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 did an interview recently and thought, I wish it was a Star Hits interview, and then 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 hundred 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 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 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. All 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. You know, the size and shape of pens mean that they look large, you know, they take up some space on the horizontal, but also they can slip through any hole or crevice, and we live on this earth full of layers of buildings and concrete and sewers and holes, and which is always turning, so if you think of the world as a big Pachinko game, and pens as the ball bearing, you know that 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.
How We Prepared Emma For The Adventure Of Marriage
Meeting The Crew
My baby sister Emma is getting married, and we meet up in New Orleans to celebrate. Her bachelorettes are a combination of big-city career women and her high-school friends, and of course her two sisters, who have already been married and divorced, but are trying to maintain a good attitude. We’ve got single people, people in long term relationships, and lots of married women. Lots of advice, lots of perspectives.
Joni got married early and dotes on her two adorable kidlets. She doesn’t always know about internet slang, memes, who’s president, or other minor trivia. She’s a busy lady.
Amanda is a corporate woman, also with two small kids, who has just relocated to the midwest with her family.
Sadie, our other sister, is divorced with a kid. She’s looking for Mr. Right and has been frustrated with the men she meets on dating sites.
I’m divorced, childless, and happy about it. I disliked being married and won’t seek it again.
Asha is desperately beautiful, partnered, and a doctor. She’s seriously intimidating.
Marie is European, never married, and sometimes seems a touch naive.
“It’s not going to be one of those embarrassing Bachelorettes” we say to one another.
“We’re not going to have penis necklaces and straws. We are sophisticated people. We went to college. We like art. We’re not going to be basic.”
When we say it, we mean it.
My sister is getting married to a lovely man. I’m very happy for her. Men she has dated before have been toxic or distant. This man is loving, handy, and seems to take real pleasure in making projects for her. He is kind and smart and I am so excited to have him in my family.
The Adventure Begins
We start the first day with a fancy breakfast and doting waitstaff. We are offered $24 bottomless mimosas, but we giggle and stick to tea. My sister is wearing all white and a veil, which she assures us she will be wearing all weekend.
Marie points out that in Europe, the bachelorette party is called a Hen Night. Because so many of us are married and divorced, I identify more with Hen Night than Bachelorette, just busty busybody chickens clucking around. Joni asks if the bachelors have a Cock Night. This is very funny of Joni until I realize she didn’t mean it to be. Marie says no, in Europe the men have Stag Night, and then, I guess, a chicken and a buck get married.
We break for after-brunch drinks. We explain to Joni that sometimes people pee on each other in bed, and that eggplants are emoji for penises. Sadie is swiping idly through her Tinder matches, explaining that her only demands are that the applicants have hair and don’t demand NSA hookups. We explain to Joni what NSA hookups are. Marie wants to stop on the pictures with taut, hairless abs, but I tell her that if a guy leads with his abs, he’ll show them to everyone. I want to swipe right on a cute artist named Will but Sadie stops me. “He doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have a kid. I know that right now.” She dismisses him. I keep trying to tell her that, as we move into our fourth decade on earth, she might have to be flexible on hair. “Nothing doing”, Sadie says. “I’m not matching with a bald POS like my ex-husband.” She tells us that, hilariously, he blamed her for his hair loss. “Look”, he said, “I wasn’t balding when we met.” I laugh, but I’m also sad.
We have a day of bachelorette adventure. We drink terrible drinks. We dance to jazz bands. Our bride is congratulated, over and over. We beam with pride. We drink. We take a ghost tour. We drink. We see a psychic, and drink.
We compare our psychic readings. Asha has been told she’s very lustful, and not apologetic about it. She agrees 100%. She enjoys sex, and resents how her mother talked to her about sex, that it was something men always wanted and that women never wanted, but which had to occasionally be tolerated. She has a healthy sex drive but spent most of her young adulthood feeling ashamed.
Sadie was told that, after a terrible marriage and some disappointing dating, she is still too angry to successfully partner with a new person, that she is a teflon pan on which no-one can find purchase.
Emma’s reading is exciting and rosy, about her new role as wife and her new life.
My reading is mostly about career and goals, but at one moment the psychic cocks her head and asks, and you’re seeing someone? And I say yes, and she says, and it’s good, and I agree, it is. It may seem like faint praise, but it is good, and I’m grateful.
