When you submit your comedy album to Pandora, like I did with my comedy album, Gothic American, they sort your tracks into little pre-written buckets for their algorithm- and the description of the tracks from my album, Gothic American, make a nice little poem about my comedy:
“BLANK with FRIENDS” is a common name for comedy shows, but it’s nice because Jackie Kashian really is my friend. I had a great show at Dynasty Typewriter with heavy hitters like Kira Soltanovich, Janelle James, Wynter Spears, Zach Galifianakis and of course- Jackie Kashian and her new Ms. Marvel jacket, of which she is very fond. Jamie Flam got a nice greenroom picture of us that I thought I’d share.
Postscript: Jackie and Laurie talked about my set a lot on the Jackie and Laurie show afterwards, and Kashian mentioned that we butt up against many of the same topics (gender issues, feminism) but that we each have our own spin on it. Apparently, my talk about butt stuff (against) led to a lively discussion in the green room between Zach and Laurie that neither of them appreciated. SORRY ABOUT THE BUTT STUFF.
I survived a questionable adolescence and young adulthood without a tattoo, and I thought, well, maybe my thing is to be weird WITHOUT a tattoo. My dumb hot goth boyfriend had BAD RELIGOIN tattooed on him at a party, which is now covered with a demon, and probably also with dirt because I think that guy’s dead now.
I am of a somewhat perverse personality- if there’s something everyone else loves, I hate it. I’ve never seen Titanic or worn acid wash jeans. Once something is a cultural phenomenon, I’ve already moved on.
When I left school, I found that every punk, every goth, every hip kid, every overpaid graphic designer, every coffeeshop-clogging creative was heavily inked. How cool could it be? I worried that a tattoo had to mean something deep and eternal. I worried about getting something that would later be dumb. My friend Bryan had a Stray Cats tattoo from the 80’s that I watched go out, and in, and back out of fashion. So, I just didn’t worry about it.
Joker’s Comedy Club
Then, one time I was doing comedy in Tri-Cities, Washington. That’s right. Three small towns: Kennewick, Richmond, and Yakima, gather their low-self-esteem populations together and call themselves the Tri-Cities in an attempt to matter. The Thursday night show had a promo table with a local tattoo shop, and they were giving away a tattoo to the prettiest girl in attendance who didn’t have a tattoo. This really brought my two worst personality traits into the foreground: I am cheap and I am vain. The nice tattoo lady said I was cute, I should put in to win the contest. I laughed and said OK. I didn’t think she was right.
I had a really good set, I blew my headliner off the stage. He was murky and resentful. I was drinking for free. I checked in with the tattoo lady. She said I was still the winner by a mile. I was feeling small-town famous.
I hung out longer than I usually do. I started thinking about what kind of tattoo I wanted. I decided on an octopus. Like on the Kraken rum bottle, although that is a Kraken, which is not real. We got ready to line up for a vote. At 11th hour, she showed up: Brianna. Brianna was 24 and had blonde hair piled up on top of her head, and was somehow wearing a pink baseball hat perched on top of that. She had dimples. I knew I had lost, and lost badly.
Brianna got a dynamic ribbon reading “ALWAYS RESILIENT” tattooed on her ribcage, which I am told is a very painful spot, and that was a comfort to me. It was executed right in public, on a rickety massage table in a dark corner of a nightclub. I started to think maybe I was glad I didn’t win.
But then, I woke up surly and resentful that I didn’t have an octopus tattoo. Complaining to my friend Richie, he told me: believe, there is nothing more expensive than a free tattoo. You’re glad you didn’t get inked in the tri-shitties. When I got home to Los Angeles, I got a birthday gift from my baby sister so I could get a tattoo at a fancy shop, from the lovely Amy Nicoletto @amynicolettotattoo, and I don’t think I could love it any more. It looks good with dresses, it looks good with t-shirts, it’s just an accessory that I have all the time, and it doesn’t mean shit.
