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Interviews with Pro-Choice names in the media

Here's what your favorite local comedians have to say about being pro-choice:
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Interns interviewed local Portland comedians, Mel Heywood, Katie Nguyen, and Bri Pruett and here's what happened!

NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon (NPCO): Do you consider your comedy a feminist act? What does feminist comedy look like to you?

Mel Heywood: Yes, I do! Sometimes, feminist comedy is just a woman being able to honestly speak the truth about her lifeóin a hilarious way. Sometimes it's grand, sweeping political statements about the world. There's room for everything. Feminist comedy means carving humor out of the everyday, originating FIRST from a place of anti-oppression & equality. Feminist comedy is born from fierce truth & love, and can be performed by anyone thoughtful enough to take on the challenge.

Katie Nguyen: I consider myself a feminist and a comedian. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have a "feminist act," as my humor tends to come from a more absurd, silly place where gender generally doesn't improve or weaken the structure or mental image of my material.

To me, feminist comedy is that which refuses to rely on the audience's acceptance of heteronormative gender roles in order to relate and make a joke. It can challenge inequalities, make light of foolish stereotypes, or just discuss women and women's issues without feeling the need to offer a man's viewpoint (e.g. "Women be crazy, right?").  

Bri Pruett: Yeah I do. So much of comedy is from a menís perspective, that any way my voice comes through tends to level the gender playing field in the comedic arts. Itís a lot easier to write from a womenís perspective because everywhere I go is uncharted territory; I think a lot of times boy-comics will write something and then find out some other dude has the same bit.

NPCO: What performers do you look to for inspiration about how comedy can be meaningful in people's lives?

Mel: There are so many seriously funny comedians right here in Portland who are producing excellent work & supporting each other, and that in & of itself is a HUGE inspiration to me. There are several women hosting weekly/monthly open mics and comedy showcases, and it is amazing. I think Portland Lady Comedy is the new Riot Grrrl. Seriously!

Katie: I absolutely love Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. While the organization promotes girl empowerment in general, I especially appreciate how Amy's comedy career and face have made Smart Girls more accessible to young people. What I find most inspiring about her is that she serves as an example of a powerful person who has no problem acting silly and also dedicating herself to altruistic pursuits. She is a great example of how a woman can be and do many things, regardless of a label, and I really hope a lot of girls see that.
Bri: Maria Bamford, this woman is so funny and entertaining, but when she talks about her experiences with mental health and the pressures of dating and femininity it blasts through the walls 
NPCO: Do you think humor can be used as a tool for social change?

Mel: Of course! Humor is an amazing way to motivate people for positive change, and it's a great conversation starter.

Katie: Absolutely. Humor lends itself to so many forms and genres, it's about as diverse and versatile as music or film, which both have historically been useful in bringing about social change.

I really enjoyed David Cross and Amber Tamblyn's "Gynotician" PSA. I was very impressed with how funny it was without coming off as preachy or self-righteous. The tongue-in-cheek humor really highlights outrageous legislation without communicating outrage.

Bri: Hell yes! Every time I speak from my perspective; it creates empathy for folks who havenít heard from me, and it probably makes someone else feel good about something theyíve always thought was embarrassing or shameful.

NPCO: What advice would you give to the public on becoming active in making difference?

Mel: Speak your truth, start conversations, listen for the quiet voices, have fun and be fearless.

Katie: - Seek information from a variety of sources, stay up to date

- Consider all the ways an issue can present itself and manifest in the lives of any and all people affected in any way. Exercise maximum thoughtfulness when forming opinions.

- Share information and resources (articles, websites, event info, data, media, etc.)

- Find local organizations that support your cause and ask them how you can help/volunteer.

- Realize we're all role models to someone. Strive to be the best role model you can.

Bri: Your voice is important! However that manifests, thatís what you have to share. In fact itís your most powerful resource, making sure people hear from you.  

NPCO: It has been said that comedians and feminists are natural enemies. How would you respond to this?

Mel: Totally untrue in the modern era.Yes, there are definitely comedians out there still churning out backwards rape-joke garbage, but it feels like we are definitely in an age of 'comedy enlightenment'ósmart, fierce, funny people are taking to the stage in droves. THANK GOD.

Katie: Just because there are a lot of misogynistic jokes does not mean that all comedy is misogynistic. Just because feminists don't enjoy misogynistic jokes does not mean that feminists hate all comedy. Feminism and a sense of humor are in no way mutually exclusive, and the implication is absurd.  
Bri: Nah, These days most comedians ARE feminists, well the comedians that I want to watch are anyways.

NPCO: What's your experience with audience hostility?

Mel: I haven't gotten a lot of audience hostility at this point, but I'm not putting myself in situations where that would be likely to happen (a college fraternity, my Mormon family reunion, etc.). I perform for audiences comprised of women, queers, feminists, and allies. It rules. And if someone doesn't dig my jokes, I just assume their blood-sugar levels are low.

Katie: Thankfully, I've yet to experience serious hostility other than some drunk people wandering in from the street and yelling. In those instances, I've simply ignored them.

Bri: Iíve only had one heckle that creeped me out; that could be identified as hostile, it was at a sports bar in a part of town that was a bit unsavory. Mostly I try to stick to urban markets where the audiences are more accustomed to a lady being blunt about sex and other lady business, doesnít freak out the squares.

NPCO:  Itís been said that if men were the ones who got pregnant, abortion would be far more accessible. What do you think?

Mel: Ha! Yes. As the hilarious Nasim Pedrad said on Saturday Night Live, "If men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be like StarbucksÖ there would be two on every block, four in every airport, and the morning-after pill would come in different flavors like sea salt and cool ranch."

Katie: I suspect this is true. Empathy should be a more sought-after characteristic in lawmakers and elected officials. It doesn't really seem to be a top priority for a lot of voters.

Bri: All I know is that my IUD is the greatest thing in the world, and every guy I sleep with tells me so.

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