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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles.

20 September 2014

close enough

I've been ruminating on this for weeks, so I thought I'd post something about it here. In general I tend to believe that misogyny is a bigger problem than sexism, and I'm fascinated by what it means for people to be fully-actualized versions of themselves out in the world, liberated from social expectations based on sex or gender (or race or ethnicity or or or...).

So read on if you dig that shit.

My recent four seconds of fame on Last Comic Standing (which you can watch here, starting around minute 6) featured precisely one joke from my act. I loathe writing out my comedy, but since I had to type it up for standards and practices anyway, I'll just go ahead and copy-paste it here:
I’m married. To a man. I have a husband. I know, a minute ago I said I was bisexual, and now I'm talking about my husband. I guess it is confusing. The truth is, I dated women for years, and then I met my husband, and I was like, “Wow...... Close enough.”
[insert uproarious laughter and applause here]

After the episode aired, my real live actual husband received some gentle ribbing from his pals. One texted, simply: "close enough." Another posted "close enough" on his Facebook wall. A guy friend of mine pulled me aside and said, "I watched Last Comic Standing. I wish they'd showed more of you! They only aired the one husband-bashing joke."

Now, I'm not going to pretend that line gets laughs from a super enlightened place. "LOL, he's emasculated!" is at least part of the reaction. I often follow that up with my bit about how much said husband loves Jane Austen. Comedy comes from life, people.

But the truth is, my husband does have a lot of the qualities our society tends to associate with the feminine, and he decidedly lacks a lot of traits and interests that your typical "man's man" is expected to possess.

The dude really really loves Jane Austen. And he's quick to laugh at my dumb jokes. A partner who strokes my fragile comedian's ego is both absolutely essential and a traditionally female role to play. (He calls himself my "comedy wife," as in, "You head backstage. I'll go sit over there with the other comedy wives.")

He doesn't watch professional or college sports, and he knows next to nothing about any of them. He understands all the rules, but when it comes to players, stats, or even team names, he's just not that into it.

Even though he's an introvert, he's so kind and sweet that most anyone who meets him warms to him immediately. He has a disarming smile and a gentle nature. He loves birds and plants and books and baking.

And, perhaps most incredibly, he deeply, in his very soul, does not give a fuck what you think about any of that. I've never met anybody so effortlessly confident in liking what they like and being exactly who they are.

There are a lot of women who used to date women and wind up with a male partner. Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York City (pictured above with her family), leaps to mind as an example, and I know many others personally. Generally, those male partners tend to be open-hearted feminists who have no interest in traditional gender roles. They tend to be dudes who don't need to learn to respect women because to do otherwise would be unfathomable to them. They tend to be men who hear female voices in meetings, laugh at women's jokes, read female authors, and watch movies and TV shows with female protagonists all on their own. In short, they treat women like peers. Equals. Friends. Human beings, even.

Now, it's possible to be a woman and date a woman who treats you with a lack of respect. It's a sad fact that misogyny -- which I define as the hatred and fear of women coupled with the denigration of the "feminine" human traits that all people share -- creeps into plenty of lesbian relationships. Fortunately, the relationships I had with women and the ones I saw around me were, first and foremost, friendships. They were romances between peers, where neither person was expected to ask the other out or pay for dates or be the first to call or text after sex. Once you've had that -- once you've really escaped the gender politics of sex and dating -- it's generally not terribly tempting to go back.

Is my husband a "Real Man?" Well, it depends on who you ask. My husband is taller than me and very strong from doing squats and dead lifts. He's been known to trek out into the backwoods for more than a week at a time or chill out in a hut in the Panamanian jungle for a month. He loves Jackass and owns three huge red boxes full of tools that he actually knows how to use. Then again, if "Real Men" love Jesus, then he probably doesn't qualify. (My husband likes Jesus, but only as a friend.) Nor does he keep his quiver full or try to rule over our household.

