When a female comic performs she is breaking gender norms. Her mere presence onstage asks the audience to do away with stereotypical binaries of male strength and female weakness. Thirty years ago, Judy Tentua—who’ll be performing in Albuquerque at Embassy Suites (1000 Woodward NE) on May 9—was pioneering a new kind of female comic. Part of a new wave of female comics that didn’t just implicitly break stereotypes by purely existing, she aggressively delved into taboo topics of sex and feminism.
In the late ’80s, Tenuta was a consumable and mildly mainstream, friendly version of the sex-positive feminist revolution. She was mainstream enough to score a Dr. Pepper ad campaign but still revolutionary with her brass attitude and absurd, erotic performances. Her slightly ironic self-proclaimed titles of “Love Goddess” and “Aphrodite of the Accordion” heightened her onstage character. Tentua had sass. She adorned herself with flowing dresses in a classic Greek style to accentuate her role as goddess. Fluctuating the pitch of her voice up and down octaves, Tenuta would regularly declare the audience her sex slaves, calling them “stud puppets” and “pigs.”
Tenuta toured regularly with the legendary and oftentimes controversial George Carlin. Unlike Paula Poundstone and Rita Rudner, both very successful comedians of the same era, Tenuta didn’t confine herself to observational humor and puns. At this time, the US was arguing about the public persona of the female, which of course included sexuality, and here was Tenuta amidst it all talking about her IUD. When Tenuta went on stage and publically expressed her sexuality, it was rebellious and groundbreaking. Tenuta’s work remains relevant because women comedians who have the gall to be openly sexual, like Amy Shumer for example, are still shamed in some ways. Female comics today owe her some gratitude.
Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian living in Albuquerque. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows sin Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and The Comedy Storytelling Show at La Tortuga Gallery. More information can be found at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.
Did feminism really change anything? Do we even want it to? Over 50 years after Betty Friedan helped spark a second wave with The Feminine Mystique, we're still arguing about the morality of birth control and telling young women to “spend far more time planning for your husband than for your career.” (Gag.) As it happens, a fiercely funny, Pulitzer-nominated play is onstage right now in Albuquerque, tackling questions like these without resorting to flimsy stereotypes or strident manifestos. Rapture, Blister, Burn at the Aux Dog Theatre isn't just clever—it's nuanced, thoughtful and uproarious. I asked Aux Dog's producing artistic director Victoria Liberatori about the play, whose run comes to a close this weekend.
Let's start off with a biggie: The Aux Dog website asks, "Are you afraid of the F word?" and insists this "is not a 'feminist' play." Why shouldn't audiences be afraid of the lady-problems in Rapture, Blister, Burn, and how soul-crushingly sad is it that you even have to explain that?
Victoria Liberatori: Feminism has always gotten a bad rep as a man-hating, humorless, strident political movement for unfulfilled upper-class women. Was any movement for civil rights a laugh riot? However untrue, that label has stuck and, if anything, Rapture, Blister, Burn seeks to dispel those misperceptions and succeeds in debunking the dreary women's libber image. The show is funny, sexy and not at all preachy. Yes, it's sad that the image was falsely created and promoted by anti-feminist forces in the media, government and business. It's also shocking that we're still fighting the same battles today for equal pay, for access to abortion and for equal representation in our government, on corporate boards and in the media.
The New York Times says Rapture, Blister, Burn contains "a joke about pornography and Google maps — believe it or not — that’s worth the ticket price alone." What do you think is the key to the humor in this play?
VL: Unflinching honesty in the eye of hypocrisy and the fact that the real wisdom comes from the mouth of the youngest character in the play, Avery, a 21-year-old. The playwright, Gina Gionfriddo, has brilliantly interwoven the perspectives of three generations of women and that of the sole man in the play. When these points-of-view clash there are great comedic explosions!
Tell me a little about what your actors bring to their roles in the Aux Dog rendition of Rapture, Blister, Burn. What would you most like Albuquerque audiences to take away?
