Good afternoon, YouthMundees!
This week YouthMundus chatted with actress and comedian, Brittany Raper, about her new found love of stand up comedy and her journey as an international artist living in the US.
Raper, originally from the sheltered sea side of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island, has been living in New York for the past four years. After 18 years in Canada, she traded the familiarities of her Christian private school education to attend the mass liberal institution of which is NYU. There she graduated from the Tisch Drama program, which Raper enjoyed but felt she wasn't artsy enough throughout the training. Raper explains how both her parents work finance and that most house hold dinner conversations growing up were about the stock market. However Raper expresses that she excelled in any leadership role she was put in as a child, especially when it was artistic in nature. This became a key stepping stone that lead her to her current art form, producing.
Now the out of place, sheltered, Christian girl is the co-founder/producer of Woman Stand Up, which is a monthly stand up comedy show exclusively for any and all female-identifying comics starting out in the stand up world.
"Our goal was to create a space to empower women through stand up comedy, having their stories and voice heard for what it is, and to create a supportive community in which women can get their beginnings in stand up", says Raper.
Their debut show was this past September which Raper exclaims was "Wildly Successful". Their next show, on November 8th, will also include a female-identifying Mentor coaching the girls and headlining the show.
1. What inspires you and your creative process?
It’s ever-changing. At the moment, it's the power and heart of women. When I was 16, I said I wanted to become an actress to help people understand themselves better because I believed only then can we begin to understand each other better. I think that still everything I’m creatively drawn to comes back to this idea.
2. How does not being a US citizen factor into your artistic process since you are based here in the states? What are your challenges, if any?
‘If any’. That’s funny to hear. It’s more like what isn’t a challenge. It’s tricky... and there’s so much to talk about here. The challenges mainly include the extremely limited and limiting work visas for international artists. Most people always default by saying ‘at least you can always go home’. And yes it is a blessing that I’m only from Canada and I could find work there. It’s just not where I’m invested anymore. I will say, one pro about being on this fart-in-the-wind of a visa is that it really lights a fire under your tushie. It leaves you with no time to lose and nothing else to do but make your art and make it really good. I used to be really jealous of my American peers for being able to do whatever they wanted in the place they live, but now I’m starting to see it more as a blessing in disguise that I don’t really have that option.
3. What is the connection between your art and social justice? Why?
I’ve found this new love for stand up comedy because of it’s beautiful potential for social justice. I guess before I always saw stand up as a crude, yet wickedly genius art form for loud men and sometimes a scarily confident woman in mom jeans and no makeup. Believe me, if you had asked me even a year ago if I would have anything at all to do with stand up, I would have laughed. In my mind, I didn’t fit in, that was never something I could do. But that’s how this whole company started. Natalie and I knew too many women who thought stand up would be so fun but had so many excuses not to try it; too scared, not funny enough, too different, too dark of a sense of humor, don’t know where to start... So we just wanted to make it happen for us and our friends. And now we have all these inspired female-identifying individuals lining up and wanting to do it too.
In building and dreaming for this company, I’ve reflected on how inherently empowering stand up can be. There is great power in the confidence most middle aged white men have to be able to get up on stage to deliver punchlines about their genitalia and then to receive the ego they get from other middle aged white men laughing at their joke. Imagine if we could harness this power and use it for purposeful empowerment. Stand up requires a comic to look into themselves, to share their stories and to share it with gusto. Stand up also requires an audience to listen and connect. And that’s a great place to start on both ends.
4. What inspired you to pursue your art? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
Co-producing/founding Women Stand Up itself came from a few things. I felt compelled to create a space where women could speak their minds and tell their stories openly and with support. At the time the Alabama abortion laws were being passed and that really got my fire going to give women power over themselves. It also got my fire going to get people to listen to women, really listen. Comedy seemed like a digestible way to do that. And stand up is such a personal, intimate form of comedy, that it seemed like a powerful way to do that.
The challenges came when I realized I was very unqualified to make that happen. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had my partner in crime, Natalie, and we did it anyways. Because why not it be us? We felt inspired and we went for it and now it’s only the beginning.
A separate challenge was when we would hear a response of ‘there’s already female comedians, why do you need to do this'? Aside from stand up being a very empowering thing to do that anyone should try, especially women right now, we did find a missing piece that wasn’t really being solved by there ‘already being female comedians’. The New York City comedy scene/open mic scene isn’t exactly an approachable one, especially when you’re a woman alone and especially when you’re starting out. No one was making a supportive community where women could begin, get experience, experiment, push one another and own their stuff before venturing into that low lit, grimy world.
5. What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
The most rewarding part so far has always been the people coming up to me after the show and saying how much a performance affected them. It helps reassure me that this ‘art’ that can seem so lofty or silly at times really does have an affect on people. The relationships and family that come from art are kind of irreplaceable. So having said that, my advice would be to get others involved in your ideas because you’re going to need others to make them happen. Artistic dreams aren’t meant to stay in private notebooks or on bedroom walls forever.
Shows 'n Stuff! Woman Stand Up will have their second show on November 8th at 8pm held at Wild Project in the East Village. Follow @women.stand.up for updates and tickets.
Thank you for your continuous support and kindness.
Lots of love,
Interview by Tessa M. Dobrow