Rape is Real and Everywhere: A Comedy by Survivors brings healing and hilarity through a cross-country tour
By Jessie Hannah
Six months ago at an East Vancouver bar, two female comedians were having a beer and talking about private matters: their own rapes. These conversations happen mostly off the record. They are hinted at in hallways, teased out in therapy and whispered at work.
Putting these conversations on the record can have serious repercussions: survivors risk losing relationships, work and credibility. Rape jokes often contribute to this environment and more likely than not, the people telling rape jokes are not the ones who have been affected.
This is the place from which the comedy show Rape is Real & Everywhere emerged- to
let people find the humour in their own sexual assaults.
Survivors take to the stage to joke about their experiences for catharsis and connection. Co-produced by local comedians – yes, the ones from the bar – Heather Jordan Ross and Emma Cooper, the show takes aim at the shroud of silence surrounding rape. A silence that ultimately benefits rapists and abusers.
After three sold out shows, it’s clear the message of Rape is Real and Everywhere has struck a chord and is taking off and touring across Canada.
“If you are doing well enough that you can joke about it, you feel like you are coming out of it. A joke is a generous offer. If you are making a generous offer, you are not in crisis mode,” says Cooper.
“The process of creating a joke is synthesising your experience. It makes you process the experiences from different angles.That’s why we say that a good joke is a small victory.”
Rape is everywhere. It only makes sense that survivors’ stories and jokes be everywhere too, keeping pace.
You need only to look at how easy it was for Ross and Cooper to book performers on the show to know how prevalent rape is. The two co-hosts were able to find comedians with rape experiences from coast to coast. That these talented people are willing to tell their story in a unique and digestible way brings something new to the conversation: survival.
Some people have asked: is it okay to tell rape jokes, in any circumstance? Telling jokes, for some, is a survival tool. If people continue to be raped, most likely, this will continue to be a coping mechanism for some.
“The benefit of coming to the show is that you are supporting people because they are being strong and resilient, not because they are being hurt.”
What is it about humour that is healing? For some, it creates distance or a way to circle the painful issue. For others, it is an attempt to concisely express one key element of a complex experience. For the most part though, joking bridges a person’s trauma to their audience in an engaging way: one person shares, the other laughs.
Rape is Real and Everywhere kicks off their tour in Vancouver May 15 at 8 p.m. at the Rickshaw Theatre. Tickets are $15.00. Find tour dates and ticket info here.
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Jessie is an east coaster attempting to infiltrate west coast culture. Her plethora of disconnected thoughts is expressed most frequently in barely decipherable handwritten letters in which she writes of her fondness for olives, a quality old-fashioned and B.C. wilderness.