But what is this obsession with being a "real man," anyway? As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out:

Men who have no horse in the "Real Man" race are the ones who get it. And there are many, many such men. I'm lucky to call lots of them my friends. My old pal Myq Kaplan tells jokes about it. (Watch the whole clip, but especially the part around 02:50.)

For a lot of people, calling a man "woman-like" is an obvious dig. The opening line from the Disney movie Planes is a clear example. But, from my perspective, "close enough" is not an insult. "You're like a woman" is only an insult if we accept that a woman is a low-status and weak and generally bad thing to be. I love women, especially women who also toss aside gender expectations and walk around being exactly who they are, without apology.

One last thing: The first time I ad-libbed the "close enough" line, my husband was in the audience. I made eye contact with him from the stage, and it just kind of flew out of my mouth, as if it were an inside joke between us. "You HAVE to keep that line!" he insisted after the show. "It's hilarious!"

So I did. What kind of a wife would I be if I failed to submit to my husband's commands?

10 September 2014

doing 90

No, I did not get a speeding ticket. I traversed the continent.

I have a strong impulse to list every place we went and name-drop every friend and relative we stayed with or visited, but I doubt a straight-up trip log would be particularly interesting to anybody who isn't me. Beyond that, I'm afraid my reflections on the trip would read like those of a wide-eyed undergrad returning from study abroad: "It was aMAzing. Like I like can't even, like, describe it, you know? Like. It was THAT amazing."


I did learn a few things, though, and I figure a quick bulleted list never hurt anybody:

* Airbnb is fantastic and communitarian and offers the most interesting and reasonably priced places to stay everywhere in America. It is truly a game-changing travel resource.

* I developed some one-pot recipes for camping and backpacking that I'm sure I'll use throughout my lifetime. The critical ingredient in most of them is couscous, or, as I call it, "Lightweight Miracle Dots!"

* ATTENTION COAST-DWELLERS: Visit your college friends who live in the Midwest. They're tired of schlepping to New York or San Francisco to see your hipster ass. Plus they have an embarrassment of extra space.

* If you've ever kayaked ever once in your life, then you are no longer a beginner kayaker. So don't sign up for the "No Experience Necessary!" group tours, lest you find yourself acting out like a soccer hooligan during the poor guide's safety spiel.

* We are truly in the midst of a stand-up comedy boom/renaissance, and it is happening everywhere. If you find yourself in Western New York, go see Josh Potter or Mark Walton or Rick Matthews. Want some night life in Wisconsin? Check out Nick Hart or Sarah Connor or Greg Bach or Stacey Kulow, and definitely go to the fabulous Comedy Club on State. I met and watched so many exciting, interesting, funny comics on this trip. Cities like San Francisco and Minneapolis and Chicago are known for their strong comedy scenes, and they're great, but places like Madison and Buffalo (and Syracuse and Knoxville and Raleigh and and and...) are excellent comedy towns in their own right. It's a wonderful time to be a comic or a comedy fan. Or both. Like me.

...and, perhaps most importantly:

* Find a way to break free. Whether you're taking a day trip or a long weekend or a week or a month or a year, whether you're traveling by car or plane or bus or train or subway or bike, whether you have endless resources or a super duper tight budget... just GET OUT of your routine. Do something different. Go outside. Check out the free shit to do in your town. Find a nearby city or even a new neighborhood that you've never visited and just go there. So many of the "shoulds" in our lives involve adhering to our routine, spending MORE time at home or at work or at the gym or in any of the inherently limiting and circumscribed venues of our daily lives. Getting out of those patterns and places and known knowns opens you up and makes you feel so, so alive.

Holland Lake  -   Missoula, MT  -  August 19, 2014
Ahh, the mountains of Montana!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta go harvest some limes from our backyard here in LA.

30 June 2014

and it's only monday

What a week!

