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Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

I have been following Baratunde Thurston on Twitter for months. He’s hysterical. Web editor of The Onion, co-founder of Jack & Jill Politics and an expert on things like “How to be Black.” I was already in Austin, Texas attending South by Southwest Interactive, so when I saw that he would be a featured storyteller at the Fray Café, I made sure I was there.

Imagine my surprise when Baratunde asked the dozens of us squashed into the Red Eye Fly bar to not record or tweet what he was about to share. His story was personal. He didn’t want it to leave the room. This, coming from a King of Social Media with over 21,000 followers on Twitter.

I was intrigued. Here was a public figure who had decided to share something personal in a public forum but with some very clear parameters for how public.

At Exhale, we’ve been asking the women we work with a lot of questions about the kinds of private and public forums they would like to share their personal abortion stories. We want to know what kind of forums feel the most supportive, respectful and empowering. We have learned that there is a whole spectrum between private and public, from a confidential talkline or private online space to small facilitated discussions and public conferences, not to mention the publicity of online networks and social media. These “super public” forums, like Twitter or YouTube, as Baratunde refers to them in the interview, are the least likely places for women to choose, even when they are open to other kinds of public storysharing. We have found that each person has their own comfort level with the kind of forum that feels right to tell their story. Each person is unique.

Baratunde told his personal story. Everyone in the room felt the story. We were surprised by it and moved by it. We related. We saw ourselves. We admired his courage for sharing.

I met him briefly after he got off the stage and later, I emailed Baratunde and asked him to share his motivations for telling his personal story in a public forum, and about his request to get the details off of Twitter. Here is what he said:

Me: At the Fray Café you were a featured storyteller and you decided to tell something very personal about your life. You asked people not to record it or tweet the details. Yet, you still told the story in a public forum. Can you describe what led you to tell the story?

Baratunde: “Well, the story began when my wife told me she didn’t want to be married anymore, and the rest of the story kind of wrote itself. In all honesty, I didn’t think I had anything else worth sharing at Fray. I perform and speak publicly all the time, but rarely on such a personal, intimate subject. The first Fray Café I ever did I told a five minute story about my mother’s passing, and that was very emotional. But generally speaking, I don’t talk about my super personal experiences in public.

With this story, however, I couldn’t let it go. 2009 was a major year for me, high and low, and this was the low part, and I had gotten to a place where I was cool with it and was finally ready to share beyond my close group of friends. As the Fray event approached, I tried to think of other things to say, but I couldn’t. So I stayed up all night thinking and typing and talking the story out to see if I could make it fit into the 15 minutes.

This story was the truest thing I could have shared, so that’s why I chose it.”

Me: How did you feel afterward? Were you glad you did it? Did you have reactions you were surprised about in yourself or others?

Baratunde: “I felt exhausted, relieved and a little shaky afterward. I can’t stress enough how unlike me it is to share something like this, so while I have years of stage experience which prevent my nerves from getting rattled, I really had no idea what to expect. When it was over, a woman came up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss and said I had helped her. I wasn’t expecting that. Then other people shared similar comments.

People are used to me making them laugh. Some are used to me making them think. Few are used to me making them feel. So this was a new experience for them and for me. I also felt like I had completed some important stage of the healing process by physically getting the story outside of my body. Even though I had shared such detail with close friends, they are so close that it sort of doesn’t count. By telling the story to strangers, I really was able to let go of some of the residual pain and trauma I’d been carrying.”

Me: Would you have told the story if you knew it would be videotaped and put on YouTube? Why or why not?

Baratunde: “I probably would not have told the story “super publicly” like that. My ex-wife and I are on good terms, and while what I told was my story, it’s also hers. I wanted the freedom to tell the truth from my perspective without unfairly putting HER business out there. I don’t think anything I said was mean or slanderous, but I just didn’t feel right about (potentially) telling the entire world all these things. Unlike most of my public appearances, I’m not interested in that story blowing up and getting lots of YouTube hits. I’m not interested in being KNOWN for it. I don’t want it to become a Comedy Central special. I told the story mostly for myself and found out after that others got something out of it too. But the idea of people streaming and live-tweeting and uploading this personal, intimate tale felt like a violation of her, of me and of the story itself. You have to FEEL it. Being in the same physical space provided that respectful atmosphere. YouTube, I think we can all agree, does not.