Yelling At Clowns
The second morning, we head to the famous Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. A colorfully dressed clown crows when he sees my sister’s veil and he starts making her a penis crown out of balloons. It is almost pornographic in its detail. This is not his first penis crown. We refuse it. “This,” I tell him, “is not that kind of bachelorette. We are not interested in being covered in penises.” He spreads his hands and pretends to be offended. “And besides,” I continue playfully, “all penises are pretty much the same. They don’t matter.” The clown angrily starts listing types of penises. “They can be big! Small! Curved! Straight!” We are grateful to be seated and get away from the clown yelling about penises.
I think we try to simplify down to penises because love itself is so scary and full of unknowns. People can change, their goals and life veer away from each other, they can fall in love with other people or just out of love with each other, so we like to simplify it. Penises it is. I get up to go to the bathroom and when I get back, my sister is wearing a penis crown. It has been given to her by a stranger. As we eat our beignets, we explain to Joni the concept of polyamory. “Is that”, she asks, “legal?” We assure her that it is. What she’s thinking of is polygamy. If you don’t marry everyone, we tell her, you can sleep with as many people as you want. She smiles and shakes her head.
SAME PENIS FOREVER
That afternoon, we have a lingerie shower. Suddenly, there are penis straws and a penis pinata and a sign that reads “SAME PENIS FOREVER.” Where did all the penises come from? No-one knows.
My sister opens all her fancy underwear and we laugh and clap.
I ask the room for marriage advice for Emma.
Joni offers, “always give him a blowie on his birthday.” I raise my eyebrows at the idea of an annual blowjob.
Asha protests. “What if”, she asks, “ you really like giving them?”
Joni blushes and says, “Oh, I guess you could do more! Just- not less.”
I tell Emma that you should always support each other. You should always try to give them the best of your time and attention. This, because it is not about sex, is boring the room. I also give them my Dad’s advice to me, which was never to do a chore that you don’t want to do for the rest of your life. On some level, your spouse is a roommate that you hope will never move out.
Sadie says that although Emma has been distracted by the wedding, that’s just a fun party. The thing to concentrate on is the marriage, that’s the long term project that will shape her life and her partner’s life. Emma nods and smiles but doesn’t really seem to take it in. Sadie and I laugh together because this is the best advice she got on her wedding day, but didn’t recognize until years later. Weddings are a lot of noise and dresses and expense, maybe to distract you from the profundity of sealing your life to another person.
Amanda offers that you should marry your best friend. This is simple but profound. We all nod. Beauty fades and they lose their hair, but when you really like each other, you’ll get through the hard parts.
“There is no long relationship”, I say, “Without hard work. Everyone has to work. The idea that your relationship will be good without work is the biggest lie of all.” Joni agrees and says, “it’s weird, all the movies end with the couple getting married and nobody wants to talk about what happens after that, which is the rest of your life.” “That’s true”, interjects Sadie- “if a couple is married at the beginning of the movie, they’ll either split up and get back together, or split up and meet other people, or one of them is going to get kidnapped or die. There is nothing interesting to Hollywood about a successful marriage.” After all of our deep thoughts on partnership, we’re ready to go out.
By the end of the second day, I am wearing a themed bachelorette t-shirt, a sash, and a light-up twinkly flower crown. I now understand how dogs feel when we dress them up for Halloween.
We are walking up and down Frenchman street, being congratulated by fellow celebrants. I get away from my sisters for a moment and rejoin them in a bar moments later.
“Where”, my sister asks, “is your crown?” “I don’t know”, I tell them, but I do know. It’s in the trash can outside.
We go sing karaoke, taking over a small room. We sing all the songs about what we want from marriage, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “I Will Always Love You” sung by Whitney Houston, and Joni sings “Goodbye, Earl” by the Dixie Chicks, about friends getting together to murder an abusive husband. I am not sure this is what we want for wedding wishes, but that’s what we’ve got. We go to a late night dance party hosted by one of the parade Krewes and have a great time before heading back to the hotel, picking our way through the streets strewn with beads and beer cups.
The last morning of the trip, I spend some quiet time with Sadie. We talk about what we’ve learned from our marriages, and how we wish we could give Emma everything we know. We love her and we love her intended, and that has to be enough. We separate, hugging and crying, to see each other in our matching gowns in a month.
Last week on International Women’s Day I posted another author’s great list of ways men could represent for women. I’m following that up with something a little closer to home.
How to represent for women in comedy as a woman:
(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.
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.
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.