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August 31, 2011

When a Friend's Monologue Sounds Like a Confession of Sexual Violence
by WomenInComedy - 3

Part Two of a Three-Part Response to the Status Quo, Diversity and Misogyny in Comedy

Part I: No Offense, White Boys: Diversity in Comedy and the Rapeprov Happening by Pam Victor

Part III: Sexualized Heckling by Barbara Holm


BY WICF Contributor Jen Ducharme

"Are you busy right now?" a friend asked, as she swooped up right next to my desk at work, pale-faced.

"No," I replied, imagining different scenarios (Beyoncé-is-now-un-pregnant-level) in order to prepare myself for an impending shit storm.

Taking a look at her screen, I saw the headline: "Is This Comedy Monologue a Rape Confession?" Our friend, Eric Angell, stood there, monologizing with an unassuming grin. Within minutes, he proceeded to destroy his reputation along with the trust of his peers, and to sadden and disappoint those who love him.

I'm not defending his words; the video was extremely hard to watch and process. It truly is a scary story. Why is he telling this story in a comedic forum, and what the hell is going through his head as he tells it with such glee? And how can this be the same guy who ate my horrible cooking and laughed with me often?

The only thing I can conclude with certainty from watching the video is that he’s an asshole who told an offensive story. Eric has revealed his ignorance about women and sex, as well as basic story-telling elements like tone. I believe and I hope this was a botched attempt to be funny. The fact of the matter is I do not know what truly happened the night he decided to drop by the woman's hotel room.

So as everyone sharpens their pitchforks and gets ready for the witch burning (always better attended than a block party), I grow wary. It’s so easy to vilify someone we don’t know. It’s easy to call him a rapist. It slaps a label onto the whole situation and eliminates the supercreeptasticscary feeling. I see all this anger pouring out like a rousing piece that crashes to a Tchaikovsky-like finish from so many people. What will we solve going after him? When we vilify him, we lose the full context. Which is … what? That he's a bad person? A bad story-teller? A rapist? I don’t know. The truth is less certain than what we would want, but too unsettling to avoid an attempt to name it. Going after him would validate him, and give him too much power — but how do we deal with the very real problem of misogyny, as female improvisers?
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3 comments

  1. Good points, and a good question that reminded me of the notion that this isn't a problem that only affects women, and women shouldn't have to feel like they need to be the only ones to take action.

    Here are some ideas from a guy who inspires me (the list aimed at men, but some of it's stuff women can do just as well and/or encourage the men in their lives to take a look at):

    http://www.jacksonkatz.com/wmcd.html

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  2. Thank you, Jen. I've been thinking along a similar track lately. I believe the act of mass vilification of this man, no matter how he may deserve it, only stops us from examining *ourselves*. He becomes the "other" and we are thus blameless. There are many issues raised here, about women and men, about public vs. private, and about whether the tone of the improv world is set by the male perspective. However we miss all those important conversations and opportunities for growth by getting out our pitchforks and lighting our brooms to go after this guy. I sincerely hope the improv world will give no more energy to this guy, as Jen says, and start having productive conversations and brainstorming sessions about how to make sure nobody else confuses an improv show with a frat house again.

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  3. That's a really good point, Jen. The problem doesn't start or end with him, and making him the arch-villain of this story only allows us to ignore the fact that this is a pervasive issue.

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