Me: Do you plan to tell this story again publicly? Why or why not?

Baratunde: “I’m not sure I need to tell that story in that way publicly again. What I have done is find a way to work a small portion of the story into a joke for my standup routine, and I imagine as time passes, I’ll integrate more of this experience into my overall story. But the idea of doing the same thing with the same intensity in the same way kind of feels like having a successful surgery and then doing it again just because the first surgery was so awesome.”

Thank you Baratunde Thurston!

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I Was Wrong

“Abortion is not the go-to gag for a laugh,” I wrote last year in what I thought was an edge-pushing issue of Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades, Exhale’s bilingual abortion zine. After past issues on such heady topics as stigma, family, pregnancy and feelings about the fetus, Exhale decided it was time to branch out. We chose humor.

At the time, we had been laughing about, “smashmortion,” kind of, and had laughed, maybe, with Sarah Silverman. We didn’t imagine a censored Family Guy episode or that Cartman would fall in love with abortion.

I thought it was safe to say that abortion was not the center of very many jokes. I am here to say: I was wrong.

Not only is abortion funny, it is quickly becoming the new go-to-gag for a laugh.

And, herein lies the problem. Abortion humor, like abortion politics, seems to have nothing to do with the actual women who have had them. It’s like the weird dancing baby of Ally McBeal or Tom Delay shaking his rump on Dancing with the Stars. Abortion humor feels like a very strange, alternate universe where it’s normal to have a pet robot and drink your food.

Abortion humor treats abortion as if it’s something you buy at the seedy store with blacked out windows at the end of the dark ally and carried stealthily home only for you to hide it in the back of your pantry beside your secret stash of chocolate and vodka, hoping that no one will ever find it and know its yours.

But that’s not abortion. Abortion is an often emotional experience that involves a physically invasive medical procedure that happens inside a woman’s body and which, if done correctly, removes a growing fetus that would otherwise become a baby.

Abortion is not that funny. But, the women who have them certainly can be!

In our Humor issue, we did not want to make abortion something to laugh at. We wanted to find out what made women laugh about their own experiences. We wanted to know what they found funny.

A woman thought it was funny that after telling her boyfriend she was pregnant, he said: “Man, I didn’t really think I could get anyone pregnant because I’ve done so many drugs.” Another woman laughed that while she was waiting nervously in stirrups for her procedure to begin, a nurse came in and said: “your socks match your eyes.” When she founded out that after her abortion that her “dude wanted a receipt,” a woman found humor in the ridiculous.

Instead of abortion, Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades made women’s voices and stories the centerpiece of abortion humor. We weren’t laughing at them. We are still laughing with them.

But next time, I’m going to use all the money we spent on printing and mailing to go after Chelsea Handler or Margaret Cho and entice them with cookies (or sex toys) in exchange for a Funny or Die abortion video.

That should be really funny.

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Travel to Oakland!

I have lived in Oakland for more than 10 years and I love it! I plan to stay. It’s home.

Doesn’t mean I can’t laugh at it (with it?) sometimes. This one had me rolling. Enjoy!

Filed under: Oakland Humor

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Thanks to reader Quercki for pointing this out to me. I wish we had seen this before we did the Humor issue of the zine.

