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I am writing this on behalf of my 8-year-old self, who just wanted to grow up and be the next Gilda Radner or Madeline Kahn; who just wanted to get old enough to move to L.A. or NYC and make people laugh. It never occurred to me that a female wanting to do comedy was unusual or an act of rebellion.
Even in this climate, when people are finally talking about treating women equally, I had one of the more degrading experiences of my entire career a few weeks ago. I’ve been doing comedy as an improviser, stand-up, sketch comedian, and actress for over 20 years. When you do a spot at a stand-up show, the host might introduce you by mentioning a TV credit, or just say something general. “We are glad to have them here;” “It’s their first time on the show;” or “Please welcome”. But none of those were part of my introduction when I recently did standup at an alt comedy show in Silver Lake hosted by two guys who were playing characters as morning show hosts. My intro was as follows:
“Our next comic is a female. Yup, she’s a girl comic. She’s got titties. That’s right guys, just picture taking out your wet dicks and sliding them back-and-forth between those big ole’ titties. Please welcome….”
And then they got my name wrong.
I don’t know if guys have any idea what it’s like to already be the only female in a lineup, which I was, and then to be so publicly humiliated and violated. Not only did I still have to go do my 10-minute set, but I was now starting at a disadvantage with the audience because the entire room JUST PICTURED TITTY FUCKING ME. When you really think about that act, it is so dominating. Usually, the woman is pinned down for a man’s pleasure, and often he ejaculates on her. That was my introduction at a comedy show.
I turned to my friend who booked the show, and she said “What the hell?” The audience nervously applauded and didn’t really laugh during the intro. I walked up onto the stage in a daze. I remember making awkward eye contact with a woman in the front row. The vibe in the room was not an ideal way to start a stand-up set.
When people pull things like this on women, women don’t even get to start on a level playing field. There’s no blank slate.
One of these guys should know who I am because I’ve met him once before. A few years ago I had to do a television show with a panel of comedians, and he was one of them. He made jokes about me being covered in jizz during the taping. I don’t know if his comments made it into the edit of the show because I refused to watch myself be degraded on television. I didn’t recognize his name when I agreed to do the show in Silver Lake, but as soon as I showed up I thought, Oh shit, it’s that guy. Still, I tried to rationalize for him and say, “Maybe that was a one-time thing. Maybe he was just doing it for the show.” Nope. I have now had two interactions with this man, and both times I have either had my breasts mentioned or me being covered in semen.
When people pull things like this on women, women don’t even get to start on a level playing field. There’s no blank slate. They have to stop and deal with the verbal assault first, and then attempt to change the energy of the room before moving on to doing their jobs — in my case doing my stand-up set. It’s extra confusing when it’s “alt comedy,” and people are being ironic. Alt comedy shows have historically been more welcoming to female and LGBTQ+ comedians. Even though the tone at this particular show was experimental and loose, and the men who introduced me were playing the parts of boorish characters, the effect is the same. It is misogyny hiding behind irony. And if you don’t roll with the punches, you look uptight.
The reality is when you are a comedian you have to be resilient. There are many things that happen on the road that come with the territory: hecklers, drunks, chasing paychecks with club owners, etc. But when you get harassed by your peers, it puts you in an odd position. You don’t want to seem like you don’t have a good sense of humor. Incidents like this are violating, degrading, aggressive, and still happen in various ways more often than you would think.
A few days after the incident, I told my friend Erin Foley, another comic, what had happened, and she asked me if I told the two guys to F off. The reality is I did not. I wish I had. I wish I was one of those people who could just tear someone a new asshole, and have the crowd eating out of my hand because I had the perfect cutting remark or comeback. That’s just not who I am. I have delayed reactions. I’m always stunned when someone disrespects me that aggressively. I almost leave my body. I go on autopilot just to get out of that situation. In fight or flight, I flew, but I also still had to keep my wits about me because I still had to do my job.
Things like this still happen, and you eventually get worn down after years of subtle (and in this case, not so subtle) degradation.
I don’t know why they did it. Maybe they thought it was funny. The audience was not really laughing, but the men just kept riffing on and on about it. The room started spinning for me after the penises between my breasts line, so I couldn’t even tell you how the intro ended. Maybe these guys didn’t realize that there’s already such a bias when you do standup as a female, and that you have to work a little harder to get the crowd on your side. With that introduction, they essentially reduced me to an object. An object to be degraded – something with no worth. One of them has a new baby daughter. I wonder how he would feel if someone did this to her at her work? Or to his wife? Sister? Mom?
It’s been almost a year since the #Metoo movement started. This happened in June of 2018 after so many men have been called out for inappropriate behavior, not just in the comedy community, but globally. Discussion about it has been everywhere. It’s shocking to me that people still think degrading a woman like this for a cheap laugh is okay. A woman who is their guest, their co-worker, their peer. They think their comments are ironic, so they don’t hurt. Words are powerful.
In case anyone else out there didn’t get the memo, yes, women are funny. No, we don’t need you to call us a “girl comic” in our introduction. How about just a comic? And no need to comment on your dicks with our bodies when you bring us onstage — or ever, really.
I am proud of myself and my career. I try to be kind to people, I show up on time, and I’m always prepared. I am happy that there are so many wonderful female comics right now. And honestly, more often than not, the men that I have worked with across the country have been generous, wonderful, funny souls. But things like this still happen, and you eventually get worn down after years of subtle (and in this case, not so subtle) degradation.
Time is truly up on all of this asinine behavior — and it being accepted. I’m so angry and over it. I have value. And to that 8-year old girl – even though I’m tired – I didn’t forget you. Women need to see other women onstage. I am proud to be a headlining comic. I am proud to do festivals and shows in tiny venues and big venues with lots and lots of wonderful funny generous comedians of all genders. I wouldn’t be the same person if I had never seen Gilda or Madeleine (even though neither was a stand-up, they lit my fuse). Maybe some young lady out there will see something in me that inspires her to want to own her voice and try her hand at telling jokes. I just pray for the next wave of funny young ladies out there that the path gets a little easier and a little more kind.
Arden Myrin is an actress, comedian, writer, and podcaster. She was a cast member on season 7 of Shameless, was on MadTV for 4 seasons, appeared on over 100 episodes of Chelsea Lately, and will be seen next as a cast member on the upcoming Netflix series Insatiable. Arden is also the host of the popular podcast Will You Accept This Rose? about The Bachelor franchise (AKA: THE GREATEST COMEDY ON TELEVISION!).