I spent all of last week at our family cottage on Lake Ontario, kayaking and cooking and hosting friends and skinny-dipping and mixing seltzer with wine. I returned to civilization on Sunday just in time to watch myself on Last Comic Standing after all, which was a very big honor for me. Now I have a month to plan a cross-country move to Los Angeles, including a bunch of comedy dates across the northern US. If you're keen on seeing me, keep checking my calendar as those bookings emerge.

But I have some extra time in the mornings and evenings this month, and instead of consuming clickbait and poking at SCOTUS on Twitter, I've decided I'd rather check out your art. Following up on my previous post about the need to engage and create, I want to spend more of my time and energy enjoying the fruits of the creative labors of my friends, my acquaintances, and the many other fascinating people I've never met in person who I know from the internet.

And if you've been wanting to ask for my input on something, this is a good time to contact me. If you sent me something to look at or read in the past and I never got back to you, hit me up again now. I'm not always perfect at responding, but I promise to do my best to get back to you. Also feel free to nag me if you don't hear back in 2 or 3 days.

I'm no great expert at stand-up comedy or writing or show producing or tour booking or press releases, but I've got experience doing all of that. And as I mentioned before, I'm also available for pep talks, encouragement, and just plain cheering you on.

This is me. I jump for you.

21 June 2014

fear of a green planet

I talk a big game these days about hiking and kayaking. I even drop the c-word from time to time, as in, "We're driving out to LA this summer, gonna do some camping." On a recent trip to the Berkshires, I searched online and found a waterfall on the Greylock preserve for me and my friend to climb around in. This still feels like a big deal to me, because underneath my Smartwool socks and breathable synthetic shirts (cotton kills!), I'm very much a recovering city kid.

I'm from Brooklyn. I did not see a rabbit in the wild until I was six years old. I remember it vividly: my grandparents had just driven me up to Cape Cod for a week's vacation. I wandered into the backyard, and there it was! Just like at the Staten Island Zoo! I stood stock-still, transfixed by the panting bunny, for at least three minutes. Eating blueberries right off the bushes later that week was a second unprecedented revelation.

My urban people were not the kind of urban people who went to national parks or sent their children on Outward Bound trips to build character and provide fodder for college entrance essays. "Camping? Not for me!" my grandmother would declare, laughing and shaking her head at the notion of sleeping on the ground. Who would put up with all that? Bugs. Weather. Wild animals. Murderers. No good. Not for us.

For many of my peers, living in a city like New York takes a lot of getting used to. You have to navigate the transit system, dodge obstacles, deal with confrontation, move quickly, avoid danger. And if you're not used to banging up against loud, insane people every day, the danger can feel ubiquitous. I notice rookie mistakes, like making eye contact with some stranger who's hollering randomly or even attempting to get your attention. NYC newbies are like old people who just got on Facebook. They have no filter. They can't tell what's real and what's just noise.

I'm faced with similar challenges when I find myself out in nature. I'm lousy at orienting myself. Despite my ability to navigate cities and roads, I cannot for the life of me learn to read a trail map. Sometimes I still lose the trail I'm supposed to be following.

And I'm no good at assessing danger in the woods. Every noise in the bushes makes me jump. For years, I would cross streams with tremendous anxiety about losing my footing. I guess in my head I thought I might injure myself and get hypothermia and have to turn back or be carried out. Here's what actually happens: your boot gets wet. Sometimes your sock. But you rarely even feel it. I just had no idea.

On top of all that, I cannot understate the fear of other humans we city folk experience in an unpopulated environment. In New York, a busy subway platform at 3am on a Tuesday is about as safe as you can get. It's well-lit, there are other watchful citizens around... Meanwhile, walking down an empty street and noticing a single human figure approaching makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. That scenario constitutes 100% of interpersonal encounters out in the wilderness. Every time I tell my aunt I'm going hiking, she asks if I bring mace with me, and not because she's concerned about rabid raccoons.* It's because, in her city logic, a woman walking through a low foot traffic area is a target.