From Amanda Palmer:

i sat down one day in or around 2002 and wrote a tongue-in-cheek, ironic up-tempo pop song.
a song about a girl who got drunk, was date raped, and had an abortion.
she sings about these things lightly and joyfully and says that she doesn’t care that these things have happened to her because oasis, (her favorite band) has sent her an autographed photo in the mail. and to make things even better (!!), her bitchy friend melissa, who told the whole school about the abortion, is really jealous.

if you cannot sense the irony in this song, you’re about two intelligence points above a kumquat.

then i made a video with michael pope that portrayed a VERY literal play-by-play of what was being related in the song. it also made sense to us.

now people in the UK are telling me that the song “makes light of rape, religion and abortion”.

can i simply state:

WHEN YOU CANNOT JOKE ABOUT THE DARKNESS OF LIFE, THAT’S WHEN THE DARKNESS TAKES OVER.

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Oakland Humor Makes Me Happy

Great post this week in The Poop on “Why I Love Oakland.” My favorites:

“Even though things can be messed up in Oakland, its residents have a scrappiness and resilience and general attitude that the town is worth fighting for.”

“You can have your Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower and Palace of Fine Arts. My favorite iconic Bay Area visual is the port cranes in Oakland. Beautiful and functional and badass, they almost look like they’re standing sentry to protect the city.”

“I do find it surreal to be a resident here, because the reputation is so much different than the reality. “

But the best parts…are the comments people made about Oakland. OMG:I was laughing out loud!

“I met my husband in Oakland and he’s a keeper.”

Don’t forget how living in Oakland helps you appreciate each day as though it might be your last

‘Ive been stabbed in the back and robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco. In Oakland I’ve only had my nose broken! Yay!

I love Oakland too…from the rear view mirror.

Why I love Oakland: A body of water separates it from San Francisco

i love oakland because it is OVER THEEERRRRRE>

Also, Oakland has this guy:

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Kate Cosby’s feature, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic” is featured on RH Reality Check right now

Change.org

Huffington Post

RH Reality Check

Pandagon

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3-laughter-ussf-marchIf only we were on video conference. But it was just a phone call so I couldn’t see their faces when I said, “let’s do an issue on humor.” And, as usual, the editorial board of Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades took my idea and made it better. I am so proud to announce the latest issue of Exhale’s bilingual abortion zine: The Humor Issue.

You can download the pdf here.

I like to think I’m funny. I imagine that if I was brave enough (OK, and well talented-enough), I would have gone down the sketch comedy road and followed in the footsteps of my hero Molly Shannon. Maybe I could have been the Kim to her Kath. But, alas I found another path and it happens to be a really serious one: supporting women around their abortion experiences.

This work has taught me many things, one of which is how uniquely people respond to shared circumstances. And for some people, including me, we respond to our situations with humor. We want to find something to laugh about and we use humor to make it all OK, at least for the moment. This isn’t just true for abortion. I remember how humor became the bellweather of our national healing process after 9/11. When Letterman could make a joke and the rest of could laugh guilt-free, we know we were on our way.

Humor does not have to take away the seriousness of an issue or diminish the deep feelings people can have around it. Humor is an important part of our lives and one more tool that we can use to support our own well-being. I knew that humor must be a part of some women’s abortion experiences and I wanted to find out more. So, we did.

Some interesting things happened along the way. When I told colleagues about our next topic, the most common response was “abortions not funny” or they sent material that was about making fun of one political side or the other. It was not easy to find out how to cover this issue in a way that wasn’t about poking fun or hurting feelings. As usual, women’s voices lead the way. We just printed them.

Probably the most poignant thing that happened was as we were working on this issue an anonymous woman started blogging about her pregnancy and abortion experience and the media quickly picked it up. However you may feel about her decision and her style – she told her story with a biting, sarcastic, and incredibly witty sense of humor. I knew there was bound to be other women out there who were eating it up and grateful for a public voice that sounds like their own private one. With her consent, we were planning to print a number of her posts and images in this issue, but the public consumption of her personal experience got to be a little much, and understandably, she changed her mind. Unfortunately, the blogger became a target: she was publicly outted and her and her family members received death threats. Her story grew – from what she experienced and how she talked about it – to how the world responded when she did. Chrissy Hyre delves in and chronicles what happens when a woman tells her frank and humorous truth about abortion.

There is much, much more, so I hope you read it cover to cover and comment with your thoughts!

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