In the working class town of Somerville, which is fast becoming yuppified, lives a very hip neighborhood called Davis Square. There nestles Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theater. Jimmy Tingle, one of the top social satirists in the country (he used to have the Andy Rooney slot on “60 Minutes”), decided to add theater mogul to his resume and opened a community theater that gives a stage to political and edgy entertainment. Recently he presented the 8th annual performance of “Colorstruck” for our delectation, giving us the rare opportunity to see nine of New England’s most accomplished women comedians of color on one stage. Would you like to listen in?
Coleen Galvin as the MC kept the program moving at a pace – once, that is, she finished her own long opening set. She had a lot of self-deprecating jokes, bantered aggressively with the audience and had great come-backs to all disruptions. “Where’d you learn to whisper?” she asked one embarrassed guy, “In a helicopter?”
First up was Janet Cormier, a transplanted New Yorker living in Jamaica Plain, Massachsuetts, who later told me that her incisive political approach to stand-up limits her gigs. “Everything’s so polarized right now that the political stuff is touchy,” she admitted.
She hit some great topics, from the Big Dig to the intersection of two GWs (global warming / George W) to the attempt to get Condoleezza Rice a date: “First they said she was a lesbian, but the lesbians said, ‘We’re not having any of that.’”
Boston’s Sandy Asai discussed her own low self-esteem at length, insisting she’s a walking disaster. “Alcohol has some bad side effects,” she confesses. “Some people get headaches. I get pregnant.” Most of the comedians ragged on men – being straight they have many reasons to. Said Asai, “When guys come up to me and say, ‘You’re hot,’ it doesn’t mean I’m sexy. It means I have a vagina.”
The person who brought the house down was Sheila Jackson. Living in Rockport, Maine means being a member of a miniscule minority. Like Sheila and two other blacks, total. When she realized she had been single the entire 15 years she had been living in Rockport, she suddenly thought to herself, “Maybe I should consider dating outside my race.”
After intermission, Sheila Jackson came back as Princess to do an imitation of Prince, complete with skin-tight pants revealing that she was packing, donning a dildo tucked bulgingly down her right thigh. She lip-synched the audience into hysteria. She is a very, very funny woman.
Esther Ku was up next, telling us, “Welcome to the yellow portion of the show.” Being a new weed smoker, Ku now has regrets: “I grew up on piano lessons and math problems, when I should have been getting high.” A Boston girl, she’s now living in NYC.
When Deb Farrar-Parkman, an Emmy Award winning producer and writer from Dorchester, Massachusettes, saw that her allotted 10 minutes were running out, she lamented that, “Time flies when you ain’t picking cotton.” She talked about what it is like (mortifying!) for an African-American woman to have a flat ass and about her family. “I have two daughters. One is named You; the other is named Not You, The Other One. And there’s my husband, who I call, Why You?”
Everyone could relate to Jennifer Ruelas’ stories about her first winter in Boston after she moved here from Phoenix, unprepared for the cold. “I came to Boston in December because I’m a genius. My first winter I went through 10 or 12 bras, because my nipples kept ripping through them.”
The elegant Bethany Van Delft wrapped up the list of performers with her take on being mixed-race. “I come from the capitol of Puerto Rico – the Bronx,” she told us, “I keep it easy. I say I’m black because the only white thing I do is listen to hip hop.”
Because a gathering of women comics – let alone women of color – is unfortunately so rare, it’s probably worth a trip to the Boston area next year. The perspective of these wits is one that the world needs rather desperately. And if laughing so much makes you have to pee, like it does to me, Jimmy Tingle has admirably provided sufficient bathrooms to do it in without a long wait. That makes it a perfect evening.