Shannon Coffey Talks RIOT's Report Card, Vaginas & Internet Humor

Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Coffey.
On RIOT's Report Card, comedian Shannon Coffey asks the tough questions. From her own herpes misdiagnoses to why powerful women are undermined by being labeled as witches, Coffey has spoken to doctors, occultists, and other comedians, using humor to dismantle the stigma surrounding difficult topics.

Outside of RIOT, Coffey is an accomplished comedian: She's a UCB alum and has written for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. She's also snappy with meme jokes. When we asked her in passing if she'd seen Good Morning America's #tealizard joke, she followed up our interview by sending a self-made meme of a lizard sipping tea. Caption: "Kermit who?"

How did you get involved with Report Card?
"I'm friends with Julie Miller, the producer of show. We worked together on a web series called I Hate Being Single, when she came in during the second season. One day I hit up Julie to hang out, and she told me about this project she was doing and asked if I would be interested in hosting the show. We just started coming up with ideas."

What topics do you still want to explore?
"I would love to do an episode on gender. I grew up gender fluid, so that’s super important to me. I don’t even believe in gender, man. I hate labels. Labels are just not a way to live by."

You have a hysterical line about vaginas in the episode about herpes misdiagnoses. Did you have any other funny conversations with the doctor you interviewed?
"There are always so many organic conversations. That doctor and I ended up talking about what would happen if I came back to life as a penis.

"Vaginas are so poorly designed. You think they should have a flap or something. I know they’re supposed to self clean, but they’re just so complicated. You can drag a penis in a parking lot for hours and nothing would happen. You just make eye contact with a vagina and it’s like, 'Oh it has a yeast infection.' They’re very high maintenance."

Are there any topics that you feel are off-limits in comedy?
"I think there’s a way to take topics that are serious and talk about them without making fun of them. On the show, we’re talking about serious topics like STDs and relationships, and treating them with respect but with a certain lightheartedness. There are so many stigmas that make people feel uncomfortable, and then the discussion just stops. We’re not making fun of these topics, but let’s ease up and be chill about talking about serious things.

"The coolest thing about doing this show as a host is that I’m not saying I know what the deal is. I’m with the audience in saying that I’m open to discussing and learning. I think that’s the most fun thing: Just admit that you’re learning! Also, what’s appropriate and what’s not is constantly changing."

There's an episode of Report Card about how social media affects relationships. How does social media affect your comedy?
"I follow people who are comedians who also do the good work. Chescaleigh is doing the good work. She's educated and a great comedian, and willing to show people how to connect and learn more about privilege and ignorance.

"I think social media affects you on every level — comedy, relationships, how you see yourself. After Instagram showed up, I was like, 'Oh, I guess I think more about image than I did before.' The internet has a way of changing your sense of humor. When I first got into Tumblr, I realized my sense of humor was changing. On the internet what’s funny is in its own universe. I became that annoying person that’s talking about memes."

What's your favorite meme?
"Pepe is my favorite because I love frogs. He’s sad but he’s dope. I love cute animal videos. Describing memes to people is the worst thing ever, but they're great. I love those memes where meme makers started making memes about themselves — like, kids who joke about being professional meme makers."

What's your ideal job in comedy?
"Feature films are my jam, and I want to be making features eventually. All my favorite shows are on HBO and Showtime."

What are you working on now?
"I still do stand-up. I'm working on more episodes for Refinery29, and I have an MTV show on Thursday nights called Ladylike."

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