Meet The Woman Behind The Comedy Show About Rape You Need To See

Comedienne Adrienne Truscott says she was sick of hearing the 'she was asking for it' justification when it came to rape


by Kieran Yates |
Published on

Comedian and performer Adrienne Truscott is doing a show about rape. What could be funnier than that, right? Dressed in false lashes, blonde wigs and layers of padded pink bras, Truscott drinks and swears her way through an hour-long show at the Soho Theatre, getting laughs from the unlikeliest of subject matters. Oh, and she has her vagina out the entire time.

Fresh from taking her show through Melbourne, Truscott makes jokes about the absurdity of rape whistles ('When you join university, they give you all the tools you’ll need: A reading list, a map of the campus and a rape whistle!'), rape as 'the new black' ('It’s everywhere this year, right?!') and rape-shaming a few male comedians. Between exposing her anger (and bush) on stage, Trustcott manages to be both likeable and soft, while talking about poignant feminist issues without being preachy. We spoke to her after the show about bush maintenance, the woman under the wig and how she's managed to create comedy from rape jokes.

The Debrief: Do you think that there has been an increased global feminist rhetoric, which has meant that your stand-up particularly resonates at the moment?

AT: I do. I think it seems like the last couple of years have been pretty intense in a bad way for issues around sexual assault internationally, but I also think they are coming to light so much more frequently and quickly because of the internet. Women and men who are feminists just sort of think, ‘Well, this isn’t OK,’ and the more people say that, the more the word ‘feminist’ gets to mean what it actually means and not all the stupid things that culture seems to have placed around the word.

How do you think the feminist conversation has developed?

I think the conversation has broadened a lot. Certainly second-wave feminism had so much to do with the workplace. I feel like the late '80s, '90s and '2000s, it went through this tricky, unpopular era – at least in the States, where conservatives managed to misconstrue its meaning. But then I feel like, in some ways, the younger women struggle to sort that out, to expand the conversation and say, ‘Well hold on, some of this is too limiting for us.' You had to walk younger women through, ‘Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you don’t like men!’ But ultimately it has a pretty expansive definition and a better understanding from one culture to another than it used to.

**Throughout the play, **Truscott stands upside down and projects faces on her vagina using her bush as stand-in goatees. So talk us through the decision to be half-naked on stage...

I had played around in a purely comedic way with the gimmick of the videos and the goatee. And then I thought about how using that same device could be useful in this show and be another funny layer of a guy talking, who I may or may not agree with, depending on which video it is. I might be celebrating them or just simply commenting on them, but they are attached to my pussy. My pussy is sort of speaking, and it shows how it is to hear their words through my pussy. It’s a bit awkward, but that’s sort of the gist of the metaphor.

Also you’re aping what it means to be 'Asking for it…'

I have to say that if I hear a guy start making that argument – that she was asking for it – when discussing rape, I pretty much know that I don’t have a whole fucking lot to say to that person. I have engaged a couple of conversations online about it and you’re like, ‘Can you please name another time in history when a man wasn’t given full credit for his actions?’ Do you know what I mean?

If you look at great inventions or historical moments, men usually get given credit for it. So I get a little prickly when the one time we get credit and they don’t is in the case of a rape

If you look at great inventions, or historical moments or any of these sorts of things, men usually get given credit for it. So I get a little prickly when the one time we get credit and they don’t is in the case of a rape. When people say, ‘You were asking for it,’ you say, ‘OK, really? How do you work it out when there’s a woman dressed from head to toe with only her eyes showing, unable to drive, or go to school or anything, who still gets raped?' It is a plague the world over in every culture we know and it goes from sanctioned punishment to armies employing it to decimate a village. So I felt like the logic is, this is me, I’m not just wearing a mini-skirt, I’m actually the main point of offence. I’m out there, I’m drinking, it’s a room full of people, it's a night, anything could happen. But actually, it’s probably not going to happen because the key ingredient is the rapist.

There is a really palpable discomfort in the room at some points. How do you feel about that?

