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Friday, July 02, 2010

I Made Kate Clinton Laugh

Comedy is serious business.

That's on a good day.

In order to be a comedian in P-Town - a place that has been described as 'the world's largest open air asylum' - one must be, well, at least a little insane.

Case in point: Meet Dina Martina:

This is not exactly what one would call a "female impersonator" - a term usually reserved for those men who dress and look and sound like women performers such as Liza, Cher, Judy, etc.

I suppose this qualifies as drag - but minus the 'queen'.

Dina Martina could be described, I guess, as a "Drag Comedian." S/he dresses like a rather dowdy old woman whose sense of style is only made worse by her application of makeup (Check out the lipstick. Sheesh!).

I confess that I have a wee bit of a problem with Drag Queens anyway. I don't want to get into a big political thing here, and it's hard for me to explain, but I suppose it can be summed up succinctly by saying: "Male privilege by day, getting rich by impersonating/making fun of women by night."

Sorta rubs my 'inner feminist genie' the wrong way. She pops out of her bottle and makes three wishes for greater expressions of equality in entertainment.

Don't get me wrong, Drag Queens are some of the hardest working people in our community and I respect that. I have no doubt that they, as as group, have probably raised more money for People With AIDS than any other group and I'm grateful for that.

I wish they would also consider raising some money for women who have limited access to quality health care, and are more likely to work marginal jobs and be homeless than men, but I understand. It's not a perfect world.

Drag Queens / Comedians are the clowns of our community who make us laugh at our cultural assumptions about women and, in so doing, challenge our thinking about the role of men.

Sometimes, I'm just not in the mood to be challenged while I'm being entertained.

ANYWAY, I digress.

It was a lovely evening for walking on Commercial Street last night.

Well, I use the word "walking" as a euphemism of sorts.

We were somewhere between a 'stroll' and a 'stall'.

We began the evening, of course, with dinner. I had the BEST Portuguese soup I've ever eaten in a restaurant at a place called "Napi's". Hand to Jesus, it was spectacular.

We continued our evening, talking and laughing as we strolled past shops and ice cream parlors, restaurants and cafes.

Commercial Street does have a carnival-like atmosphere. Still, I was a bit taken aback by the 'barkers' in front of some restaurants and clubs.

A 'barker' is someone who tries to entice passersby to come into the establishment. "Come in! Meet Lydia the Bearded Lady! See the Tallest Man in the World."

These P-Town Barkers were calling out, "Tonight's seafood is fresh Atlantic salmon, pan seared, served with a fresh wasabi and ginger sauce, wild rice and asparagus sauteed in a wine and butter reduction sauce."

The Drag Queens were also out, giving passersby a 'quick peek' of the glamorous entertainment that awaited them indoors, while the barker stood out in front, handing cards with information about the performance schedule.

A few, like Dina Martina, were their own barkers. I'm thinking that, for most tourists - first time visit to P-town from Arkansas or Wisconsin and completely blown away by the open air LGBT marketplace - barkers could be pretty effective.

It was in the midst of such heady thoughts as these that we came upon Kate Clinton and her partner as we were crossing the street.

Okay, okay, it annoys me that some of you are asking, "Who's Kate Clinton?" It's annoying because you are probably too young to remember her. Which means I get another subtle reminder of my own age. Which, whether you intend it or not, is annoying.  And, rude.

More importantly, if you don't know Kate Clinton, you have no idea how significant it was to have had a "Lesbian Comedian" make the scene.

First of all, "back in the day" (late 70s to mid 80s) feminists were widely stereotyped as being so highly focused on politics that we had no sense of humor.  That continues today and rears its ugly little head in powerful women like Hillary and Madeline.

Back then, however, it was one thing for a woman to be a feminist and be a comedian, but it was a whole 'nother smoke to be a Lesbian Comedian - being out and open and honest AND laughing about it.

Indeed, laughing about it all the way to the bank.

I've seen Kate Clinton many, many times over these many, many years. The Michigan Women's Festival. The New England Women's Festival. On HBO.

She's brilliant. Sharp. Intelligent. Irreverent. Wise. And, very, very funny.

I owe her lots of laughs during times when it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and not fear that it was another train.

So, it was really good to be able to return the favor.

It happened rather without warning.

She was curious about the fact that my friends introduced me as the Episcopal Priest who married them ten years ago.

I thanked her for giving me some great lines for some of the sermons I have preached to LGBT congregations when I was at The Oasis.

"Really?" she wanted to know. "What lines would those be?"

"Hmm . . . the one I remember best is how the Roman Catholic Church gives you skills for being a lesbian . . . like how to get the host off the roof of your mouth without chewing . . ."

I wasn't able to finish the sentence when she doubled over with laughter. When she came up again, she was actually blushing.

She may have had the laugh, but I came home later that night to discover something in my soul had healed. Something in someplace, deep in a crevice I didn't even know was wounded.

I sense it is not a new wound. Ancient, I'm thinking. A place where life is bound to wound you, if you are lucky enough to be fully alive and love others.

The healing, I think, is something about being able to return the gift of laughter to one who has healed so many with laughter. It's about the ancient medicinal power of humor in community.

In a walk earlier in the day, I found this graffiti on a sea wall at the Provincetown Wharf.
If you can read this and nod your head in agreement, you understand what I've been saying about humor and laughter.

If you can read this and are confused and don't understand, you should probably check your pulse. I'm not sure you should be reading this blog. It could prove to be hazardous to your health.

You should know and be warned: I once made Kate Clinton laugh.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

4 comments:

Mary Beth said...

Amen.

eileen said...

Love this whole post. Love. It.

Gerry said...

Sounds an awful lot like Church-Wellsley aka the Gay Village last Tuesday and Wedensday evening when we were in Toronto.

The boyzz were out in their underwear compliments of "The Bay", the Queens were struting and the bikes were rumbling with the girlzz in the saddle.

Come onnn, gropin is the verification !!!
It was the livliest and happiest street scenes, I've seen in a long time.

StringSlut said...

Just FYI, the Drag Queens in PTown *do* also raise money for marginal-income women's health needs. They do several fundraisers each year for Helping Our Women (http://helpingourwomen.org/), including "Sisters In The Name of Love" (co-benefits the AIDS support group, Drag Kickball (happening this Wed) and a Drag Brunch.