"I don't know what they want from me, it's like the less money we come across, the more problems we see."
That's a lyric I sing at the end of "Less Money Mo Problems," one of the many great tracks off the new TMC compilation album, "Get Rich or Move Back in With My Dad," recently reviewed by The Onion's A.V. Club.
The lyric mentioned above is clearly a spoof of the lyric, "I don't know what they want from me, it's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see," originally sung by Kelly Price in Notorious B.I.G.'s posthumously released hit, "Mo Money Mo Problems."
Chances are, even if you're not a fan of hip-hop, you've at least heard the name Notorious B.I.G. (right Mom?). But who, on the other hand, is Kelly Price? As it happens, Kelly Price has been nominated for three Grammy awards and one American Music Award, and yet I'd never heard her name until I looked her up. Understandably so, since Mo Money Mo Problems was by far the most popular recording she's been a part of - it stayed at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks in '97 - but no where is Kelly Price mentioned in the track's byline. The official song title on the cover of the single reads, "Notorious B.I.G., Mo Money Mo Problems, Featuring Puff Daddy and Mase."
Today, I feel like Kelly Price - and not just because I stand-in for her on TMC's parody track. But because in the A.V. Club's review of the album, not only are the women who rap on the album not mentioned by name (and there are only two of us), I'm not even mentioned by name when a lyric that I wrote and performed is quoted and vaulted as a "clever... pertinent bit." Take a look:
Good hip-hop tracks need collaborators, and Get Rich Or Move Back In With My Dad features appearances by Snakes, Hannibal Buress, Joe DeRosa, Rob Cantrell, and Aisha Tyler, among many others. McCaffrey enlists them to help tackle worn comedy topics, creating songs about hack stand-up material, working as a headliner, and a lack of cash. McCaffrey is clever and well-versed in comedy, packing a track about joke-stealing with names and pertinent bits. (“I robbed Jim Gaffigan of his last Hot Pocket”; “Ripped the tattoos off Janeane Garofalo.”) He’s also managed to mock rap from the inside—Get Rich is rife with inflated grandeur and jokes about how sampling “Wonderwall” automatically makes a song a hit.
The "track about joke-stealing" is called "How to Rob Comics" - and my lyric is "ripped the tattoos off Janeane Garofalo." "How to Rob" is the first rap song McCaffrey ever recorded - and one that features just he and I. The song idea was Tom's, but we each wrote our own verses, Tom wrote the lyrics to the chorus that I sang in the original video, which you can see here, thanks to Andy Stuckey. (The original track was produced by Soce the Elemental Wizard.) I wrote and sang the lyrics to the chorus on the re-vamped track released on the disc (recorded by Andy Barlow).
Before I continue, let me first say that Tom deserves mad props for this album, given that he co-wrote and recorded 12 songs in less than 2 years, filming videos for many of them and originating lots of the song concepts. I'm extraordinarily proud of Tom as a friend, collaborator and fellow performer because not only has he shown immense dedication, creativity and tenacity in this process, he risked both mockery and his pocketbook to bring this album to life. I'm elated to be a part of what he lovingly refers to as his "mid-life crisis."
That said, I appear on six of the 12 tracks, two of which are heralded in this review, so I don't think it's at all unreasonable to hope (and frankly, expect) that my name be mentioned by the reviewer, especially when quoting my lyric. I don't think Steve Heisler's oversight in excluding me (or Mara Herron - who is pictured - or the other guys on the album, for that matter) was intentional or malicious. We've all been listed as the "and more!" on a comedy show bill from time to time. That's not the worst thing in the world. But not attaching my name to my lyric is like not crediting a joke or a photo, and that's just bad form. Accidental bad form, no doubt. But it reinforces the fact that funny women - even when we're right in front of you - remain largely invisible.
Which brings me to the broader problem of "women in comedy," a subject I both love and loathe to get into, for fairly obvious reasons. 1.) I'm a woman and I do comedy, so I enjoy talking about our place in comedy as a sex, both in the ways which we stand out as a group, the ways in which we're individuals with varying styles and aims and the ways in which the pursuit of this branch of the entertainment industry is more difficult for us to climb. 2.) For all the reasons I just mentioned, I hate talking about "women in comedy" because it's like talking about women/blacks/gays/etc. in anything - it can be precarious to lump an oppressed group of people together and keep everyone in that little boat of oppression happily afloat. Also, you shouldn't do it cuz boys might think you're annoying, right? (Tee-hee, hair twist, pathetic puppy look, tits out, rim shot.)
Much has been said and written about the inequities faced by women pursuing comedy careers, and I don't want to re-hash all of that here and now. What I do want to say is this:
Those of you who've seen me perform comedy regularly over the last nearly eight years know that what I do is more than stand-up. Which is not meant to imply that what I do is "greater" or "better" than stand-up, but literally that my entertainment package encompasses more than joke-telling. I love stand-up; I love doing it, I love watching it, I love continually trying to master the art form. All joke-tellers are junkies in that sense. But I also love telling stories, doing characters and being musical, which in my case, most of the time, means performing funny hip-hop, either on the tracks I've done with Tom and others or via a freestyle. It's what I'm known for - something that sets me apart. And if I can't get credited for doing precisely what is unique to me, despite having appeared on both ego trip hip-hop shows on VH1 and on Comedy Central specifically as my hip-hop persona Miss CKC, then how am I ever going to get a Live at Gotham or (eventually) a Presents?