Wisdom Of The Ages
Looking back, I realize that if I had gotten a tattoo in my 20’s it would have been for The Cure, and if I’d gotten one in my 30’s, it would have been for Nick Cave, and they’d still be great today. This is an often-overlooked plus to being someone who maxed out their taste and personal growth at 17, and will always be the same asshole, and who is also cheap, and also vain.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Virginia Jones.
Virginia, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist. I used to do drawing and writing and dance, and now I do comedy, and also all the other things. It was a relief to me to realize that these things are not in conflict-they’re all part of the same thing, being an artist. I am also fantastically up my own butt!
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work? I am a standup comedian and comedy writer type person. I started by accident, like it was a bucket list “I’ve always wanted to do comedy” and then that became my whole life. I hope people come away from my act with some kind of new idea or a recognition of a thing they hadn’t named. I have the extremely unfashionable opinion that comedy should communicate something or else why bother- I’ve seen people onstage that can generate laughter, but it’s like a trick? People walk out of the room exactly the same as they walked in, except full of nachos. I am the kind of pretentious little shit that wants comedy to mean something.
I think my jokes are mostly about unexamined social inconsistencies, and also about animals.
Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them? I think the problems of an artist today are the same as they ever were- trying to be you the best you can while the industry wants the same five people, over and over again. I think it’s a great time to be a female artist, moving from being ignored to actively reviled. That’s cool!
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork? I have a record called Gothic American. I’d love it if you picked it up on Itunes, or, failing that, listened on Spotify or Pandora or Snapchat or Instagram or scanned a sticker from a banana peel that took you to it on Youtube or something. Is that something you can do? I have a website with dates and funny stuff on it. I like it when people show up to stuff. I’m very funny, I promise. I have a twitter account, but I’m bad at it.
Growing up in Texas but *with* MTV, I quickly identified myself as a New Waver and found the lifeline for all aspirational cool kids at the time, Star Hits magazine. It was heavily influenced by its UK parent, Smash Hits, and was chock full of awesome photographs of the most important people in my life, including Duran Duran and the Cure. They called Morrissey Mozz and Madonna Madge and they had advertisements for punk clothes and rare records and everything I dreamed of.
I always wanted to be interviewed by Star Hits, and realized that if I was going to be interviewed in that style, I would need to do it myself. So, here it is.
I meet Virginia Jones in a coffeeshop near her Silverlake abode. The coffeeshop also sells perfumes that are named for alternative rock hits but cost one gazillion dollars. She is sitting on the patio, dressed head to toe in black, and drinking a Dirty Ginger, a soy milk latte with spicy ginger syrup in it. She smiles slyly and says it’s her fourth. I greet her, take off my suit jacket, brush the shaggy blond hair out of my eyes, and set up to record our chat. She says she’s sorry but she only has half an hour before she has to go do comedy in the basement of a wine shop.
Who was your first crush?
Ohhh, this is weird but it was definitely Boy George.
Yeah, I just thought he was spectacular. I still do. When I was a twelve year old, I had a poster of Culture Club on my wall that I would kiss every night before bed. When I took it down, George’s lips were clear with greasy little-kid Chapstick kisses.
What was the first record you ever bought?
The first single was Celebration by Kool and the Gang. This was about ten years after it came out, but I heard it in one of my mom’s Jazzercise classes and I had to have it.
And the first LP?
Chipmunk Punk, obviously.
Which had no punk songs, but some new wave songs and some Billy Joel. The weirdest inclusion was My Sharona, which was written about a 15 year old girl and has some semi-explicit reference to thighs, but the chipmunks DGAF.
What is your most treasured possession?
When I was living in Portland, I did a show on Christmas Day at the same karaoke bar where I did my first open mic. This is probably ten years ago. It went, as I remember, horribly, but my friend Bri Pruett, who was KJing there at the time, gave me a card that permitted me to go next to sing karaoke. That potential, the idea that I could be next, even in a bar that will one day close in a town in which I do not live, makes it one of my most prized possessions. Also, that Bri gave it to me. I’ll never cash it in. I’m perpetually next!
