Comedian Adrienne Truscott thinks it is possible to make a funny rape joke.
"I’ve done a whole show about it,” says New York performance artist and comedian Adrienne Truscott on the subject of her one-woman show, Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy And Little Else!.
Following a successful run at MICF last year, the show comes to Sydney Festival in 2015. “But that doesn’t mean that I think any joke about rape is funny. I think none of my jokes are about the act itself being something funny. It’s more like satire about how we talk about it, make laws about it, and people who think women’s outfits are responsible for rape. It’s a big debate in comedy: what you can joke about and what you can’t. I’m a firm believer that you can joke about anything, but I think there’s a way to make comedy provocative and progressive, and not just be shocking because you’re just trying to get away with saying something shocking so you look like a badass even when you’re not. Which is what I feel like a lot of comics have done with that material.”
"I think any culture has to be careful about when it starts to say, 'You can’t do that, it’s going to offend somebody.'"
That kind of material, that places the victim or the act of rape itself as the punchline (see Daniel Tosh et al) is not something that Truscott is interested in. “I think there are times when people are making jokes that are really gross and irresponsible and not funny enough in the potentially traumatising territory that they’re treading in. But I know there’s a lot of comics who just like to say to someone like me, ‘Shut up, you can joke about whatever you want.’ None of my jokes make the victims of that particular act as the punchline: to me that’s gross. I know there’s comics out there that think that’s fine. Most of those comics tend to be dudes making that joke to a room full of dudes and I don’t find that particularly witty or particularly edgy.”
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At the same time however, Truscott insists she is “not somebody who believes in censorship”. “I think any culture has to be careful about when it starts to say, ‘You can’t do that, it’s going to offend somebody.’ It’s a fine line between freedom of speech and then trespassing on someone’s actual rights and freedoms... I think in comedy in general you’ve got to be able to have free speech and that hopefully there’s enough good material in the world to provide something in opposition to really bad, lazy, hurtful material.”
Truscott performs the entire show “not wearing pants, but wearing shoes and a jacket”, a move she describes as hilarious and stupid, but that also has a powerful effect. “There are ways to be naked and physical in a live room that can still be really interesting and provocative and hilarious.”
As part of Sydney Festival, Truscott will also be performing completely naked as one half of The Wau Wau Sisters, 20 – 25 Jan at The Famous Spiegeltent, reprising their Fringe cabaret show The Wau Wau Sisters Are Naked As The Day They Were Born Again!.