2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival:
• Laura Davis—Pillow of Strength
Posted on 04 April 2014
Laura Davis is cute and girlish. And like some comedians who ooze boyish charm, she is intelligent, insightful, and quick-witted with some important things to say. She is equal parts comedian and artist in her efforts toward making people think and feel, as well as laugh.
Her show Pillow of Strength could be seen as an expression of feminist concerns, but it goes so much deeper, since the issues affect all of us. She goes from discussing abuse of power in a relationship to abuse of power by the media and advertisers. We are all made to be somebody’s “bitch” in our current system.
When approaching social/political commentary in comedy or elsewhere, if we are serious about a desire to create change, we need to think about the processes that make it possible. In that way our commentary can be stronger and more useful.
The first step is locating the problem. We all love to think how clever we are, because we know enough to judge others. This is not the same as having insight and recognising the bigger picture. Davis for instance was completely aware that the issue isn’t whether a woman should be fat or thin, but rather no one should be judged for aesthetics or the attributes with which they were born, whether it’s weight, gender, ethnicity, ableism, etc. The quality of a person’s character, something they choose and develop, is much more important.
The next step is to propose and develop solutions. This doesn’t happen very often in comedy, but upon occasion someone throws out an idea “so crazy, it just might work”. Even flights of fantasy get people’s brain cells working on the problem. This is also the antidote to disempowerment and cynicism. A light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.
The third step is to educate and recruit. Help others to understand the problem and recruit them to implement a solution. It’s no good sitting around in an exclusive group feeling self-righteous. Nothing gets done that way. You have to learn how to reach out and cooperate with others. Be very careful about comedy that alienates or belittles. It will give you a lot of easy laughs with a jaded audience, but it will serve to further polarise and atomise people, when now more than ever we need people working together to stop environmental and economic disaster.
The final step is to take long term action. You can hold a “we hate Tony Abbott” protest, but if you cause him to be removed as Prime Minister, he may be replaced by another Liberal Party member with equally egregious policies. And what if Labor gets into power and continues human rights abuses against minorities and boat people? Stay focussed on the issues. Know that achieving goals such as fair treatment of gays may be a long haul endeavour. Bolster one another’s efforts. Help one another to find resilience. Regularly partake of tonics such as joy and laughter. Comedy helps us to speak the truth, it also gives us strength through a lifted spirit.
Laura Davis’s goals in Pillow Fight are admirable. I think her gentle delivery the night I attended was pitch perfect: just confronting enough, combined with the life-affirming. Go give her some support.
Peace and kindness,