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

Arizona’s hidden hero behind “Queer Girls”: Creating a more inclusive desert through photography

On the fourth Episode of Up in Smoke, Marjani Viola Hawkins was on her 47th model out of the 50 total to be shot for her first photography book, “Queer Girls.”

Queer Girls is a film photography book that Marjani has been putting all of her time and energy into in hopes of creating a more inclusive LGBTQ environment in Arizona.

“There needs to be a safe space for queer women and also queer women of color,” Marjani said.

The book focuses on any woman who does not identify as straight and gives the models involved the option to be photographed fully clothed, in their underwear, or semi-nude (Check out some of the photos here).

Marjani sat down with Raina and I and talked to us more about the creation of the book, her own experience as being a queer woman of color, and how to obtain pro-feminist socks.

Listen to Ep. 4 of Up in Smoke featuring Marjani here.

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She also spoke with us about the reactions she has received when bringing up the book in an ultra-conservative Arizona environment (shocking but it’s actually been mostly positive thus far) and some of the current challenges she has faced within Arizona’s LGBTQ ecosystem.

“There’s not really a strong, safe space place for women within the LGBTQ community, it’s very centered on the male experience and the male voice. I wanted to create something that is just for women and centered on women.”

The casting process for the women was completely open and Marjani asked anyone interested to reach out. She has since faced some backlash for the amount of white women featured in the book, but said that that was just a result of making it as inclusive as possible and that the women featured in the book were the only women who reached out to her.

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She also spoke briefly about one of the book’s sponsors, One*n*Ten, (One*n*Ten is a national LGBTQ nonprofit focused on empowering youth in various cities, Phoenix being one of them), and the workshop she will be doing with them over the summer.

(Listen to Episode 4 here)

We also went back in time for 2.7 minutes and Marjani talked about starting out her photographing career in high school (all in Arizona) and using her friends as models. (Fun Fact: Raina was the first girl photographed by Marjani for a webtorial in Circus Magazine and Raina is also in the Queer Girls book so GET HYPED.)

Flash forward to now and we have the hidden hero giving advice to other photographers looking to start a community-centered project in Arizona:

“You have to be extremely focused, nothing that I have ever done has just been by chance,” Marjani said.

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She also spoke about her goal of doing ten things everyday to move her career forward and some other solid creative women career advice…..but you should stop reading all of this advice and instead listen to Episode 4 here.

OR FIND OUT WHERE TO GET FEMINIST SOCKS HERE! (hehehe this is how I am tricking you once again to listen to the podcast).

And be sure to check out the Queers Girls book website here and Marjani’s amazing photography on her Instagram here.

–Jamee

Arizona’s hidden hero behind “Queer Girls”: Creating a more inclusive desert through photography