Black Laughter Matters: An interview with Comedy Historian Bambi Haggins

Labeling herself as “comedy nerd since birth,” Dr. Bambi Haggins, the author of Laughing Mad: The Black Comic Persona in Post-Soul America, joined Raina and I for episode eight of Up in Smoke.

Bambi has worked as a historical consultant for Showtime’s Why We Laugh: Funny Women and as a writer for HBO’s Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley. She also is a PhD-vetted film and media studies professor, who teaches “Comedy as a Social Discourse,” in which students explore the ways that comedy has both directed and dissected history.

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Whoopi Goldberg + Bambi (Nbd).

“One of the things as a film and media studies teacher, sort of my raison d’etre, is to turn out conscious media makers,” Bambi told us during the show.

The class ends with the all-student comedy show, “Standing Up for Discourse,” giving many students the option to try stand-up comedy for the first time. The class comedy show also gave Bambi the opportunity to put her comedy historian skills into action, pushing her to also try standup for the first time, she said.

“I did standup for the first time at the same time that some of my students were doing it,” Bambi said.

Bambi is now in the process of writing her latest book, Black Laughter Matters, which focuses on comedy and blackness in the age of Obama and beyond. While her prior book, Laughing Mad, focused on comedy from the Civil Rights era to 2007, Black Laughter Matters is aimed to dissect what comedy has become in the last decade.

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Bambi and her dog Willow.

The result of November’s election have forced Bambi to pivot her prior narrative of Black Laughter Matters, which she spoke more about during the show.

Bambi had originally focused the book on the progressive surge for people of color as an escalating force in the last decade, but is now going back to also record the fallout to some of that power in the last few years, she said.

“When you look at the sort of ‘white-lash’ that took place, I feel like I have to go back and look for the ways in which we suspected this could happen,” Bambi said.

Nonetheless, Bambi has continued to use her position in academia and her comedy expertise to raise questions for both her students and readers about if a comedian’s mic is “a tool or a weapon.”

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She also spoke about her admiration for female queer comics of color and the current over-saturation of ‘club’ comics.

——–which you can listen to here.

Bambi ended her talk with some numbered bullet points for anyone itching to try standup but still too scared to do it, as she once faced those same obstacles:

  1. Watch as much comedy as you can.
  2. Don’t be afraid to think about what you want your comedy to convey.
  3. Do it. Do open mics, do storytelling nights, plays— any space that there’s a microphone and you can tell jokes, do it.
  4. Remember that it’s gotta come from who you are – speak your truth.

You can follow Bambi and find out updates about the release of Black Laughter Matters via Facebook.

ALSO —Raina recently released her latest documentary, Unsinkable, which focuses on four amateur comedians doing shows across the states. Check it out!

ALSO ALSO — I am currently drinking overpriced coffee in the city of dirty glitter and Skid Row — so message me if you are in town!!

–Jamee

 

 

 

Black Laughter Matters: An interview with Comedy Historian Bambi Haggins

AJ Odneal: the ukulele folk artist on a mission to create more diversity in Phoenix

AJ Odneal is the only voice I wanted to hear after the chaos of graduation (which Raina, Jaye, and myself all endured this month… WHOOO!!).

Instantly Raina and I were relaxed by AJ’s beautiful-neo-folk voice and then blown away by the fact that she pay$$$ her rent through her music and live performances – IN THIS DESERT WE CALL ARIZONA.

Btw—this podcast episode begins with an original song by AJ, “Growing Old.” Watch her video below and then listen to Episode 7 here.

 

 

AJ is a VIP member of that small group of talented people that make their living off of their talent (that’s not really a club don’t @ me) — and she’s only 22. Her weekly shows have given her financial stability, with her first paycheck coming to her during her freshman year of high school.

Plug: You can check out some of her music here, or listen to a sample during Episode 7 of Up in Smoke here.

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Despite her God-sent talent, the creative control that AJ currently has over her music has kept her from signing a label or even wanting anything to do with that side of the music industry. She spoke specifically about the downsides of being attached to a major label during the show.

“They own you– what you look like, what you represent, what you’re allowed to say, what you’re allowed to do, and they can change it all on you,” she said before further going into how she has seen it effect similar people in her position.

“As a woman of color I run the risk of either being forced into a stereotype or being changed in a way of like, straightening my hair. I have a lot of friends who are in businesses where they try to be on film and they tell you, ‘Well, don’t go out in the sun because the darker you are the harder you are to cast,’” she said.

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The anti-stereotype stand that AJ has taken with her music career correlates with her bigger goal: to see more women that look like her in the entertainment and music industry.

“That’s very important to me as someone who didn’t have representation growing up as being like, this little mixed brown girl. I didn’t get to see myself a lot on film, so whenever I’m making videos I’m always trying to become more diverse with each one,” she said.

