“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way. Like and improv conversation. An ‘improverisation’.” -Michael Scott

Spring break 2016, my friends and I decided to take a trip to Chicago since most of us had yet to see Ferris Bueller’s city in real life. I scrolled through Groupon to find us some reasonably priced group activities, when I found tickets to a “All-Star Improv Night” at Second City (for just $17, what a steal). That was the aspect of my spring break I was most anticipating. However, looking back, I was much more enthralled with the novelty of the place than with the actual show we watched. There were quotes on the walls from Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, they even had Spike Lee’s hand prints on a plaque (which I believe to be one of the highest honors in this world, on par with the Nobel Peace Prize). Although, the improv was not as funny as my friends and I hoped it would be. After all, this was the place where Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, John Belushi, Aidy Briant, and so many more started their careers and also where improvisation started to gain its foothold within comedy, according to Charna Halpern and Del Close in ‘Truth in Comedy’. Perhaps our expectations were slightly higher than normal (it also didn’t help that the title of the show literally had “all-stars” in it…if smash mouth has taught me one thing, it’s that all-stars need to get their game on and go play). Now knowing the guidelines of improv thanks to the UCB Manuel, I can think back and pin point why the show wasn’t a hit. There was a group of about six or seven on stage, but two of the men kept trying to steal the show. This portrayed their them as more obnoxious than organic situational comedy, as their input was geared toward being loud while flailing about. I suppose there’s a line between good comedic improv and messiness. Will I ever know how to make that distinction? Yes. I learned during that show.

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“…swinging dick with the upper hand.”

From the very beginning of Rebecca Krefting’s chapter entitled, “When Women Perform Charged Humor,” she had my full attention. Her terminology and, at times, blunt depictions of sexism were quite thought provoking.

“He [Christopher sexist dickhead Hitchens] reduces audiences’ receptions to and consumptions of humor to something natural, innate, predetermined, and therefore moot, which for him is ideal because it leaves him and every other swinging dick with the upper hand, the ‘equipment’ necessary to incite laughter and the arbiter of precisely what should elicit laughter,” (Krefting 107).

You would think that women across all spectrums would be able to appreciate a woman comedian performing charged humor because that comedian is articulating common struggles and injustices. As we’ve seen in the past, nothing gets done without first creating a dialogue around it. However, what if this dialogue is not on every woman’s agenda?

I recently watched an interview with Kellyanne Conway at the Conservative Political Action Conference where she discussed her personal take on Feminism and why she chooses not to identify as Feminist (big shocker there). To sum up her rather interesting explanation, Kellyanne claimed that she refuses to think of herself as a “victim of [her] circumstances” and that calling herself a Feminist would entail being “anti-male” and “pro-abortion” (which she made sure to clarify, she is neither of those things).

At this conference, Kellyanne also implored women to demand equal pay. Without a plan to enforce this, however, her rhetoric becomes yet another white woman ignoring the struggles women of color face and oversimplifying a solution to a problem that requires much more attention than just saying “ask for it and see what happens!” This whole notion of “conservative feminism,” which Kellyanne described, is utterly baffling to me. It seems as though she is discrediting any hardships women have had and continue to have due to institutionalized sexism. Men, like Christopher Hitchens for example, feed off of women’s introspection rather than a complete examination of external predispositions based on sex. They prefer when women take a look at themselves and what they might be doing ‘incorrectly,’ rather than how injustice is influencing opportunity and how their male privilege suppresses women.

Relating all of this back to the Krefting chapter, her take on why women performing charged humor isn’t always well-received fits into Kellyanne Conway’s argument for “conservative feminism” (it’s painful just to type that term). There seems to be a disconnect between victimization and pointing to the truth. I know Kellyanne is more of an alt-facts kind of gal, but she’s also a successful white woman who has, most likely, not faced much if any discrimination. She has this twisted notion, which fits tremendously well into Krefting’s discussion, that calling yourself a Feminist is what is responsible for the marginalization when it is actually systemic sexism (often race-based) which is doing the marginalizing.

“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It did not happen.” -The President

Our current President is changing the game for “fake news” and credible news outlets have become a target. A little less than a month ago, although it seems like a lifetime ago with how much has been happening within his administration already, he called out CNN and BuzzFeed (what an interesting combination there…) for publishing a dossier from a source that claimed to be an ex-British Intelligence Agent. This dossier, which is a collection of documents, contained very sensitive information on Mr. Trump. Having read the dossier, I can confirm it sounds more like an episode of House of Cards than real life. I’ll go ahead and summarize the gist of what it say on Trump. Several years back, Trump went to Russia and insisted on staying in the exact same hotel room that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama had stayed in. Then he, allegedly, hired three prostitutes and told them to urinate on the bed which the Obama’s had slept. This was well into Trump’s Birther movement and his hatred for Obama was at its peak. I am grateful to BuzzFeed and to CNN for publishing the dossier because it allowed me to read it myself, however disturbing it was, rather than getting it second hand from a news source. Although, both sources made it very clear that the information contained in the dossier WAS NOT confirmed and published for the benefit of the public (so they could read it and make up their own minds). The real terrifying (but totally logical and seemingly a good explanation for a lot of strange occurrences) bit of information is that the Russian government taped Trump’s actions in that hotel room and are now blackmailing him. Perhaps this could explain why Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin, who is nothing short of a heinous war criminal. Immediately after its release, Trump discredited it and categorized CNN and BuzzFeed as “fake news” sources.

You can read BuzzFeed’s article and the entire dossier here:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/kenbensinger/these-reports-allege-trump-has-deep-ties-to-russia?utm_term=.icrmy5DaL#.eqGzj1NdO

Publishing this dossier and knowing it is unverified could possibly be considered fake news or fall under freedom of the press. I would like to believe it’s the latter, due to both sources admitting that the information contained was not confirmed. If this is fake news, I believe it falls under an entirely new category of fake. Unlike most stupid fake news like celebrity deaths or Obama removing the Pledge of Allegiance from schools, this source is contains a 35-page document with solid, concrete information that was taken seriously enough to circulate amongst Congressmen and have Obama briefed on it (as it was released before Trump took office). I don’t think any old fake news source would get that much attention if it weren’t at least partially true.

I also want to touch on another bit of information on this subject of fake news and satire. In one of the readings for this week, “Truthiness and Consequences in Parodic News,” Day discusses how satirical shows like Saturday Night Live normally make fun of the politician but rarely take on the politicians policies on the same level. I can surely see this as the case when Will Ferrel was doing impressions of George W. Bush. They focused on satirizing Bush’s *questionable intelligence. However, I see a new rise of satire within SNL as Trump’s administration continues to cause more and more mayhem. Due to his absurd policies, i.e. the wall, I feel as though SNL has molded policy with politician when satirizing Trump. The fact that he’s not a politician and has no experience whatsoever in government work certainly aids their writing as well.

-Mackenzie Veselik, Group C