting to me that they think they should comment at all. I understand that if I offer the information I cannot control people’s reactions and they have the right to say whatever they would like. Sure, you always have that option, but as Patti Vasquez’s buttons and t-shirts designed by her son say “just because you can talk, doesn’t mean you should”. If a child understands that maybe more comedians should too.

Audiences love when a comedian does a callback joke whether it comes from their set or another comedian. I get that. What I don’t get is why my personal story is ok to comment on to most other comedians while others that are just as vulnerable to share to a room full of strangers is not. There are some comedians that arguably will comment on anyone’s set and jokes regardless of topic, but I have found for the most part that is not the case. I think of Sean White’s set about his whole family dying (which had me crying of laughter, if you haven’t seen him perform, change that) but no one comments on it after, which they really shouldn’t. That specific experience isn’t theirs. Doing a joke about Sean’s vulnerable experience would be different than commenting on someone’s online dating joke. Most people have something they can relate to with an online dating joke and they have ownership of that experience to contribute.

I’m not saying we should censor what other comedians can or cannot say, just that we should think before we do. The reason we love this art form is because it is so freeing and vulnerable. Collin Bullock did a hilarious 5 minutes on the topic of my virginity once that I wish I had recorded, but the other difference there is that I know Collin. He actually says my name right at shows. It is less invasive for him to comment on me than someone that calls me “Michelle” instead of Melissa Richelle while they are adding on to my jokes. It’s the same reason roasts will have people on the dais that have some connection to a person being roasted.

The world of comedy is fascinating one, but sometimes there is a fine balance between the lines of us joking around, and sometimes being over the line. Let’s think about that line, hell we might even get a joke out of our musings.

Contributing Writer - Melissa Richelle
Melissa is a comedian, writer and producer living in Chicago.