In this radio programme you are going to hear some new words. Read and listen to them.
Make sure you know what they mean.
stand-up /pregnant / stretch mark / booker / lactation
Ready? Now read the questions on the following page. Read them carefully before listening to the radio programme. [Now listen to the interview.]
Interviewer: Men have dominated stand-up comedy for a long time. But as women have come to the stage more often, one kind of performance has been hard not to notice: pregnant comedians popping up on high-profile comedy specials, late-night shows, and in clubs. Udane Castle, a pregnant comedian based in Boston, is with us today to talk about this phenomenon. Hi, Udane! Let’s start from the beginning: what is it like to be a stand-up comedian?
Udane: Good evening! I am thrilled to be here. Being a comedian is the most fun and depressing lifestyle that I could possibly imagine.
I get to perform in front of hundreds of people and work with some of the funniest people in the world. It’s the biggest rush that I’ve ever felt, and at times it is totally crazy to think about what I do and who I do it with.
But comedy also isolates you from a lot of people. You spend all day looking at the world to find out what’s funny or weird about it rather than just living in the moment and enjoying social experiences. A couple of years ago, for example, I stopped going to clubs or bars with my friends, because all I could think about was how silly it was that everyone considered going out like that to be the highlight of their week.
Interviewer: What about when you’re on stage? What does it feel like?
Udane: Everything has to be perfect. Your tone, your rhythm, your cadence, and
especially your timing. You have to be charming and charismatic even though you don’t know any of the people in front of you. You have to connect with that room full of strangers. All while those spotlights are cooking you. You have no idea how much they make you sweat.
Interviewer: You are pregnant now. Do you use your pregnancy as a topic for your stand-ups?
Udane: I do! In comedy, pregnancy is no longer seen as something that gets in the way of the act and the microphone stand. In fact, a baby on the way is now a rich source of stand-up material: stretch marks, placentas and all!
Interviewer: Tell us about your models—the people you look up to. Where have you found inspiration so far?
Udane: I love Ali Wong’s monologues—she has done two Netflix specials while
pregnant. She is hilarious when she talks about lactation consultants and diapers. I also really like Kara Klenk, a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles.
Interviewer: Is this something new? What was it like before?
Udane: It is. Let me tell you just a couple of examples. When Joan Rivers, who is
considered a pioneer of women in comedy by many critics, appeared on “The Ed
Sullivan Show” in 1967 she was carrying her daughter, Melissa. She was not allowed to say she was pregnant and was asked to wear a really uncomfortable dress to hide it. Also, just four years ago, Ophira Eisenberg, a comedian and the host of the comedy show “Ask Me Another”, said that some bookers had warned her that she might alienate her audience by talking about her pregnancy on stage.
Interviewer: What do you think has changed?
Udane: There is no comprehensive account of women in comedy, but comedians, club owners and bookers say there are more of them working today, even though they remain vastly outnumbered by men. And with women starting families later than they used to, female comics are now more likely to have established careers by the time they start having babies.
Interviewer: For women who have difficult pregnancies, I guess the travel often
required for stand-up can be a real challenge. Do you know of any bad experiences so far?
Udane: Sadly, I do. Amy Schumer, a well-known comedian from New York, announced that she had to cancel the remainder of her tour last February. She had a pregnancy complication and was no longer allowed to fly. She wanted to push through and do her shows, but she had to prioritize her health and the baby’s.
Interviewer: Do you think this tendency will last?
Udane: I am not sure. As fun as it can be to play with expectations about maternal behavior and delicate pregnant ladies, many comics, including myself, look forward to the day that an expectant mom on stage is not unusual at all.