Interview: Adrienne Truscott
Adrienne Truscott is the mind behind Asking For It: A One Lady Rape About Comedy, which won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality and a Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award. If you don’t already know her work, you should. The brilliantly hilarious woman is a true performer. She is a choreographer, a circus acrobat, a dancer, a writer, and a comedian. BanterGirl was ecstatic to interview Truscott, who shared the inspiration behind Asking For It and talked about the difference between rape and rape culture, Donald Trump, and why she loves lying on the floor naked.
You didn't start off as a comedian. What brought you to this medium?
I always wanted to try stand-up. I had listened to it and watched it since I was a kid—I spent a lot of time alone and unsupervised, or in awkward scenarios, and stand-up was one of the main escapes I sought. Once I started performing, I think was really terrified of performing solo and even more so doing that without props and physicality. I think I came at comedy from every angle I could (circus, cabaret, funny original songs, even dances that I made which were funny) before I arrived at just me and a microphone.
Your show, Asking For It, is honestly arresting. How did you come up with the concept?
I know this sounds whack, but the idea to try to use stand-up to talk about rape just came to me kind of out of the blue and as soon as it did, it made perfect sense: use one of the most disarming, nimble, mainstream entertainment and art forms—a form which encourages gentle trespasses against the audience, talk about trespasses against women's' bodies, and trespasses against logic itself. It's also a form which often operates by digging into what we all collectively think of as normal and showing how not normal and fucked up it is. It also felt like by making progressive, culturally challenging jokes about it (it being rape culture, not rape itself) to an audience who might not want to hear it sort of mimics the act of sexual assault. Like, they might not want to hear what I have to say, but they are a “captive” (audience), and they have to listen until I'm finished. That sounds kind of intense, but that was always part of it. Except, I thought that by using humor and a likable, approachable character to deliver the material, people would “resist” less.
What would you say to those that argue rape isn't funny or that rape is too triggering to talk about onstage?
I would argue that they are 100% correct that rape isn't funny, but that the logic, legislation, and cultural norms about it are insane to the point of caricature and thus totally ripe for satire. I tried to make a title and image for my show that would insure against people coming to my show unaware of the topic or content—I don't want to trigger anyone. However, the notion that there is a monolithic canon of what triggers rape survivors annoys me. I have had people (honestly only ever people who haven't seen the show) say, or imagine, or claim that my material would “offend rape victims,” and I find that insanely insulting. Are we all the same? Every person who has survived assault is different: their background is different, their support network is different, the circumstances of their attack and the identity of their attacker(s) is different. So, saying that my satire can trigger “rape victims” is to presume that they are monolithic, and I find that to be dehumanizing. The color green could trigger someone. So could the smell of mustard. I know victims certainly share many aspects of this horrible experience, but that doesn't mean it makes sense to lump the healing and post-trauma evolution of the person into one monolithic entity. For many, many people humor is the only thing that opens the door to healing. Also, men continue to joke about it without warning, and I feel good about knowing I have material that can counteract their material on stage, in public, and loudly.
You have performed all over the world. Do you have a favorite place to perform?
Hmmmm. Here in NYC , I have to say that Joe's Pub has become the home for the show. It's a great room to play, and the staff there, at all levels, is amazing. The Soho Theater in London is also a brilliantly curated venue with the best bar and best vibe for comedy I've ever come found. There is a venue in Melbourne called The Howler which is rad, too. The more mainstream and diverse the audience, the more unpredictable the room is, and I love that. Although, if you think about it, that's true for all comedy, I think, not just rape comedy.
You seem very passionate about politics. How has this past election affected you?
This election has nearly destroyed me. It was so challenging on so many profound levels as a woman, a rape survivor, a human who cares about her communities and the dignity of other communities of which I'm not a part. And it was so fucking destructive on such a crass level. I can't believe Hillary Clinton ever had to suffer the indignity of being in a room with that motherfucking cretin. Like her or not, and I do, they are not equals and never will be. The fact that she had to debate him, run against him, and lose to him, I think, will be one of the enduring historical tragedies of this country. I liked Bernie Sanders as a politician and a human, but I vehemently disliked the way he portrayed Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I feel deeply that it contributed to the struggle she had in the general election, and I disliked the way he introduced the notion of “rigged” to this election cycle. The whole thing has been a dystopian hell. Hillary Clinton feels like Joan of Fucking Arc to me right now. I honestly can't believe she still loves this country. That might be what worries me most about her! I feel like I had or have a grasp of her much touted “imperfections,” but I genuinely can't understand why, if indeed, she still loves this shit-for-brains country. The fact that Trump got elected was, and is, a genuinely triggering event for a lot of women and certainly for rape survivors. When the banner went across the TV that Hillary had called Trump to concede, the sound that came out of me was animal. And my friend Laura literally fell to the floor on all fours. It's so vile. His racism and misogyny is so over the top; he has 12 accusations of sexual assault/rape against him. And for every woman who ever doubted herself for not speaking up about or reporting her rape, or for those who did and didn't get convictions, we just saw a gross, old, rich, tiny-handed orange buffoon of a fuckwit and a 12-times accused and self-admitted sexual predator be catapulted to the most powerful position in the world. That's a fucking tough pill to swallow.
What brings you the most joy in your life, both as a performer, and as a woman?
Ha! After that rant? A slow sweet death! JK! I think making a room or a person laugh. I just did a gig in Portland—of the show I made after Asking For It, which is sort of an absurdist homage to Andy Kaufman—and there's a video I made that plays while I lay face down and naked on the floor while a horrible song plays. It's so stupid. SO stupid, but intentionally so. And I know the moment is coming where the audience moves from thinking I'm the worst artist in the world, and they wish they'd never come to the show, to realizing something funny might be going on, and I feel so stupid and happy lying there on the floor naked, with my nose pressed to the floor, trying not to laugh when I hear them start laughing because I think then my ass will wiggle and then it won't be as funny. I'm so happy then. And I remembered thinking last week, while I was lying there, "This is the best."
What does 2017 look like for you?
It looks exactly like Australia. It's sort of like my second home, and I'm there from the end of January until June 4th doing a residency for a collaboration with two hysterical women (from London and Sydney) called Wild Bore, and one new piece in NYC called THIS. They're all sort of hybrid comedy-theater performance pieces, but really different. I will love doing all of that and the already made solo shows in between. But, I can't tell if it's going to be a relief to be out of Amerikkka next year or really painful and frustrating. We'll see.