Editor’s Note: Click here to read Dustin K. Britt’s preview of Jen Kirkman: The “All New Material, Girl” Tour 2017.
A man sits in the front row of The Carolina Theatre of Durham. His arms are folded, and he is displeased. Stand-up comic Jen Kirkman is shouting at him from the stage. “Why don’t you go out into the lobby and go f*** yourself!” she suggested.
He deserved it. Big time.
For over a year now, Jen Kirkman has been attacked online, mostly via Twitter, by “Bernie Bros” — a subset of supporters of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign whose vocal opposition to Hillary Clinton is ranges from dickish misogyny to outright violence.
The attacks, from deep within the slimy troll caves of the Internet, have included death threats; and they have become commonplace for many outspoken women in the media, regardless of political stance.
Having dropped by with her “All New Material, Girl” Tour, Kirkman was speaking to men’s understanding — or lack thereof — regarding Hillary Clinton. She mentioned the abuse heaped upon her from Bernie Bros, and the man in the front row booed her.
You see, this guy just could not take it anymore. He had somehow been tricked into purchasing tickets to see two women talk, and then grew weary of all the talking women.
The opening act, local comic Gretchen McNeely shared feminist perspectives on challenging haircuts, unsupportive undergarments, husband-serving flight attendants, lesbian-administered blowjobs, and the incestuous Woody Allen. Her laidback style, reminiscent of Tig Notaro, may not have brought roars from the rafters, but definitely earned much laughter.
Then Jen Kirkman exploded onto the stage to deliver energetic, provocative anecdotes about selling jewelry (“I have to start saying things on necklaces in case Trump makes it illegal for women to speak”), the way men in their 40s treat women in their 20s (“They just date you because they want somebody to explain things to”), and participating in a week-long silent retreat that was interrupted by a single, snoring man.
The evening’s tone was decidedly feminist. Fans of Kirkman expected no less. Riffs about avoiding sexual assault, explaining PMS to men, and the ongoing battle of gravity versus the 43-year-old woman, built on this theme. This was a show about a woman’s perspective. And it was fantastic.
And then … a guy actually booed Kirkman. While she was talking about men silencing women. You could smell the irony.
The audience, well on her side by this point of the evening, clapped and cheered Jen Kirkman as she shouted the man down, pointing out that his behavior was precisely the problem, and that he should leave. His cockish retort was “In this context, it’s okay to boo.”
“In what context?” Kirkman replied. “The context where people paid to hear your opinions?” After 20 performances, all with arm-folding men in the front row glaring at her with oafish judgment on their faces, Kirkman had — understandably — had quite enough.
Not all of her material was specific to women’s perspectives. She commented on religion (“I’m afraid of turbulence cause then I’ll have to pray and I don’t want Jesus to see me”), growing up in a Cold War-fearing family (“Whenever I hear a Rihanna song, I’m reminded of the air raids”), and — with Gretchen McNeely by her side — Kirkman read a hilariously atrocious neo-liberal anti-racism comedy sketch that Kirkman wrote in college.
But it was not her voice as a comic, a liberal, a designer, a forty-something, a New Englander, or a vegan that resonated with me. Her voice as a woman rang through the theater, shaking the seats and cracking the plaster. It penetrated our bones and we carried it into the lobby — where we lined up to meet our new hero at the book-signing table.
It is more than evident that Jen Kirkman will not — and should not — be silenced.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 27th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article180933871.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 29th Triangle Review preview by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/10/jen-kirkman-will-perform-all-new-material-on-nov-1st-at-the-carolina-theatre-of-durham/.)
SHOW: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/events/jen-kirkman-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Call-new-material-girl%E2%80%9D-tour-2017, https://www.facebook.com/events/1232142696840227/, and http://nationalshows2.com/2017/02/jen/.
THE TOUR: http://www.jenkirkman.com/tour-dates.
Jen Kirkman (comedian, actress, and author): http://www.jenkirkman.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1327303/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/JenKirkman/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/JenKirkman (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jen_Kirkman (Wikipedia).
Gretchen McNeely (stand-up comic and entertainer): https://gmcneely.wordpress.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/GretchenMcNeely/ (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/reallymcneely (Twitter page).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor and director. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.