Do you get presents from your fans?
Yes, isn’t it weird that people give you images of yourself? But I have some awesome fan art, including a Barbie doll of me, an embroidery of my album cover, and a pen and ink rendition of me and my many interests. They are displayed proudly in my home. When I was in Portland, I used to be given a lot of weed, which I saved in a tin and forgot in my apartment when I moved.
How often do you wash your hair?
I like to wait at LEAST three days between washes. If I can stretch to four, even better. My hair is long, so every time I wash it it gets tangled and dry and is basically a hot mess. If you ever see me wearing a hat, you know it’s day four! Sorry.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
I mean, I love the idea of a three toed sloth, but that’s not really my lifestyle. I’m more like a squirrel, out there hustlin’, always starting projects and forgetting about them, and of course, looking adorable.
Ok, the last question, and this is a deep one: Where do all the lost pens in the world go?
You know, I’m glad you asked me that, because it’s something I have thought a lot about. The size and shape of pens mean that they take up space on the horizontal, but also they can slip through any hole or crevice, and we live on this earth full of holes, and which is always rotating, so if you think of the world as a big Pachinko game, and pens as the ball bearings, pens wind up:
(Flabbergasted) In the center of the earth?
Yes, precisely. And that’s what magma is made of. Melted pens. That’s what makes it so dangerous.
I effused my thanks to her as she killed her last inch of coffee and took off, yelling thanks and that she looked forward to the interview. I had to take a second to catch my breath, and, folding up her paper coffee cup into my pocket to take with me, (don’t judge me!) went home to write.
(This is not an edict. This is a list of ideas that are up for consideration.)
Easy: Don’t judge friends and peers for their clothing, appearance, weight, or age. Don’t think they don’t deserve relationships, opportunities, or success because of how they look. If you hear other people criticizing your women friends for their appearance, defend them.
Harder: Don’t judge women you DISLIKE for their clothing, appearance, weight, or age. Don’t do it to strangers. Don’t do it to celebrities. If you hear other people criticizing women for their appearance, remind them that this is a tool of the patriarchy. Remember that the joke behind calling someone a Cougar or a MILF is the sheer absurdity that anyone over thirty could be sexually attractive to anyone when they’re all worn out and shit, and by extension that our looks are what we are worth.
Hardest: Don’t judge yourself for your appearance, weight, or age. Don’t think that you don’t deserve anything because of how you look. Don’t allow yourself to be treated badly. When you truly reach this level, you’ll see how we’ve all been getting less than we deserve.
Vote for Women
Easy: When you’re out at comedy shows, write down the names of women you find funny. Tell them that they are. Tell other people.
Harder: Book those women on your shows. (Still pretty easy!)
Hardest: Support shows with women, queer, trans, or other minority comics on the bill. Let the bookers know you appreciate the way they book their shows. If diverse shows put butts in seats, they will continue.
If woman-headlined shows put butts in seats, they will continue.
You don’t even need whole people at the show. Just butts.
Talk About Booking Women
Easy: When you’re booked on a comedy show and you see that you’re the only woman booked, ask the booker why. Offer to share with them your list of amazing women you’ve started writing down the names of from the last tip.
Harder: When you’re on a comedy festival with fewer than 20% women, ask why? Do they need your help promoting to women to submit next year?
Hardest: When you get booked on a TV show, and you’re on set and you see less than 20% women on the crew or staff, ask why? When you’re hired to write on a TV show and you notice you’re the only woman writer, ask why?
Don’t let men talk shit on other women. Especially if you’re new, you’ll hear men talk about women fucking their way onto shows, fucking their way into festivals. Reject this. Don’t let men tell you how other women are crazy. Don’t let them tell you that you’re the only chill one. They’re trying to pit us against each other so we continue to be divided and weak. Thanks doods!
So you can see that feminism is more than just really, really liking Beyoncé, but it’s not impossible. We can all represent for each other every day. And also Beyoncé.