I ran into the great Kristen Schaal not too long ago and I was telling her how I was psyched that two funny music videos I'm in had been played on Comedy Central's Atom TV, saying, "I feel like I got in through the back door." She replied, "That's the only way to get in."
If you haven't read New York Magazine's interview with Kristen, you should. In it, she talks about being a woman on The Daily Show, saying, "I talk about women’s issues. It’s a really difficult topic because women’s issues is not in the news very often. It’s sort of a male-dominated world, to put it delicately.... It’s a hard job, but it’s work I’m really proud of and I hope I get to continue doing it."
NYM's Mina Hochberg goes on to ask, "What do you feel is the most constructive way to address the disparity between the number of men and women in comedy?" Kristen's thoughtful response? "To keep talking about it, definitely. I think more support for the women that are in comedy would be good. Giving props to people that are doing it right now, getting behind what they’re doing. Keep bringing it up in different places and definitely do that fight, but don’t tear each other down while you’re doing it because then you’ve got nothing left."
I'm certainly not here to tear other women (or men, for that matter) down, but rather to build up myself and other women who seem to be overlooked. These are women I have known and worked with for about 5 years - longer in some cases, shorter in a few - and who are out night after night, week after week doing amazing work in comedy rooms and in the following online videos. Please enjoy them as much as I do.
First things first! I'm not the only woman who was unfortunately not named despite appearing in The Onion's monthly comedy column, Laugh Track. Though Steve Heisler was right on the money to shout-out my bros, Snakes, he made a boo-boo by neglecting to holler at our girl Chloe Wepper - who not only sings her face off on their track, "Top Dolla (My Dad's a Proctologist)," but is truly hilarious while doing it.
Other female New York comedians who might tickle your fancy? Let's start with Ann Carr, whose recent turn as Louis C.K.'s babysitter on his eponymous show, "Louie," was brilliant. Here she is in the third episode of her web-series, "The Actress," co-written by Warren Holstein and co-starring Christina Gausas (The Office) and Tom Shillue (Comedy Central Presents).
Next up, Livia Scott! Livia has been making web videos for the last year on absolutely no budget, but using tons of imagination. They're all remarkable, but this one is probably my absolute favorite. It's NSFW, but I guarantee it'll make you bust a gut.
How about a little Giulia Rozzi? Giulia's "Message Board" video series is always great, but this episode about the depression some brides feel after their wedding has passed is not only super funny, but also a scathing criticism of America's obsession with "holy" matrimony.
Shayna Ferm is one of my favorite comedic musicians and is certainly "under-the-radar," to quote The Onion. Not only does she have a voice to die for and impeccable timing, but she's an extraordinarily gifted writer. She co-wrote (with Katherine Bryant Flaherty - another amazing talent) and co-stars in "Grease 3: Threase," currently running at The PIT. Here's a song she and I performed together at Moonwork last Spring, called "Marriage is for Fags."
Did I mention that Shayna is also like 8 months pregnant - and was pregnant when we filmed this vid? And that I have a 5-year-old? Yeah.
But enough about me! On to Jessica Delfino, the Queen of Dirty Folk Rock and other genres. This animation by Nick Fox-Gieg to her song "I Wanna Be Famous" has over one million views on YouTube - and the lyrics speak for themselves.
And now, Mindy Raf, who you may know as Leibya Rogers. Mindy has made a slew of rad vidz as herself and as her uber-feminist alter ego, but I think it most fitting to post her O.G. Ani Difranco tribute, "Leibya Spells Freedom," performed live at last year's ECNY Awards. (After all, she's a full time changer of souls - you're welcome.)
Eliza Skinner, member of musical improv group Baby Wants Candy and host of comedic freestyle battle The BEATdown with my pal Shockwave at UCB, blows the roof off the joint with her Tyler Perry audition tape. Take a look:
Finally - because this list could go on for days but this is the Internet and I probably lost you already - we've come to Desiree Burch. Desiree is the brilliant mind behind the show 52 Man Pickup, in which she plays a clever card game with the audience as she reveals the salacious details of all of her sexual encounters. She's also a New York Neo-Futurist; you can see her every weekend in their show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at The Kraine Theatre. Here she is as Jill, roommate to Michael Cyril Creighton of Jack In a Box fame. (Jack in a Box just won Best Web Series at the New York Television Festival.)
I could go on, but I won't. I'll let the talent displayed in these videos speak for me. Here's to all of us walking in through the front door, ladies.
UPDATE: I just talked to Steve, who not only updated The Onion review, but provided an interesting perspective on how and why things get reviewed. He told me he agrees wholeheartedly that women are often overlooked, that it was (as I assumed) accidental and that he has complained in the past about a lack of parity in coverage of male and female comics. We talked about the problem of even having to make the distinction that, yes, women are funny, and we concurred that women haven't reached equal footing just because Tina Fey has her own show.
If you have a project you'd like Steve to be aware of, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now I have to run. Steve and I are booked on a plane leaving in an hour for the middle east. We'll call you tomorrow when Hamas signs our peace treaty.