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The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

January 15, 2020 Laura Beatrix Newmark

Laughter As Medicine for Resistance

I had my first real MS flare following the 2016 election, 10 years after my diagnosis. Once I had recovered, I realized that I would need a way to cope with a changed landscape: the news, the politics, the tension.

And for me, they only way to manage the scary reality of a Trump presidency was through comedy. The importance of living in a country that could jeer at the President without being offed or poisoned—mixed with the sheer release of laughing—provided a certain catharsis needed to process a way forward. I also appreciated the importance of comedians tearing apart the Trump Administration’s lies, policies and hypocrisy and making a huge mockery of the people in power. 

I knew this particular President was watching—and it would irk him. 

Now, I’m not normally a malevolent woman. In fact, I’ve hung on tightly to my good natured midwestern demeanor, even after 25 years in New York. It’s more that a person so seemingly devoid of humanity was OK fodder in my rule book for ridicule. It continues to be deeply satisfying to watch Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert and so many more, do their craft at the expense of the President.

Humor is a way to tackle issues and have a voice that reaches far and wide to bring people together— while also stinging in a sweeter way. I felt so passionate about it that I created a comedy show to amplify these voices. 

In January of 2018, with the support of the Educational Alliance and the 14th Street Y, #NastyWomen—A Night of Female Resistance Comedy was inaugurated with the mandate to be a series to empower female voices. After eight  #NastyWomen shows, we’ve also noticed an interesting trend. The comedians aren’t always particularly political. But the fact that the show is all-female is. Giving a voice to women who for decades were relegated to one spot at the end of the night at a comedy club or were tacitly or explicitly restricted in their content, we are reminded of the power that comes with raising a voice. Last season, we also started a #NastyWomen+ show to empower non binary performers and will do our next #NastyWomen+ show during Pride Week in June. 

Our shows have followed particularly difficult moments in the horror of the Trump era and have provided the respite of laughter when it seemed there was no room for it. Joining with 125 other audience members as they enjoy a release from the barrage of news and missteps each day, we are proudly showing that resistance comes in many forms. We served a Brett Kavanaugh punch  (Pabst Blue Ribbon, with a can floating in the beer). We had a punching bag at one show for audience members to release some tension. 

Our fearless host Amanda Duarte, co-creator of the Pussy Grabs Back campaign, read a scathing article she had written following one of the many outrageous abortion bills—with a strong message for how to fight back.  We’ve had an all female haiku writing operation called Ars Poetica craft timely political haikus to the cheering audience.

As we kick off the #NastyWomen series in 2020 on Monday, January 27 with comedians Leah Bonnema, Shalewa Sharpe, Fareeha Khan and Blythe Roberson and in partnership with FUTURE NOW FUND, we are deeply aware of what a rollercoaster we must prepare for in the year ahead. Comedy and women’s voices will be major allies in our greatest fight yet to restore our democracy.

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Laura Beatrix Newmark is the Director of LABA/Culture Producer at the 14th Street Y and Producer of #NastyWomen – A Night of Female Resistance Comedy. She is a graduate of Barnard College.

#NastyWomen – A Night of Female Resistance Comedy arose from a genuine interest in the Educational Alliance community to utilize comedy as both a uniting tool and a resistance tool, and was inaugurated on January 18, 2018—a few days ahead of the Women’s March. In light of the explosive #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, we generated a forum that empowers women and men through laughter, camaraderie, and activism. #NastyWomen has evolved into a Monday evening comedy series that will continue on as part of the 2019/2020 Theater Season at the 14th Street Y, with shows on January 27 (in partnership with FUTURE NOW FUND), May 11 (in partnership with Israel Arts Project) and June 15 (in partnership with Pride Fest).

Tickets here.

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