Comedy is our conversation with culture. Or, more accurately, our conversation behind culture’s back about how it refuses to get with the times, and did you hear what culture said the other day? Soo 20th century.
We often look to comedy to verbally dismantle the norms and power dynamics that—for better or for worse—okay, mostly for worse—structure our society and our lives. This is what makes comedians current, relevant, edgy, and offensive or “provocative,” depending. We are particularly big fans of the comedians who wield the power they have behind the microphone to challenge THE powers that be, using culture to change culture.
In celebration of our second annual Dudes Against Violence Against Women: Because DUH comedy extravaganza, here are some of our favorite comics who use humor and creativity to drive culture change.
W. Kamau Bell
Kamau Bell was host of the criminally short-lived FX comedy series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. Among topics of current events, race, and politics, Bell also talked about the culture of sexism. He moderated a debate between feminist writer Lindy West and comedian Jim Norton about misogyny and ethics in comedy. He also went out onto the streets of New York City and took a stab at getting down to the bottom of street harassment. Mr. Bell is also on the advisory board of Hollaback, a global group working to end street harassment.
MONEY QUOTE: “Dudes. Stop street harassing women. If you think that [it] builds up a woman’s confidence, you’re right: it makes them confident that you’re a creep.”
Chris Gethard is someone you’ve totally seen on The Office and Broad City (as Ilana’s soft-spoken and ineffectual boss, Derek). He is also host—cult leader, really—of The Chris Gethard Show. Complex Magazine even joined, tweeting “Chris Gethard is the man who will save late night TV.” Gethard recently appealed to Women Haters–the illustrious community of guys who feel scorned romantically by the women around them.
MONEY QUOTE: “ If you really are someone that feels scorned by women, participating in the movement of villainizing women … it should be legally bound that you never find love.”
Comedian John Fugelsang has spoken extensively about misogyny and women in America on various programs. Catch his monologue on ‘slut-shaming’ on his cable series Current.
MONEY QUOTE: “I’m so feminist I leave the seat down in the men’s room.”
Comedian Pete Dominick has worked with Breakthrough before on Dudes Against Violence Against Women, a comedy show where dudes show that they think violence against women isn’t funny. But he is. He has even fought against gender-based discrimination in little ways on spaces like Twitter. Pete Dominick also hosts Stand Up! with Pete Dominick on XM Sirius Radio.
MONEY QUOTE: “I actually had an experience where I was objectified for the first time ever … and so, we’re at the game and he keeps looking me up and down. Oh my god, this guy is kind of a perv. Won’t stop looking at me. I realized I’ve been doing that to every woman in New York City on the subway for ten years.”
Mr. Thurston has a whole utility belt of funny cred. He’s written the New York Times bestselling book How To Be Black, served as Director of Digital for The Onion, is CEO and Hashtagger-in-Chief of Cultivated Wit, and “has more than 10 years experience in standup comedy, and more than 30 years experience being black.” Intersecting the worlds of race and gender, Thurston has brought to light the impact mainstream feminism has on women of color.
MONEY QUOTE: “Rob Bade and DJ E-Z Rock taught us all a lot of valuable lessons, but the one that stand out to me: it takes two to make a good thing go right and in the case of violence against women, that couldn’t be more true.”
Immigrant rights organizer-turned-comedian–or rather–comedian who was an immigrant rights organizer, Kondabolu brings his experience and passion for social justice with him onstage, most notably his feminist d**k joke, probably the world’s first.
MONEY QUOTE: “I do have a few pieces about feminism, but I think my biggest contribution is being conscious of the words I’m using … It’s unfortunate that this is still something that is given cookies. Like, ‘here’s your prize … for not being an a**hole.’”
Photo credit: Denise Winters