Ms. Foundation Laughs To The Revolution

“At my age, most people are dead!” 81-year-old feminist icon and one-night-only stand-up comedian Gloria Steinem deadpanned on Tuesday, as she opened “20 and Funny,” the Ms. Foundation For Women’s 20th feminist comedy night at Carolines on Broadway in New York City. Steinem, one of the founders of the Ms. Foundation — America’s first philanthropic fund dedicated to funding women’s rights issues — greeted a packed house who came out to laugh about injustice, and support the Foundation’s efforts to challenge it.

Over the past 40 years, the Ms. Foundation has given more than $54 million in movement-building grants aimed at raising the voices of all women, with a current emphasis on funding economic justice, health, and safety. Under the leadership of president Teresa Younger, their recent #MyFeminismIs campaign is helping to propel an intersectional understanding of feminism as “the social, economic, and political equality of all genders.” (Disclosure: I participated in that campaign.)

Here are some of the highlights of the laugh-out-loud night.

Pussy pussy pussy . . .

As the event’s high-energy MC, comedian and jazz singer Lea DeLaria set the tone of the night by making the entire audience (“Now, just the men!”) sing along to a song about a wet cat that fell into a well. Except, not. “That’s right, I’m singing about my wet pussy!” I’m not sure I really lived until I heard Orange is the New Black’s “Big Boo” ask Gloria Steinem to sing “Pussy pussy pussy, poor pussy pussy pussy, my cat fell in a well.”

Self-esteem pickpockets

Aparna Nancherla, writer for Late Night with Seth Myers and formerly Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, transformed mundane topics like New York City weather into fresh laughs. Winter “reminds me why I got into the depression game,” she told the crowd on NYC’s coldest night this year. Summer in the city (“Brought to you by: skin!”) brings other problems, she said, including an onslaught of models who should be “appreciated from afar, like a sunset” but are “self-esteem pickpockets” up close.

Ben Carson is more accomplished than we thought!

Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show and head of the reproductive justice comedy/advocacy project Lady Parts Justice, skewered everything from anti-abortion zealots to Christian craft stores. “Sarah Palin would endorse Flint water if it got her back in the news cycle,” Winstead quipped about Palin’s Donald Trump endorsement. She also treated us to the most succinct Ben Carson joke of the election cycle: he “may be the only brain surgeon who has performed his own lobotomy.”

No. More. Air. Mattresses.

Liza Treyger mused on men who ask, Why don’t women say what they mean? “Hmm,” she said. “After Henry VIII cut off that last woman’s head, they just decided to be passive aggressive.” Treyger scored points in the middle of her all-too-relatable set on dating by gamely hitting on Lea DeLaria’s backup jazz musicians. Sadly, that’s all she can score . . . at least according to her act about how hard it is for a woman to get laid if she has even the most bare-bones standards. “If I have to touch another dick on an air mattress . . .”

You’d be irritated if you had to read that script, too.

Comedian and actress Judy Gold gave a pitch-perfect rant about auditioning for a voiceover as “an irritated vagina” in a pharmaceutical commercial (“I asked the director, do you want me to do it Jewey?”), culminating in an annotated reading of the script she stole from the audition.

Kathy Najimi wet dream

A highlight of the night was an improvised bit where Judy Gold interpreted what Lea DeLaria meant whenever she’d sing a bit of scat. After every “Skiddelybopbopbop!” riff from Lea, Judy would take the mic and translate to “Kathy Najimi looks so hot in that color. I wish I could get my finger in her ass” or “I’m thinking of sleeping with a man this year. Maybe that guy at the front table!”

Not the Bill Cosby of bees

Yamaneika Saunders, semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing, worked out her feelings about a friend who is one foot, eleven inches tall confessing he was maybe falling in love with her . . . but she “wasn’t his type.” Though she’s trying to be a vegan, she said she’s frustrated that “you’re never enough” for vegans — like the friend who slapped her lip balm out of her hands, screaming, “What about the bees? You’re raping the bees!” Saunders’ retort? “Fuck the bees, I’m not the Bill Cosby of bees!”


All photos courtesy of Ms. Foundation

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