Alicia Swiz has little patience for the anti-P.C. pushback voiced by standup comedy’s kingmakers in recent years. Though a comedian herself, she’s tired of hearing that comics—mostly men—feel muzzled by safe spaces and intersectionality, and must walk on eggshells lest they offend marginalized groups.
“I think it’s bullshit, frankly,” Swiz says. “It’s the same critique you’re getting from these men in the #MeToo movement. There was this big article about Henry Cavill recently, where he says, ‘how do I talk to women now?’ You talk to them like you would talk to your dude. You say, ‘hi, how are you,’ and start a freakin’ conversation. This is not rocket science.
“For people in the standup community, there’s this same resistance, of saying, ‘whoa whoa whoa, we’ve been getting away with this forever, and now you’re saying we can’tget away with it?’ Yeah, basically. Sorry someone let you get away with being racist, sexist and homophobic for all this time, but times are changing.”
Swiz is at the forefront of these changing times. Raised partly in Palm Beach County, she’s back in town to bring Feminist Happy Hour, a women’s-empowerment concept she launched in Chicago, to Delray Beach. Despite its name, it’s more than a social gathering with discounted drinks: It’s a female-centric night of performances encompassing comedians, monologists, poets and improvisers that invites to “raise a drink and raise your consciousness!” She’ll host the inaugural Feminist Happy Hour at 7 p.m. Friday at Improv U in Delray Beach.
“Comedy is default masculine, because men have dominated it,” says Swiz. “And that’s true about so many of our industries. It’s important to remind people that it’s hard to see the absence, because it’s invisible. You have to try to normalize it by saying, ‘we’re going to put just women onstage. We’re not going to allow men to have a place here.’ This show is one-of-a-kind, and eventually I would think a show like this would be unnecessary, because there would be more of a balance, and there won’t be a need to amplify and highlight certain voices. But we’re certainly not there yet.”
Swiz dubs herself a “professional feminist,” a label she backs up with sometimes-provocatively named bona fides. She also hosts an online course, Intro to Gender & Media, and a touring performance called SlutTalk, aimed at reclaiming the slur in the title. To me, she described her feminism as “intersectional, body-positive, sex-positive and shame-free.” But she doesn’t pigeonhole performers into her definition of feminism; as she says, “sometimes just a woman talking is a feminist act.”
To that end, expect plenty of variety on Friday night’s Delray Beach premiere of Feminist Happy Hour, which features local comedians Noam Manor and Jackie Sanchez, poet Flose Boursiquot, and a two-woman improv comedy team known as CatBird.
As for the differences between an all-woman comedy show and the male-dominated norm, they can manifest in ways both obvious and subtle. For starters, Swiz says, “You won’t hear any rape jokes, and believe it or not, those are constant, with men in the room. Sometimes you do hear jokes and readings about sexual assault, but it’s coming from the person who experienced it. Those are the kinds of people we want to hear the perspectives on—the people who have been the victims of these things. You hear what you hear from most comics, except the perspective’s different. You hear a lot about people’s jobs, about relationships and dating, but it’s a more empowered perspective, especially around hetero relationships.”
Men are certainly welcome to attend Feminist Happy Hour, and while the experience can be uncomfortable for some, oftentimes they’ll leave the performance with an evolved perspective.
“I don’t think anyone onstage’s intention is just to make men uncomfortable,” Swiz says. “And that’s a big piece of the challenge that all feminism takes on. All men have to remember, this isn’t about you. You’re invited to be here to listen, and to maybe learn a bit more about yourself that might raise your consciousness.”
Swiz will be here at least through the winter, she says, hopefully building Feminist Happy Hour into a monthly tradition, before moving onto another location. “I’d like to keep going from city to city, getting a Feminist Happy Hour started in the community—and ideally leaving it in the hands of the capable people there to keep it thriving.”
Feminist Happy Hour is at 7 p.m. Friday at Improv U, 105 N.W. Fifth Ave., Delray Beach. Admission is $10. For information, call 561/706-5128 or visit facebook.com/feministhappyhr.