by Jeanette Bonner
Have you ever used the F word?
Have you ever asked your friends if they’re F***?
More importantly, have you ever seen a celebrity squirm harder than when he or she is asked if s/he is a feminist?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that feminist is one of several hot button words in today’s culture, not to mention in our presidential race. No one seems to know the reason for it, but maybe it’s because no one truly understands the definition of the word. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hang out with some smart, adorable, funny, strong women that not just embodied feminist culture but boldly declared it?
Spoiler alert: I’m a female. Second spoiler: As a female in a patriarchal entertainment industry, I’m totally a feminist. Third: As an improv comedian, I am a strong supporter of women in comedy, because even before you open your mouth, the odds are stacked against you. You need to know these three things before you read this review, cause I was pretty much on board with Buzz Off Lucille way before I actually saw any of their work. It may have been interesting to know a guy’s perspective of these ladies, but then …….wait, no, I’m totally tired of hearing men review women. (Don’t even get me started on the Olympics….) And I’m gonna guess that Buzz Off Lucille probably doesn’t give a flying F*** what dudes think about their work either. I might be the key demographic for Buzz Off Lucille, but so are you, even if you aren’t a feminist, or a filmmaker, or a female. (…. those dirty F’s again!!). And here’s why:
Buzz Off Lucille started off as a group of four female comedians (Abby Holland, Molly Gaebe, Jenn Roman and Julie Rosing) that met while taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) who just wanted to make funny stuff. They realized the only way they were going to see the things they thought were funny and get to be in those things was to make it themselves. They started off with silly videos (“Pumpkin Season,” a mockery of our obsession with all things pumpkin, was their first), but their work has grown from there to include two live sketch shows, a VH1 promo video, a collaboration with Lady Parts Justice (a reproductive rights non-profit started by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show), a College Humor grant and more, and they’re just getting started.
“I think what sets us apart is that we try to defy what people define as ‘girly.” We’re rough, we’re queer, we fight, we sometimes don’t wear bras, we masturbate (and talk about it a lot), we perform comedy in a basement while people drink PBRs. We like to get messy. In our show we throw things at the audience, we spit out beer. We’re not afraid to be ugly,” Holland explains. “But you know what? Sometimes we like a nice lipstick too.”
I like these girls. I admire what they are doing – and believe me it needs to be done, especially in the male-dominated comedy world. They are paving the way by bravely asserting their femaleness and not trying to be “liked” or pretty or appeal to men. They are doing comedy on a woman’s terms.
I attended their current live show “Balls Deep” at UCB, which has them dressing up as men (in hilariously awful wigs) in order to satirize male culture. (Tagline: “To really understand a man, you have to walk a mile in his grey New Balances.”) One of the funniest sketches of the evening satirized a Brock Turner-esque scenario as a Tony Robbins-esque “It Gets Better!” convention, with increasingly painful privileges earned by men in increasingly awkward 1980’s blazers, which had the audience howling in its exactitude. You could tell these gals are natural stage actors because the live show popped with energy and surprise. The women drank off this energy and threw it back at us. They spoke directly to us and they responded to us. They even spat beer at us. And the audience loved them back, laughing loudly and unapologetically, 20’s to 50’s, male and female, straight and gay, mixed races. You know – the comedy demographic. Not the “female comedy” demographic.
The sketches are satirical and subversive, like a good Trump joke that seems simultaneously obvious and genius, and leave you wondering why no one’s ever made this joke before. (Because others were afraid to?). I left the show wondering: Why isn’t anyone else making fun of white male privilege? Why isn’t anyone else lashing back out at internet trolls who just CANNOT handle that “Ghostbusters” was remade with women? (Favorite line of the night: “There’s nothing I hate more than a movie with four women about men fighting ghosts.”) Why is the microbrew culture in love with its bro-ness? Why hasn’t anyone in the history of high school productions ever taken out the line in “Summer Lovin’” where Doody proudly asks if she put up a fight??
I wanted their videos to be this whip-smart or smarter, and they’re getting there. Their early sketches don’t zoom in on feminist culture but dance around silly cultural jokes (misinterpreting the universal sign language for “can we have the check,” for example), but as they begin to find their voice as female-centric and feminist, the videos get funnier, rawer, dirtier, and more satisfying. One of their best videos, “Super Tuesday,” in collaboration with Lady Parts Justice, is a send-up of beauty pageants where the contestants (in wonderfully ridiculous costumes) proudly brag about their state’s lack of abortion clinics or strict abortion laws.
THIS is what’s missing in the sketch comedy/ sketch video world – the female voice. Not just the female voice: the feminist voice. No one is safe from it. Great comedy is risky (eg, their video “Rainy Day” calls for an Obama mask, which is accompanied by a video called “Do I Look Racist?” where the girls sit around debating the complications of wearing said mask). Thank god we have some girls – women- who have the balls to do it.
Check out their website buzzofflucille.com for more info.