When Adrienne Truscott takes the stage for her "one-lady rape about comedy" show Asking for It, she's naked from the waist down and the ankles up. And she is asking for it.
Truscott intentionally pushes the audience's boundaries by blasting male comics and the idea that women are inviting rape by dressing or acting provocatively.
"The only thing required for a rape to occur is for someone to be a rapist," says the choreographer-turned-comic, who Portland's Boom Arts is bringing to Headwaters Theater following her recent tours in Australia, New York and L.A.
"I'm very upfront about what people are getting themselves into when they come," Truscott says. "My pussy is out and I'm drinking gin and tonics."
WW: How did you think up this idea?
Adrienne Truscott: I wasn't thinking: The world needs a whole standup show about rape. I'd just be joking with friends about what I saw in the world or the news, and it was like, "Can you imagine doing a whole show riffing on this?"
When it was really well-received at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, were you surprised?
When people hear rape and comedy together they think that sounds like a horrible idea. But I get turned on by ideas that strike me and have potential to fail—that combination of attraction of fear. It's subversive to call this shit out.
Is it hard to market such a provocative show?
People question how I can perform this in a mainstream venue. It depends on what you call "mainstream." If mainstream means mediocre and completely safe, then this isn't a mainstream show. But how many people like to laugh? And how many people's lives have been touched by this topic? So in that way it's totally mainstream.
Except you're nude from the waist down?
I wear shoes. I'm not crazy.
How do people normally react?
I get asked if I'm worried about offending people, but hundreds of comics walk out onstage without warning and deliver the most offensive jokes. I'm all for comics doing what's true to them. It's their freedom to do the material. It's my freedom to think they're an idiot. It's the audience's freedom to laugh…or not. If a middle-aged white dude complains that his super-racist joke didn't go over gangbusters, maybe the problem is with the joke.
So you feel your show is less offensive than theirs?
The only really negative responses have been online from people who haven't seen the show. One time a young woman came to me after the show and said this was the first time she'd been able to think about being assaulted at 17 and not felt traumatized. Another time, a woman heckled me while I was onstage. The audience got upset, but most of the people who said "pipe down" were men. At a show that's about women having their voices silenced, that's too weird. I had to stop and say, "Hang on, the rest of you upper-middle-class white audience, you don't get preference."
Do you think women are making any headway on this issue?
So many female comics are killing it right now: Amy Pohler, Tina Fey, Bridget Everett, Amy Schumer, Jenny Slate. There's this hilarious rag of women who don't even question their own feminism. More male comics are even taking up a feminist angle.
How long do you think you can do the show and still have it feel fresh?
The show morphs because the world keeps updating it, our often idiotic culture. It started with male comics making rape jokes and switched into a male comic actually raping [Bill Cosby]. The most "safe" comic in the world raped so many women. Everyone thinks, "It can't be Cosby." Of course it was Cosby, you fuckwits! It's normally someone you know, not some stranger in the bushes. He's perfectly positioned—no one would expect it and no one would believe you. Of course it's Bill fucking Cosby!
And who knows what type of stupidity will come up in the world by the time I get to Portland?
Are you ever nervous about taking the stage half-naked?
Comedically and half-naked—that's my favorite way to do anything: this show, the dishes, Christmas. I find it a hilarious costume, but it's just a vagina at the end of the day.
see it: Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy is at the Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St., No. 9, 404-2350, boomarts.org. 8:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, Oct. 15-24. Am I Right Ladies? preshow at 7:30 pm. $20.