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

Michelle Y. Allen on quitting her corporate job to become an Arizona Actress

Woah——- please prepare yourself for the erotic thriller that is Episode 5 of Up in Smoke (I will explain later).

Raina was going on two hours of sleep and I was functioning on a 100% caffeine so you can bet that the beginning of this episode is probably the closest we have gotten to sounding like druggy hosts of a pakalolo podcast.

MORE IMPORTANTLY—- Michelle Y. Allen sat down with us and filled us in on a couple of local films she has been working on, as well as how she went from being an IT help desk specialist to a lead actress in the Arizona film, “Dark Dignity.”

Listen to Ep. 5 of Up in Smoke with Michelle Y Allen here or keep reading below:

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After working at an IT help desk in a corporate insurance office for 11 years, Michelle Y. Allen decided it was time to switch her focus to acting.

Two years earlier, her corporate company had put out a casting call for a training video. Michelle used the audition opportunity simply to get away from her desk. After landing the lead, Michelle started to further explore the possibility of acting in Arizona.

“In 2005 I left my job to pursue an acting career and I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t even know that I wanted to be an actor, I was always very shy in front of lots of people,” Michelle said.

She went on to take local acting classes, act in local college plays, work on movie trailers and seek out new audition opportunities.

“I knew my chances of being successful were, like, zero. But that’s OK because when you have a dream and the means to follow it – why not!?” Michelle said.

After sitting down with her husband and downsizing her income, Michelle was eventually able to devote all of her time and attention to her acting career and leave her job.

Now acting in one of the starring roles of the locally filmed and produced movie, “Dark Dignity,” Michelle hopes to continue honing in on her skills. She also spoke briefly about a lot of the “hobbyists” that make it harder for Arizona to become a sustainable filming environment. (Listen here homies).

“To me, hobbyists are people who have a good time doing it, they still have other jobs, they have things that they have to do (besides acting). They’re not really into learning their craft, or learning more about the layers of the onion,” Michelle said.

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With the goal of building a thriving film community in Arizona, Michelle is now working on another locally produced film, this time an erotic thriller. (Michelle talks about how the film, “Finally You,” is helping her to grow as a producer in the podcast here.)

Her advice to actors and actresses looking to get into Arizona’s film scene? Michelle said to take classes (like the ones at Verve Studios with Amanda Melby), check the internet for ways to get involved, and to get out of your comfort zone.

“Don’t be afraid to say what you want; just go out there and do it and don’t be afraid of what people think because whatever they think doesn’t matter anyway,” Michelle said.

Specific audition websites that she recommends for finding Arizona auditions include:

  • Durantcom.com to look for auditions for crew, acting, behind-the scenes positions in Arizona.
  • Facebook for the Casting Calls Phoenix page and other Arizona acting related pages.

+++++++You can hear even more advice for women looking to get involved in Arizona’s acting scene in Ep. 5 of our podcast.

Note: We were not on drugs.

Note: Yes, the closest comparison for an “erotic thriller” is SAW II + porn.

LISTEN TO IT. 🙂

-Jamee

Michelle Y. Allen on quitting her corporate job to become an Arizona Actress