Comedy night provides safe space for laughter

by Marie Veillette

Comedy night, hosted by the Women’s Center, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the MSUM Campus Feminist Organization last Thursday, featured two comedians and offered a break from the usual seriousness that surrounds conversations about gender and sexuality issues today.

The show opened with a local comedian, Janna Syverson. Though she joked about being “a gay Indian” and the struggles of the dating world, her act covered issues any college student could relate to including dealing with the fact she is paying for an apartment that is so small it is “one bathroom away from being a heated storage unit.” Her “Minnesota mom rap,” spoken with the appropriate accent, drew waves of laughter from the crowd, but she left the audience with a serious sentiment.

“I think it’s super important …to know yourself … I think everyone should try to be OK with themselves.” 

With that, Jessica Sele, the main act of the night, took the stage after a short introduction from Syverson.

Sele’s act covered similar topics as her opener. Though she was introduced as being a feminist, she said she didn’t realize it until she went to college and “was shown the light.”

She admitted she “grew up very conservative, and homophobic, even.” Being raised by her conservative grandparents did not allow for much diversity in opinion. Sele said she had written an essay about why the United States should enter into war with Iraq shortly after the World Trade Center was destroyed. Her grandparents loved it so much they sent it to Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly, who read a snippet of her writing on air, earning her a TV credit.

“That’s why I’m hoping this comedian business works out,” Sele said, adding she wants the world to know she has changed since she wrote the essay.

Sele said her grandparents were worried when it came time for her to go to college because “the liberals will brainwash you.”

She joked that it obviously worked, “because reading peer-reviewed research is the best way to brainwash.”

Her act touched on issues of consent, sexual orientation, body shaming, sexual harassment, cat-calling and body image, but kept the conversation light in spite of the heavy content.

She mentioned an ex-boyfriend had told her she should do something to tame her hair, but she snapped back wittily, “There is no genius in history that has ever done anything with their hair,” citing Einstein as her main example.

Sele lives in Oakland, Calif. where she does standup comedy across the West Coast. She is also one of four hosts of a weekly live standup show called The Missionary Position held in San Francisco. She has performed at famous venues like The Great American Music Hall, The Oakland Metropolitan Opera House and The Chapel.

Comedy night took place as part of the lineup of events celebrating Women’s History Month in the series called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” Like the MSUM Campus Feminist Organization on Facebook to see more upcoming events.

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