VL: The actors all do an amazing job of inhabiting these funny, neurotic, complex characters, yet they bring their own unique personal qualities to the roles. Our Catherine, played by Sheridan Johnson, is a high-strung academic rock star; Gwen, played by Jessica Osbourne, is a dreamy stay-at-home mom who feels she deserves more; Don, played by Ryan Montenery, is an attractive, charming slacker who settles for being a dean at a fourth-rate college; Avery, played by Sara Rosenthal, is a 21-year-old prophet of sorts who wants to be a reality TV star; and Alice, played by Gail Spidle, is Catherine's mother who just wants her daughter to be happy no matter how much must be compromised. The characters in this play are so rich in nuance and depth. What a joy to work with our director, Kristine Holtvedt, on them.
The take-away, I suppose, although I hope the play touches each audience member in a way that resonates for them, is that the grass is not always greener in someone else's garden and that we simply cannot reclaim the past no matter how much we want it. Creating a life that's happy isn't easy, but we must try.
And finally, what are you most excited about on Aux Dog's horizon?
VL: Launching our new Shakespeare classes with Jerry Ferraccio and our new acting classes with Jessica Osbourne in our new space, the AUX BOX next door to the Aux Dog. Solidifying our Aux Dog Theatre Company of actors, designers and production personnel, and building on the incredible success we had in 2013! Expanding our audience base and taking on new, challenging projects that excite us and our audiences is always a goal.
Sexism in the music industry is alive and well. But it’s almost 2013, you might say. We’re more than a half-century removed from the height of ’50s paternalism. Sadly, we’re not quite as distanced from the weaker-sex mentality as we’d like to think. Whether exploring industrial music, producing or music-related subcultures, misogyny still patiently waits to be acknowledged and abolished. We chatted with Burqueña noisemakers and aural curators about their experiences with sexism in our burg. Read all about it in Burqueñas Talk Musical Misogyny.
Marie Sena’s and Nani Chacon’s art show, Picosa, puts women in the fore: The overall theme of the show is women of the Southwest. “We’re in such a unique cultural climate,” Chacon says. “We felt like that was something that needed to be celebrated and pushed to the forefront of what we’re doing—not just that we’re going to depict beautiful women, but the beautiful women of our surroundings.”
The nihilistic party of pop and subpop culture rages on. Someone knocked over the lamp, and it sure is dark in here. The embers of lit cigarettes wink in the black. One such ember, Le Tigre, wants to make sure you don't forget. About them. About feminism. About gender-fucking. You know, but with, like, beats and shit.
Cast: Peter Donat, Diane Lane, Marin Kanter, Laura Dern, Christine Lahti, Janet Wright, Mia Bendixsen, Stuart Ferguson, Ray Winstone, Paul Simonon
Some people call this the best punk movie nobody's seen. With its release on Netflix InstaWatch, I'm sure that's becoming less true. The flick was made in the early '80s but wasn't released on DVD for 26 years.
When it first came out, The Fabulous Stains never saw its way to many theaters; early test screenings showed that people didn't quite know what to make of it.
The flick kind of doesn't know what to make of itself. The pacing is weird and the themes obscured. Maybe that's because it was directed by a music biz type but written by Nancy Dowd, (who, it's rumored, disliked the final version of the movie so much she put it out under the pseudonym Rob Morton).
The basic plot is this: Corinne Burns' (Diane Lane) mother has died. She takes her sister (Marin Kanter) and cousin (Laura Dern) and flees their sad, industrial hometown. They're The Stains. They've practiced three times. They can't play their instruments, but somehow, they're given a chance to join a tour with a washed up-metal/prog act and The Looters, a fake up-and-coming punk band.
The Looters' lineup is enough reason to catch the movie: Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones, Clash bassist Paul Simonon and Tubes frontman Fee Waybill. Also making a cameo: Black Randy.
So The Stains take the stage at a club for the first time, and the band's sound would be OK at the worst high school talent show ever. There's no drummer.
Third Degree Burns (Corinne's new stage name) slowly reveals her new self. From under a hat, a skunk pattern dyed into her hair. From behind a trenchcoat, no pants (now we know where Lady Gaga got the idea), and a see-through old-lady blouse with no bra.
The show goes badly. People hate her. Burns' bandmates leave the stage, shocked by her outfit and the audience response. But she just turns up the wry observation and presence, talking shit about a woman in the crowd who looks like she came to the show hoping one of the dude band assholes would notice her.
The performance generates buzz, and The Stains become the big deal on the tour, overtaking their male counterparts. Burns rises to stardom over a month due to a ton of media attention. All of her fans begin emulating the look and the mantra: "We're The Stains, and we don't put out!" Burns explains in an interview that this is about "not getting screwed."
