Adrienne Truscott talks to editor Jamie Rosler at The Reviews Hub USA about her one-night-only performance of Asking For It, a “one-lady rape about comedy starring her pussy and little else.”
To start off, how are you doing? It’s been a rough few weeks for a lot of us, and it seems good to check in with each other as a way to stay supportive.
How to answer that first?! Thank you for asking. It’s a shit-show. I am completely fucking awful and horrified and in shock and enraged, livid and feel weirdly betrayed by my hope in the progress of the soul of this country. I also have my very darkest sense of humor intact, am aware of how lucky I am, and deeply worried about the people I love and respect and admire and look to for inspiration, as well as the immediate impact this administration will have on all of us. And for freedom and democracy in general. But I am fight-ready. Allied with the communities I am part of and/or love, impatient with random dude-talk when it’s contrarian for its own sake. On a less serious or passionate note, I feel that many people feel like their arrogant racist sexually-assaulting turkey-gobblenecked stank uncle just became the most powerful moron in the world and that’s fucking true, so it’s pretty daunting. How are you?
Ha! Let’s just say I’m hanging in there. Similarly frightened and simultaneously grateful, for the time being. Now, this show you’re performing at Joe’s Pub, on December 1, (Still) Asking For It, was originally produced and performed earlier this year, right? Some time before this train wreck of an election came to a head. How has it changed in light of everything we’ve learned and seen from our political landscape in the last month?
I actually started doing this show three years ago. I had been working on it without a deadline or a gig, and then the [Daniel] Tosh story happened, so I finished it and did it in Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I imagined/hoped it would hit a nerve, get some play and gigs, and then fade out of the zeitgeist. The only real reason for setting it in comedy was because I wanted to see if I could do stand up about rape that was sort of insurgent — use comedy as the trojan horse. But the ‘rape jokes in comedy’ trend emerged so I thought, “Great, if a bunch of dudes are going to joke about it, I will too. They’ll just be different jokes.” And then, what do you know, the material kept coming (Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, that Canadian DJ whose name I can’t bother with, etc). So I just kept updating it and getting better at stand-up.
What’s crazy is that I believe that my show contributed to and helped spearhead a larger international conversation that was finally evolving about rape culture and sexual assault and how we talk, joke, and legislate about it. By the time the Cosby story re-broke followed by Brock Turner’s case, it felt like the genie was out of the bottle and never going back in. Then we heard about shadowy accusations against Trump followed by his own bragging admission to sexual assault and the whole world, even those soulless, hypocritical so-called conservative Christian Republican invertebrates finally cottoned on — it was even too much for them — for about five minutes. And then the election. I personally have never felt a more violent fascistic act of misogynist retribution. So now we double-down, practice activism and freedom of speech and freedom to joke like motherfuckers, because I have no doubt people will start trying to shut down freedom of expression.
I think comedy is as important as ever because although Trump is such an easy target it’s almost boring to attack him, things get under his orange skin so easily, it will be an all-you-can-joke smorgasbord. And with the rest of his god-awful cabinet of terrified and arcane straight white men hearing the last gasps of their cultural relevance. The genies are still out of the bottles but it does feel like a slimy gross goblin just got his tiny-fingered hands on the bottle and the lid….
You’re donating proceeds from the show to Planned Parenthood, which is fantastic, but in Mike Pence’s name. Do you give any credence to the claims that this might backfire, with the names and personal information of the donors being leaked among right-wing extremists, or is that just another example of fake news and fear mongering?
I would never do it if I thought it would put anyone else’s privacy at risk. I’ll just get paid for a gig by the ticket sales from people who wanted to come see a great comedy show! The donation to PP will just come from me via Mike Pence. I’ll keep researching it to be sure no one else is at risk. But outside of that, the first step to inviting repression is self-censorship, so I’ll put myself at risk I suppose.
Do you ever worry about your own safety?
It is a daily act of resistance for a woman to defy the calls to, and reasons to, feel unsafe in this culture. So no. I intentionally don’t worry about my own safety, at least not in so much as it would guide my creativity, socializing, joke-making or activism. One of the main points of my show – and my ‘costuming’ in particular – is to illustrate that a woman’s behavior has nothing to do with keeping her safe. The one and only factor necessary for rape to occur is a person willing to rape someone. No miniskirt or run in the park is going to change that. That said, if that’s the way the culture instructs us to ‘be safe’ then all of us women and transwomen will be wearing body-obscuring moo-moos with shaved heads, drug-detecting nail polish, sneakers, athletic bras and rapex, refuse to get married or stay in long-term relationships, and opt, when we can, to stay in with our other rad women and queer friends and get drunk and listen to music and watch Veep!
That does sound like a blast, if not especially helpful in forcing progress. Keeping that in mind, what does your ideal audience look like for this show?
Not to sound like a ‘patriot’, but it would look like America. People from all walks of life, and different races and different origins listening to a funny, challenging show that sneakily helps them see, in a shared experience, the deep sexual misogyny functioning in our culture and how humor can sometimes be the best way to call shit out and dismantle power. And Trump and Pence would be there, as my guests, but wouldn’t have to stay after for a speech because the whole show is already aimed at them.
(Still) Asking For It runs for one night only, at Joe’s Pub on December 1, 2016. Proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood, in “honor” of Mike Pence. | Main image: Contributed.