Comedy for a cause: Independent Advocates Truth Comedy Jam set for March 21Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Feminists often get a bad rap for being humorless, but three comedians hope to dispel that misconception while raising money to support local nonprofit Independent Advocates.
The Independent Advocates Truth Comedy Jam, featuring Kate Brindle, Elissa Marcus and Lucé Tomlin-Brenner, is set for 7 to 9 p.m. March 21 at The Truth Art Gallery, 1811 Adams St.
Independent Advocates, founded by Rebecca Facey and Rachel Richardson, provides court advocacy to survivors of domestic violence. The organization has helped more than 300 women navigate the court system since 2007, said Richardson, who writes a column for Toledo Free Press Star.
“Feminists are just assumed to be argumentative and not fun to be around and I think this will shatter that,” Richardson said. “It’s for a feminist cause and for a community cause, but we can also have a good time and be funny and I think it’s an exciting opportunity for the community to see that.”
Admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. To reserve advance tickets, leave an RSVP comment on the Independent Advocates Truth Comedy Jam’s Facebook page or call Independent Advocates at (567) 202-1741.
The comedy will include adult themes and language, so the show is recommended for ages 18 and up, said organizer Emily Rippe, who met Tomlin-Brenner at Bowling Green State University where they were both involved in women’s organizations.
Looking to help her friend add a Toledo show while Tomlin-Brenner would be in the area for another show, Rippe couldn’t find a comedy club that fit her time frame.
“So then a light bulb sort of flashed, and I thought, ‘Why not make this something way bigger?’” Rippe said. “I was shocked that Lucé and Independent Advocates had never worked together before, honestly. And the more I discussed it with Rachel, the more clear it became that this needed to happen. What those girls do is incredible. Every day they work with victims of domestic violence, helping them get through probably the most difficult time in their lives.”
With her own background in working and volunteering with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, Tomlin-Brenner said the cause is something she supports whenever she can. She worked as a crisis hotline coordinator in the Washington, D.C., area, until quitting last summer to concentrate on comedy full time. She has also worked at Bowling Green’s Cocoon Shelter.
Growing up near Cleveland with a love of performance, Tomlin-Brenner had originally planned to major in theater, but the start of the Iraq War early in her college years pushed her into campus activism and women’s studies.
“I think I was a feminist before that but didn’t realize it,” Tomlin-Brenner said. “It gave me a voice and a self-actualization about it. I strayed away from performance a little because I wanted to be more involved in activist work.”
After college, she missed theater and took an improv class. Her classmates encouraged her to try stand-up, where she realized she could be an activist but come at it from the point of comedy.
Her first sketch was inspired by an unsettling personal experience with street harassment on the metro.
“I loved the idea that I could address such a controversial topic in this way and people reacted so positively to it and I made them think about a topic they might not normally think about,” Tomlin-Brenner said.
That’s why she thinks pairing comedy with domestic violence for a fundraiser works.
“Coming from my experience working in domestic violence, it’s hard to talk about; it’s very depressing and makes people uncomfortable because it’s a serious topic, so I like that it’s being linked to this comedy night,” Tomlin-Brenner said. “A shitty situation is a shitty situation and you can be angry or sad about it or you can figure out a way to process it, and I think humor’s a really good way to do that because you can’t be angry all the time.”
Brindle and Marcus also both took a roundabout way into comedy.
Unable to find a job in her field of fashion design, Marcus decided she had nothing to lose and would try everything she’d always wanted to try.
“Last year was kind of a breakthrough year for me,” said Marcus, who was born in California, raised in Cincinnati and graduated from Ohio State University. “I tried art, which apparently I really suck at. Then I tried some theater, which I’m still in, and the other thing I wanted to try was stand-up, so I said f— it, I’m going to try it.”
She said she enjoys comedy that is “gross” and involves wordplay.
“I like to get into people’s heads and create imagery that you wouldn’t normally think of, that gives you a weird feeling,” Marcus said. “It’s really hard to make jokes that are family-friendly; if you can do that, you’re smarter than me.”
Brindle, who hails from Dexter, a small town near Ann Arbor, majored in theater at New York University and was working for a news station when she decided to take a comedy class.
“I think I just needed some more laughs in my life and I like to challenge myself to do new things,” Brindle said. “I said there’s something I would never do in a million years because it seems so scary, but I totally fell in love with it.”
Brindle, who went on to get a master’s degree in women’s studies from Eastern Michigan University, said her comedy is mainly observational and moving back to Dexter has given her lots of inspiration.
“Living around my family has been wonderful, but also a hotbed for new material, which is both good and bad,” Brindle said, laughing.
All three said it’s challenging but fun to be a minority in the male-dominated field of comedy.
“There’s just this attitude that I’ve experienced a lot that people think women aren’t funny, so I feel like you have to prove yourself a lot more,” said Brindle, who said female comics tend to support each other and have a lot of camaraderie. “I can’t even tell you how many people after a show have come up and said, ‘I don’t really like women comedians, I don’t think women are funny, but I liked you.’ And it’s like, thanks for the backhanded compliment.”
Tomlin-Brenner said much of her material is a rebuttal to the stereotypes and misogyny she’s sick of hearing from many male comics.
“It’s difficult because it’s all guys talking and they really set this narrative so that all you hear about sex and relationships comes from a male perspective, but the audiences are solidly mixed,” Tomlin-Brenner said. “It’s just so easy to make jokes based on stereotypes, but I think it’s really lazy humor and lazy writing. I love humor so much and I think it can be so smart, and it sucks it has to be dumbed down and made so base. I like to make jokes about incorrect cultural assumptions, not just women but all kinds of issues that come up. My comedy is really strongly rooted in sex and feminism, because I don’t think a lot of women talk honestly about sex.”
Tomlin-Brenner said she’s excited to perform in her first all-female comedy show and hopes people come to the show to support Independent Advocates.
“This is a very, very serious issue, but I hope people realize you can have fun and make a huge difference in your community,” Tomlin-Brenner said. “Comedy for some reason is something people get a little nervous about, especially local comedy; they don’t know how good it’s going to be, but I’ve been working in local comedy for a year and there’s such amazing talent on this level. I can’t wait.”