The Looters' singer hates Burns. Predictably he falls in love with her, softens her toward him, and then screws her over. He takes the stage to open for The Stains, and the entire audience is women with skunk hair and red blouses. The Looters try to play, but the crowd is impatient and calls for The Stains throughout the set. He gets angry, and makes a speech about how Burns is just taking their money. The fickle audience turns on The Stains, and a male newscaster is the first in line to critique Burns harshly, saying he knew all along that she was a phony.
So, in some ways, the film is about how media build up young women, fascinated by their sexuality, and then tear them back down.
But it's also about a teen who manipulates the media and her circumstances to her advantage. Remember: In the beginning of the movie, nothing is working out for Burns. She can't get a job, and she's trying to figure out how to take care of her sister.
Plus, the flick is an interesting commentary on rock and roll. The Stains never learn how to play their instruments. They never get a drummer. They're only show, message and fashion.
Despite a lot of awkwardness (that I'm willing to attribute to the direction) there are moments of profundity that come from the script.
In one particularly memorable scene, Burns' aunt is being interviewed by a reporter. She hasn't heard from her daughter or nieces for a month. She says that she's truly sorry for berating them all the time, for not believing in them and for breaking down their confidence. That's how her mother trained her, she says.
Really great monologues and dialogue exchanges show a variety of pressures and people bearing down on the situation and tell the tale of how a desperate youth can capture the public eye.
Congressman Ben Ray Lujan sent out a news release today announcing that he’s being targeted by Abusegate, Investigate!. According to its site, the group is bent on ending the “domestic violence industry.” But a further look at the principles and goals of the organization reveals some real gems. (My gift to you. Happy Thursday, everyone.)
Lujan is being singled out because he is one of 20 lawmakers who supports “discriminatory laws such as the International Violence Against Women Act that are known to violate fundamental civil rights and escalate partner tensions,” according to the news release.
Such laws contribute to the destruction of families, says the brain trust propelling Abusegate. There’s also a sister organization called Concerned Women for America that would like to “take the ‘gender’ politics and ‘politically correct’ agenda out of public policy solutions.”
Newsman and Alibi contributor John Bear is fed up with the portrayal of female reporters in film. Hollywood’s hypersexualized, girly journalists should all be fired, Bear opined, for sleeping with their sources.
Crazy Heart sparked his observation and criticism. In the movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a single-mom music writer who interviews an old alcoholic country musician and falls for him. In this interview with Steven Zeitchik of The Roanoke Times, Gyllenhaal addresses sexism, ageism and journalism.
Q: What have the reactions been to the age difference in the on-screen relationship?
A: I get some indignance from women journalists. I think it's difficult for a relationship with a 30-year age difference to be healthy. But it happens all the time. So, what, you don't make movies about it if you think it's not the healthiest thing in the world?
I got sent this article—and I've been trying not to read press—about sexism in our culture, and they cited "Crazy Heart" as an example of yet another movie where the guy's much older and the woman's much younger. And I felt like this person who was writing maybe didn't see the movie. We're not this sexy hero and heroine who are championing our love affair! You can't choose who turns you on.
Q: You play a journalist in this film, which must make it a little bit odd when you're having, well, conversations like these.
A: It's tough talking to journalists because I think (the character) Jean is very green. She's not a seasoned journalist. And sometimes they can be a little critical.
But I think Jean is interested in finding out something true, which is something I'm interested in, in terms of journalists.
Some people have interviewed me, before I stopped reading press—which I haven't entirely done, but I try—and I read the article and thought, "That person came in with an open mind and did their best to figure out something true about me." Other times, I think someone has a fantasy or idea of me and just writes it up. Jean is the first kind.
Q: Have any journalists said things that weren't simply evaluations of your job performance?
A: I had a great interview with the Carpetbagger woman (Melena Ryzik of the New York Times). I loved her—we really got along—but she was like, "I'm so tired of seeing movies where the woman journalist sleeps with her subject." And I was like, "I don't know if it happens, but it happened here." And she's not as tough as you are. Jean isn't as grounded. She's such a feeler. She's fighting through all of that to write this article and be a journalist, but the opposition to that is this powerful, serious attraction.
Q: Which eventually wins out.
A: Yes (pause). And I wonder what (Ryzik) would have done if she was in a room with Jeff Bridges.