Adrienne Truscott’s visibility as a performer took a huge leap in 2013 when she debuted her show “Asking For It – A One-Lady Rape About Comedy” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show was met with critical acclaim and curiosity, as well as some backlash.
Before that Truscott was known as a darling of the downtown New York performance art scene. She made her name as one half of the neo-vaudevillian experiment, The Wau Wau Sisters, toured extensively and has been asking questions about form, composition and humor for years.
This year, Truscott returns to what she deems the “socio sexual alcohol fueled energy” of the Edinburgh Fringe to debut her show “A One Trick Pony.” She sat down with Playboy to discuss her new show, what exactly we mean when we say “rape culture,” and why women are funny right now (and always have been).
What is rape culture in your opinion?
Rape culture, as I see it, is an acceptable term to encapsulate a willful laziness and persistence in having conversations about sexual violence against women that denies its systematic existence. It’s cultural, like racism. Not every single person is ‘guilty’ of it, but because it’s cultural there is a way in which anyone can participate in it.
I think people that get annoyed with its overuse misunderstand the use of that term as women imagining a specific group of people. There are many layers seen and unseen that contribute to sexual violence aghast women.
What are those conversations you mentioned?
When somebody says, ‘But how can you say a woman’s behavior doesn’t affect the way she’s treated sexually,’ I want to say, “Just shut up and have a different conversation. We know where this one ends.”
Rape is still rampant in conservative communities and religions where women’s attire and behavior are strictly limited. When I’m performing my show, I don’t have any pants on. I’m three gin and tonics in, in a roomful of strangers – ‘asking for it’ – if you will. I don’t get raped by an audience because it takes a rapist to make a rape happen. Maybe if we could convince everybody not to be rapists we’d fix the problem.
How would you describe the sexual culture of the Edinburgh Fringe?
You mean the socio sexual alcohol fueled vibe? (laughing)
In general there are a bunch of people who are crazily talented and charismatic and working very hard and that often involves sex, drugs and alcohol.
Certain festivals can be romantic touchstones for people. “Showmance” is a jokey term that’s used if you had a hook up or fling with someone just at that festival.
‘Jet shag,’ is another one. You shag the person you shagged the last year at the same festival! It’s a traditional way to shake off the crazy amounts of adrenaline. I feel like what an orgasm does to your brain makes you really sharp and resets your clock. Sex at night makes me awake. Sex in the morning makes me sleepy. I sort of have to set an intention with it.
You should lead an orgasm intention setting workshop.
It would be like ‘The Secret.’ People could bring their journals! You could manifest how to feel after sex.
So what’s this latest show about?
Having thought a lot about rape in the last show I thought, “Fuck me, if I’m gonna make a show I’m gonna have some lighter FUN!” I want to make an absurdist romp to give myself license to be a little loose. People talk about feminist comedy a lot, but I could just call that observational comedy by half the world’s population.
Part of the reaction I got to my last show was ‘OK, lady, if you want to be a standup comedian, put your pussy away and do comedy.’ This show is an attempt at that, but I’m constantly undermined by my performance artist instincts. My pussy keeps coming back. I have more tricks up my skirt.
What’s the difference between comedy and performance art?
Comedy is funny. Performance art can be, too. Sometimes performance art has an agenda. When you set out to make performance art the intention might be statement-y. When you make comedy the main intention is to make people laugh. It’s a clearer version of gauging reception because your audience laughs or it doesn’t. In performance art your audience may have a number of different personal experiences, or you may not even care about their reaction.
But isn’t there also a statement in making people laugh?
Yes. In my heart I think even though laughter is such a deep human response a lot of people don’t think of it that way. I’m also a Freudian goofball, and I think the desire to make people laugh comes from a darker place. The first time I remember telling a joke was when I was six years old and I found out my dad was leaving. In that moment of confusion and panic, I made a joke.
You’ve said that you think it’s OK for a physical body to simultaneously hold and express comedy and desire and sexually and politics. Who are some other people that you see doing this right now?
Amy Schumer. She’s doing all of it. She’s owning, ‘I’m a woman. I’m hilarious. I’m smart. I’m hot. I’m insecure. I like to fuck. Sometimes fucking doesn’t work out. All of it.’ Bridget Everett is another one. I feel like she’s influencing what’s ‘comedy’ because she sings her ass off for an hour and it’s hilarious.
Feminism has been miscast as angry and man-hating. And women have been told we’re not funny. I know a lot of funny women who are so tired of talking about whether women are funny because of course feminists aren’t that and of course women are funny. It makes sense that women are proving that so adeptly through comedy right now. Comedy is delivering a brilliant ‘palatable’ version of mainstream feminism.