And her music videos are awesome — so if you have not already watched the one linked to the top of this page then you should reconsider your life choices.

AJ also talked about her pen pal (listen to hear more on that) and spoke about a few specific instances of “well-intentioned” racism that she has faced from some of her Arizona audience members in the Valley this past year.

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And AJ’s advice for similar ukulele playing artists? Know what your end goal is and reach out to older musicians and learn from their mistakes, she said.

(side note :she plays a lot of other instruments besides the ukulele)

LISTEN TO EPISODE 7 HERE.

Raina’s band stories also made their way back to the podcast, as she knew AJ in high school — so keep your ears open for that and then ask Raina to do a band reunion show.

Also, may I suggest that you follow/ stalk/ tweetlisten to AJ Odneal if you want to add some Zen to your day or if you need another reason to get a pen pal.

 

AJ Odneal: the ukulele folk artist on a mission to create more diversity in Phoenix

You can thank Hattie Hayes for creating the only all-women comedy show in Arizona

If you are looking for a professional Mickey Mouse rap song or in need of a little bit of a push to go to an open mic and test out your comedy material then you should DEFINITELY listen to Episode 6 now.

Episode 6 of Up in Smoke features….the wonderful…….female……….comedian + producer + actress……HATTIE JEAN HAYES! She will give you the run-down on her experiences wandering the streets of downtown Phoenix, starting the all-female comedy show Ladykillers, and make you laugh.

—So, go listen to the show then come back to finish reading this por favor)–

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*She also can roller blade*

Hattie has worked all-angles of the creative desert octagon that is Arizona. She is the co-creator of Phoenix Educational Programming, (the LLC behind Pep-rally), the co-producer of The Storrs Objection (the fact-checking comedy show that has been featured in several big festivals including the Big Pine Comedy Festival and Brooklyn’s Cinder Block Comedy Festival) and the creator of the only all-female comedy show in Arizona, Ladykillers.

Hattie was teleported (yes) from Missouri to downtown Phoenix four years ago, not knowing a single Phoenician.

“My freshman year (of college) I did a lot of wandering around by myself,” she said on the show (which you can listen to here).

She credits a lot to her downtown journeys, including her involvement in the local comedy scene, her experience as a slam-poet hostess at Lawn Gnome (R.I.P.), and her most recent acting role at the Space 55 show, Remote Control, to her street-wandering experiences. 

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*A rarely seen photo of the creator (Matt Storrs) and producer of the Storrs Objection*

(Note: I have yet to evolve from wandering around solo so if you need someone to wander with hmu).

Flash forward to today, where Raina and I got to ask Hattie every question that we ever had about the orgins of Ladykillers (which is hands-down the loveliest comedy show in Arizona, this is not a plug but a fact).

After discussing the need for a woman-driven comedy show with other female comics of the Valley, mixed with the overwhelming amount of Arizona comedy shows that will not book women (don’t be that dude we will kill you) and bookers who argued that “there are not enough female comedians to have one on every show” for a monthly show, Hattie decided to create her own, and that’s how Ladykillers was born.

“One of the things that people say that really bothers me is, ‘Oh, I don’t want to specifically ask for women (comedians), that’s pandering,” and I’m like ‘No, it’s not,” Hattie said.

Her diversity-driven show goes above and beyond to find and showcase female comedians of all kinds, including those who identify as trans, queer, or non-binary. The goal of the show remains to create a supportive environment for new comics and further show off the very funny female talent of Arizona.

“More people and friends of mine come to the show to support because they know that it’s not going to be two and a half hours of dick jokes,” Hattie said.

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(#NotAllMen note: we love men comedians who love female comedians and support diversity)

Through the creation of Ladykillers, Hattie has also helped other female comedians to meet each other, further strengthening the female comedy presence of Phoenix. She also is very supportive of any woman looking to dip her toes into the comedy pool (desert).

“If you’ve never done comedy before and you want to try it, just email me and I’ll say yes. I’ll give you three minutes and if you’re phenomenal, which has happened, I’ll give you five,” Hattie said.

Hattie also talked about the power of “going with your gut” with whatever creative project that you want to see happen and not overthinking it.

“If you want to see something creative come to fruition and you don’t do it, it’s never going to get done,” she said.

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*A rarely seen photo of a legend in the making*

You can catch Hattie this summer at the Laugh Riot Girl Festival in LA in June, the Storrs Objection this summer in St. Louis, and stay up to date on the other awesome things she is doing by following her on Facebook here or Instagram here.

Also: I can confirm that Ladykillers is a great place to work your funny-girl thots and the main reason that I got better at comedy so buy her lunch and email her!!

But start here and GO LISTEN TO EPISODE 6 OF UP IN SMOKE!!! It will make you funnier.

-Jamee

 

 

 

 

You can thank Hattie Hayes for creating the only all-women comedy show in Arizona