I really love when the room has a bunch of different people there for different reasons. I don’t judge the reasons that they've come and I want everybody to feel welcome. A table of women might look at a table with one guy sitting by himself and go, 'Oh, that’s weird,’ but I’m expecting them. I like that tension in the room and I think it helps everybody in the room if I playfully acknowledge and try to put everybody at ease a little bit.

Talk to me a little bit about your process of writing the stand-up, because obviously there’s a lot of satire that takes place and you use feminist terms like ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘legitimate rape’. What came first – the comedy or the feminism?

I’ve been a half of a double cabaret circus act called the Wau Wau Sisters for over 10 years and we play around with things about women’s bodies. It’s always been a bit of a thorn in my side the way we discuss rape in the culture and I had never seen it discussed in a way that was satisfying to me. I didn’t even really know I was writing it – I made a joke to a friend of mine and then a couple more came out, so it was sort of immediate. It felt edgy and intense and we had that ‘I can’t believe I just said that’ kind of feeling. The absurdity of the way we talk about it can be funny, because it is just so fucking ridiculous to us sometimes. Satire or parody of something like that is the next thing in between total fury.

It’s very clear when you take off the wig and layers of pink bras at the end of the show that you, in real life, are a very different kind of woman. How important is it to have those two identities on stage, because you reveal both of them?

I think it’s really important because the women I’m lucky enough to call my friends are really funny, quirky, twisted, dark-humoured people, and that’s what I love about them, and they’re really multi-layered. You can be happy with the world and angry with the world at the same time, and you can have a lot of love and open-heartedness, and you can also turn on a dime and feel furious about something. So, in some ways, I feel like I’m just being myself and being like a lot of other women that I know, which is to say being a multi-faceted human. I’m not going to play out only one version, like only hyper-femininity, or only angry comic.

You have a bush as well! I was thinking if you were aping porn, you might have nothing. Was that a decision that you made or something you thought about?

It’s got to be a goatee, that’s one thing. There are other icons who don’t have a beard, and it’s occurred to me that it might be funny, particularly when doing people with a cleft chin. Somebody like Kurt Douglas, I thought about that when I thought about how different women tend to their bush and some have nothing, and I thought that’s sort of like a cleft chin, not a goatee. That’s one way to go, but I thought I’d keep mine – it needs to be visible and function as a goatee.

**What’s your favourite joke from the play – or one that you ******particularly** like performing?**

Lately, it so obvious, and it’s not even a joke and it’s just come into the show recently, it’s right at the top, and I say, ‘How’s everybody doing?’ and they reply, ‘Good,’ and I say, ‘Thanks for coming – and fuck, I bet you didn’t think you’d hear that at the rape show!’ It’s become my favourite because it’s right at the top and it lets people know that I’m going to talk about some serious shit, but I’m not going to take myself seriously.

In terms of the phrase ‘asking for it’ as a mode of rape justification, do you feel like that’s used less as a justification these days? Or do you think you hear it just as much?

I’m absolutely amazed by how much I hear it. The Steubenville casebeing one of the most obvious reference points. A similar thing happened recently, and I’m like, 'I don’t understand what’s going on that young men who are 16, 17, 18 are feeling like that.'

What, ultimately, do you want people to take away from your show and what would like to see at the end of this run?

I feel like I’m getting everything I could have hoped for. I’m having a really good time doing it and I feel great. It feels like such a sneaky trick I’ve pulled off to get to say all these things out loud to a room full of people that are interested enough to come, whether they share the same disposition that I share or whether they don’t or whether they just want to see a naked lady. There are so many amazing women doing comedy. Whether they call themselves feminists or not, they’re doing comedy, including much more female experience or queer experience or transgender experience. Just the fact that the world seems to be laughing at what women comics are presenting – at the absurdities of being a woman in the world – makes me happy.

Adrienne's show Asking For It is on at Soho Theatre until Saturday. Get tickets here.

Follow Kieran on Twitter @Kieran_Yates

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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