By Kt Hawbaker Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) For comic Jen Kirkman, feminism is a force that saturates her stand-up. While making people laugh is her first goal, she also wants comedy to change the way audiences understand gender, to show that "women speaking can be tolerable."
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a famous woman who speaks out against sexual harassment will have to talk about it over and over again in all interviews for the foreseeable future.
Or, at least that's true for Jen Kirkman, the "Chelsea Lately" vet with a number of acclaimed Netflix comedy specials, a pair of best-selling books and a new, rowdy stand-up tour.
But, right now, most articles written about Kirkman lean into a strange scandal that also involves Louis C.K. and Tig Notaro.
The rundown: In a 2015 podcast episode, Kirkman called a male comedian who seemed to line up with C.K.'s description a "known perv," and said that her career would be over if she actually named him.
A conversation about C.K.'s alleged behavior with female comics and writers then exploded, with no one directly accusing C.K. of sexual assault.
Nevertheless, other comedians like Notaro have called him out for not addressing the rumors, even though Kirkman has told numerous outlets that C.K. was the not the comic she was describing.
"I don't have a comment on that. I'm really funny and trying to sell tickets to a comedy show," she says, "and the more I talk about it, even if I say he's a unicorn made of fudge, the more harassment I get. There's really nothing more to say."
Instead, she'd rather talk about her current tour, "All New Material, Girl."
"It's all about stuff from the past 10 months," Kirkman describes. "Usually I give myself a bit more time to process the material, so it's pretty new to me too."
While Kirkman jabs at getting deeper into her 40s and a silent retreat she went on earlier this year, the 2016 election is at the heart of the program.
"My show is a lot of 'Let's bond over the feelings we probably felt,'" she says. "We were ready to go from the first black president to the first woman, and then, suddenly, there are Nazis.
People have come up to me and said that my show is better than their Wellbutrin. I'm not saying anything profound. I am just saying what everyone else is feeling."
While Kirkman admires the sharp-edged work of satirists like Lenny Bruce, she sees herself taking on politics in a much goofier way.
"People are exhausted, people are gaining weight, people are losing it. I think it's OK to be a little funny on stage. I don't have to break anything down," Kirkman explains.
She connects her love of Hallmark Christmas movies with her reaction the election results.
"We're not all watching them ironically. I actually really love them, and that's what I ended up doing on election night," she laughs.
Kirkman also comes for misogyny on the leftist side of things.
"I also talk about being a grown-up woman who doesn't let young, left-wing boys tell her how it's going to be," Kirkman says.
For the comic, feminism is a force that saturates her stand-up. While making people laugh is her first goal, she also wants comedy to change the way audiences understand gender, to show that "women speaking can be tolerable."
"I'd like to show that men and women can laugh together. I want men to laugh at themselves when women are talking about their experiences with them, whether it's romantically or professionally," Kirkman says. "I think we have a way to go with that. It seems that white men are comfortable with black comics making fun of white guys, it's almost like a badge of honor, but there is something yet to happen where women can make fun of men on stage."
While Kirkman thinks that feminism's role in comedy has remained the same for quite some time, she does see it surfacing in exciting ways.
"If people are thinking about feminism, if that's what they're doing, then they shouldn't hide it," she says. "It's more about what you shouldn't do: Let's not be women who make fun of women for no reason. Let's not foster that kind of crap."