I'm so lucky that my husband and the woman I dated before him are extremely experienced in the outdoors. They taught me everything I know about how to feel comfortable in the woods or in a canoe or a kayak. These days, I do my best to observe my husband and absorb his knowledge, to retain the skills for navigating nature on my own. NYC newbies didn't grow up watching parents and grandparents and strangers and various caretakers negotiate the city's obstacles. They didn't get "around the block" privileges at age seven. They never rode the subway as kids. When you grow up immersed in something, you understand it instinctively, inside and out. It's now twelve years since I summited my first real mountain, and I still have so much to learn.

But I'm determined. The benefits of getting to know the outdoors far outweigh the horror of pulling off your first tick.** I want to get more comfortable sleeping in a tent, and eventually I hope to graduate to backpacking. For now, I scramble around familiar hiking trails and waterfalls in Ithaca, and I'm proud to say I went for my first solo kayak trip on a choppy bay off Lake Ontario just two weeks ago. My half hour on the water paled in comparison to what my husband was doing at the time (thru-hiking the Foothills Trail in seven days), but I felt proud of my little victory nonetheless.

I myself am extremely concerned about rabid raccoons.

** That first leech, however... I'm still recovering from that one.

12 June 2014

more art

Here is the transcript of an actual conversation that took place between me and an old friend at the Harvard Bookstore, sometime earlier this century:

HER: Ugh, Eat Pray Love!

ME: Have you read it?

HER: No but my friend from work said it was awful.

ME: I really liked it.

HER: She said it was totally classist. Like, nobody is so privileged they can just go do stuff like that.

ME: Which friend from work?

HER: The one I'm subbing for.

ME: The one you're subbing for because she took five months off to go to Australia?

HER: ......Yes.


Too often, women's criticisms of female artists raise the stakes from a question of taste to one of moral judgment. This isn't simply not for me; this is bad for everyone.

Stating that somebody's personal memoir is harmful to our collective cultural consciousness when her life is so similar to your own has but one implication: self-hate.

I knew it wouldn't be long before OITNB became "problematic." Girls had no chance. RuPaul is up to her neck in criticism. Meanwhile, tired sit-com rom-com stereotypes continue to dominate culture.

There's a particular sting that comes when you're trying your best to tell stories that haven't been told. You're a new generation, or an unheard voice, and you want to tell your story, or the stories of multiple fascinating characters, in a whole new way. You're up against, frankly, The Man. Dominant cultural hegemony is your main obstacle. Somehow, you push beyond that. It's thrilling, it's exciting, it's happening. Then, somebody you think might be on your team turns to you and says: "You do not speak for us. You do not represent us. People like us would be better off if you did not speak at all."

The world is unfair. No cultural revolution will ever go far enough to fix that, or even to fix what society's got wrong. We can push. We can make little dents. But we can't be the everything. We can't write the book or make the television show that is the antidote to injustice. Moreover, any story we create that realistically reflects this broken society will likely include portrayals of injustice. Those are not endorsements. Our personal experiences are still real even if they do align with the dominant narrative. Most good stories, like most lives, contain the expected and the surprising, the typical and the unique.

If your story has not been told, tell it. Make art. Forget the consequences. And there will be many consequences, and many criticisms, some blaming you for shit that happens long after you're dead. (Seriously, read this. It'll make your head spin around at least a dozen times. It's such an exemplar of the moral judgment of women artists by women critics that it's almost a primer. It's about Frida Kahlo, and it should be called "How to Find Fault in Popular Ladies.")

Don't fear judgment. Make art. Criticism is important, but we as women need to make more art and write fewer words that break down art by women.

As RuPaul says, humans are God in drag. See that in other women, and know it in yourself. Art by women can't be "just women's art" anymore when it finally hits critical mass.

We don't need to correct other women or judge them or write them off or digitally rage, at least not as much as we need to make more art. You hear it again and again: women don't submit as much.

We need to turn up the volume.

And if you need a pep talk, just let me know.