In case you’re hearing for the first time, we happen to be in the middle of a pretty important election year. I know, it snuck up on me, too. And as if the usual white noise of platforms and spin weren’t enough, we’ve been forced to deal with the absurdity of candidates who literally refute recorded evidence of their actions and accusations of “coughing prevention machines.”
In all the ridiculous chatter it’s hard to remember that there are actual issues that people care about, such as women’s health care and abortion rights. That’s where Lady Parts Justice comes in. The organization was founded by Lizz Winstead, who also co-created The Daily Show. LPJ is committed to shining a light on the fight for abortion rights through comedy, writing, videos, and even apps.
Working in comedy while in service of a worthwhile cause, not to mention in direct contact with Winstead herself, sounds like a dream for any performer or comedy writer. Fortunately, Lady Parts Justice representatives and comedy group Buzz Off Lucille — Jenn Roman, Julie Rosing, Abby Holland, and Molly Gaebe — have some advice on how they “yes, and”-ed their way into a gig, how the moon provides, and how everyone can take part in the conversation about reproductive rights.
So what exactly is Lady Parts Justice?
Molly: There’s two main parts, I would say. The first one is smoking out douchebag politicians, especially down-ticket ones, and state assemblies that people don’t know as much through comedy, through these videos, through Hinder [an app like Tinder, but to see politicians in your area who are anti-abortion], through social media, and not being afraid to just say fuck you to these guys instead of being careful about our language.
The second part is support of independent abortion clinics all over the nation. So we’ll travel there and we’ll do support for them, and that can be anything like a party, we’ll take them out to dinner, we’ll do a show for them. And we’re going to start to do workshops, too, when we get there, to teach the community how to do what we do. Because people in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, they’re the ones who need to pay attention to the people getting elected, because their laws are the most fucked. It’s the indie clinics mostly, that people don’t know about. Planned Parenthood gets a lot of funding but a lot of the time it’s these indie clinics that are suffering even more.
Jenn: It’s almost like a USO style thing, what we do. We’ve traveled so much this summer: to the RNC, to the DNC, to LA, to Minneapolis, Buffalo, Missouri. We visited all these places, shot videos, took the clinic workers out for drinks. It’s like a traveling show, but also to support these clinics.
Taking out or providing entertainment for people working in these independent clinics definitely feels like a USO-type service, but do you think the work you do that doesn’t involve actual travel helps them?
Julie: We get to be here in New York, making comedy videos, and you think, “Well, how does that really affect the workers in these clinics, working and facing protestors constantly?” It affects them a lot. They feel like they’re not alone, they feel like there are people out there fighting for them and supporting them.
While Planned Parenthood needs to be careful about what they say, we can be like, “Fuck this bullshit.” And sometimes it takes comedy to help people to really understand an issue. And the reason we focus on State Legislature is because that’s where this shit starts. That’s where legislation is put in place that directly affects women in communities, so if people aren’t paying attention to their state legislature, to their local government, then these people make their way up the ladder to become the presidential nominee.
How did you get the Lady Parts Justice gig?
Molly: I used to work for a non-profit called the Reproductive Health Access Project, which trains family physicians in giving abortions. So my boss co-sponsored a giant event that Lady Parts Justice does every year, called V to Shining V. When I used to work with her, basically all I was good for was keeping morale high in the office, doing comedy, so she was like, “You’re funny, be a part of this show.” She suggested us to Lizz to help host the show. So that’s how we ended up hooking up with them.
Jenn: We did a big event at Le Poisson Rouge. It was a big deal. We hosted the whole event, where Janeane Garofalo did a set, Naomi Ekperigin did a set, and it was super fun. We met the whole team and they invited us over. Lady Parts is like a huge collective so they would invite us over on Sundays. It was like a writers meeting. And we slowly kept wanting to do more and more, and they were not turning us down, because they needed help. And eventually Lizz offered us a one day a week job, and then it turned into a few days a week, and then it was like, “Can you be here every day? Let’s make this a real thing.” It felt like moving in, like a relationship.
Abby: But like a lesbian relationship, because it was fast.
Jenn: The first Sunday that we went, they wanted to make a fake promo for Hinder, and we literally showed up that day, started writing it, and she was like, “Do you guys want to use our camera?” And we were like, “Sure!”
We helped her shoot this entire sketch for it, and it was so awesome because the moment we met her, it was like, “Alright, are you here? We’re going to be doing stuff. We’re not here to just hang out and pitch jokes.”
So the same day you conceived of a sketch and then shot it that day. Did you know how to use a camera?
Jenn: Well we had bought a camera for some of our sketches, so yeah, but she had asked us if we knew how to use her camera and we were like, “Definitely!” and then we turned to each other and were like, “Kind of…”
Molly: Our four brains equaled to one DP’s assistant.
