Comedian Brandie Posey calls herself "20 percent white trash," which, she adds, is the perfect percent to be. A ska kid from Maryland -- and current resident of a double-wide mobile home in Los Angeles -- Posey, with bright blue hair and an unflinching, no-sacred-ground approach to comedy, won't dodge anything onstage, including the death of her mother from Multiple System Atrophy.
After eight years of steady touring, Posey recently released her debut album, "Opinion Cave," which topped the iTunes comedy chart, and she has frequently spoken about the growing recognition, and acceptance, of women in comedy. Posey, along with comedians Barbara Gray and Tess Barker, hosts the podcast "Lady to Lady," which features a conversation with a different female comic every week -- past guests include Aisha Tyler and Margaret Cho.
"I'm just really happy to see the conversation move past the 'Are Women Funny?' question because it always was and always will be complete bullshit," Posey says. "How boring and sad would your life have to be to think that half of the world is incapable of being funny? If you don't think women are funny, you're probably a narcissistic asshat who is incapable of love, and you don't deserve laughter anyway."
Posey will perform at The Pillar (46 Mount Hope Avenue), on Friday, June 24, at 8 p.m. Local comedians Kara Maillie, Madelein Smith, Andrea Springer, and Woody Battaglia will also perform. General admission tickets are $10 at brownpapertickets.com.
Posey was fighting with some questionable Wi-Fi while on a family cruise, so City had to shoot her a few questions via email about her comedy, women in the industry, and her own take on where comedy fits in the world. An edited copy of that conversation is below.
City: Nothing seems to be off limits during your set. How do you see your approach to comedy?
Brandie Posey: My earliest comedy influences were ska bands that I loved as a kid -- a lot of bands would have funny shtick and bits they would do between songs. Plus, that kind of loud, fast music was really my first love, and I think it really infused in my brain when I started writing jokes. I tend to think of them kind of like songs, where a certain punchline or funny visual will come to me, and then that's what I build a 3 or 4 minute full bit around.
Others have described you as "edgy," and as having a "Riot Grrrl" style. Do you agree with those labels?
I understand why I get called those things -- I was just on a cruise for a week with some family, and they kept saying that I should try to get one of the cruise comics to let me do a set. I am not for a cruise crowd. I look like the granddaughter that doesn't call them on Christmas. Spoiler alert: I get along great with my family, hence why they take me on cruises.
I will say that sometimes "edgy" can get defined wrong. To me, I try to find my edge by talking about my life as honestly as I can, versus saying things or words to shock people; that's not my style whatsoever. To me, it's edgy to show an audience who I really am, and let them in.
When do you know how to rotate out material?
No two sets of mine are the same; I'm always moving something around trying to see what the flow is between bits that works best. My jokes tend to be about 80 percent scripted and 20 percent riffed. As I'm building this next hour, I bring in new bits that have similar themes to older pieces that I know will do well, so it's a pretty smooth transition out with the old and in with the new.
Do you feel women fair better in alt-comedy or other styles beyond the mainstream?
I think women have a place at every level in comedy; whether they are given that place is another story. But it's opening up more as time goes on. Audiences at all levels are being trained to expect a woman as much as a man onstage thanks in part to the Internet making some of the old gatekeepers irrelevant.
It's slow going in some venues, but the more exposure we get, the more room we create for our contemporaries and those that come after. You have to remember, in the history of civilized people, there has only been a tiny fraction of time that women have been able to talk publicly without being called a witch -- let alone, making a living at it.
You've talked about your mother's passing in your act, and you've said that you channel your mourning into your acts. Have you ever gotten adverse reactions for your sets about your mother?
I've never really gotten any bad reactions to the stories about my mom's passing. I've been told by some audience members in person and through emails that they really appreciate me being honest about what I've been through.
Grief is an awful, painful part of life that we all experience, and I think it's important to look for the funny in it, because that's how you get control back over it -- for me at least. I'm sure there are some people who might not like those jokes, but I lived them, and it's who I am and what I needed to be talking about when it was happening.
Is there anything you'd really like people to know about the disease she suffered from?
My mother died from a disease called Multiple System Atrophy, or MSA for short. It's in the neurological disorder family, along with Lou Gehrig's and Parkinson's. It manifests as a combination of the two, basically your brain stops being able to tell which parts of the body to do what.
Thankfully it's a rare disease, because I would not wish it on my worst enemy. It doesn't have a 5K walk or a colored ribbon, so I just want to let anyone who has anyone in their family suffering from it know that I know what you're going through, and I am so sorry. If any readers need to vent about MSA, please find me online, I might seem a little salty, but I really have a big heart and know how important it is to feel heard in the face of tragedy. I have been there. Also, get a recording of your loved one saying "Happy Birthday."