Jenn: We “yes, and”ed the shit out of that.
When you were working one day a week for LPJ, what were you doing outside of that for work?
Molly: It was perfect timing because we all had shitty jobs or no jobs.
Julie: Legitimately the day we had a meeting with Lizz–I had called in–where she offered us a full-time gig, I was on the phone in my office in Buzzfeed, and then I got laid off. So it was perfect timing to be like “Oh, this is the exact direction I should be going in.”
Do you feel like you got saved the agony of having to decide between a steady job and this new opportunity?
Julie: Yeah, of course I had that in my brain, of, like, when do I walk away from this? And they thankfully made the decision for me.
Abby: The universe went hard for us.
Molly: Should we mention “Moon moon”?
What about the moon?
Abby: Two years ago, we went to a psychic together. We got our tarot cards read. The woman taught us this ancient Irish tradition to do on a full moon.
Julie: On full moons we say this chant together.
Molly: You take a green trash bag—she was very specific about that. You lift it up and you hold it to the moon, and you go, “Moon, moon. Fill this bag full of love…and money.”
Jenn: You gather it up, and you tie a knot in that bag, and you put it in your closet.
Molly: We started doing that, where we would gather under a full moon. And it’s a practice in accepting abundance. And I think it was weirdly fulfilled in this weird way.
Is it done with candles or music or something?
Jenn: Nope, just that.
Abby: I’ve done it with a mug, when I remember.
Julie: I think I was drunk coming home and I stopped by a taco truck, and I was like, “Moon, moon. Fill this taco with love and money.” And then I ate it.
Jenn: My life has gotten dramatically better from doing it.
Abby: Ask the moon for money man. That’s great for the Brokelyn crowd.
Jenn: And love. Don’t forget about the love.
Going to the RNC, or just to abortion clinics, did you ever feel unsafe at any point?
Julie: My scary moment was at PolitiCon. We went into the Right to Life panel, and there were all of these very clueless women who really can’t see outside of their bubble with regard to the issue, and I asked a question at the very end. After it ended, this old man came up to me and asked me who I was with, like which organization. I just kind of shrugged him off and walked away, because it was very jarring, and my coworker who I was with said he was a known abortion clinic bomber.
That is terrifying. Did you have any good experiences?
Jenn: PolitiCon was crazy, because we had anti-abortion people mixed with people who think you are great, and you never knew who was going to be on your side. You’d see some Midwestern dad in an American flag shirt come sauntering up and be like, “I just want to let you know…I fucking love what you do.”
Molly: And then of course there were the people at the clinics. These people are amazing, the kindest people, and they have to come into work every day through a metal detector.
I already feel stupid asking this, but are there a lot of men involved in LPJ?
Jenn: Yes, sure. There are a lot of really great men on our team. That’s also part of it: it takes everyone.
Julie: I think guys forget that they’re very big allies in this. A part of making it ok for women to talk about this issue is men also being ok to talk about this issue. You have a million female friends. You know someone who has had an abortion.
What’s next for LPJ?
Jenn: This Sunday is The Golden Probes, which will be streaming for free and at watching parties across the country. It’s an actual awards show honoring anti-choice advocates, extremism and misogyny. All of these people are coming together to present awards for it.
Will you be writing for the Golden Probes?
Jenn: Yeah, Jean Grae is our host, so we get to write with her, and we get to write some of the acceptance speeches. We’re also doing a song and dance number.
Outside of LPJ, you guys have a new run at the UCB Theater called Balls Deep, where all of you perform sketches in drag as men and play with a lot of concepts about the male space. One of the running jokes is you telling men you’re not talking about them, they’re the exception. Did you draw from personal experiences for the show, or more the stereotypical image of men in society?
Jenn: I think both. I have men in my life who are super feminists and awesome allies and really great, and then you’ll just see them slip up, and it’s like, “Woah, what just happened?” A lot of people who love our show are male, because we point it out to them and they’re like, “Holy shit, I never thought about it like that. That’s really funny. I didn’t even realize.” Guys are really willing to laugh at themselves.
But I’ve had guys who are like, “Oh, I love what you do at Lady Parts Justice, but if you ever got pregnant, you would keep it, right? You would do the right thing.” You have that kind of thing, these dudes who think they’re the exception to the rule, but also those guys are willing to learn. So we’re pointing you out [as exceptions], but odds are one of the sketches we do is going to hit on some of the shit you’re trying to pull.
You can catch The Golden Probes in person at Le Poisson Rouge or streaming on Sunday, October 2nd at 8pm, and you can see Balls Deep at the UCB Chelsea Theater next Wednesday, October 5th. More of their shows can be found here.