Stand-up comedy has an unflattering reputation for using offensive material, such as sexist jokes, to get a quick response from the audience

How does a young lesbian feminist who is also doing a doctorate in gender studies manage in such an environment?

Up-and-coming comedian Jo Richards entered the stand-up scene just a few months ago but has already successfully performed nearly a dozen live shows

The 27-year-old Canberra actress saw all her work dry up due to the COVID-19 restrictions placed on theaters However, she happened to have taken a comedy class and decided to “give it a crack”

“I thought [comedy] was easier because I have so much acting experience, but it’s very scary,” said Richards

She said she learned that “the way to be funny was to not be funny – and be okay with it”

“You have to work on getting better instead of having a joke bomb and saying, ‘Cool, I’ll never do this again'”

“But it’s a high too. When you get off the stage you say, ‘I’m so funny'”

When she’s not on stage, Richards is doing her PhD in Gender Studies at the University of Canberra’s 50/50-2030 Foundation

Instead of keeping her two passions separate, she said her research helped her challenge sexism in comedy

‘A lot of lazy comedies are based on things like sexism, and when women are in the room they often choose not to laugh, not necessarily because they’re offended but because it’s a bad joke “

As a woman, she said she “didn’t even get the chance to tell a sexist joke”

“I mean, I could really meta, but I won’t,” she said

Richards said the simple fact that she existed as a comedian was feminism in itself

“Because so many people still have preconceived notions that women are not funny, that feminism is not funny, or that all feminists are angry,” she said

But she added that the scene is becoming more progressive and inclusive – not only for the benefit of female or various comedians, but also of the audience

“If you’re in the audience and you’re a woman, queer or mentally ill, you might be nervous about someone standing up and telling jokes about you,” said Richards

“The reason I got into comedy was because Canberra’s comedians actively encouraged people who were a little nervous about being in the community – including women, queer people, and people with disabilities – to give it a try “

Inviting local venues like Smith’s Alternative downtown are among the places where Richards performs

She has also taken a less traveled route when it comes to her material, choosing to be frugal with how much of her content she bases it on personal experience

Her direction has been strategic as she has the ability to incorporate educational snippets from feminism and politics into her comedic routines – perhaps improbable recipes

“So much of the political talk we’re having today is combative and makes people switch off,” she said

“When someone is made to laugh at something, they can really think about things in new ways”

“You’re not trying to convince them of anything or punch them in the head, you just say, ‘Here’s the truth presented to you in a funny way,'” she said

“And you can pull them out of who they are for a minute and make them laugh at something to give them the distance and space to think about without feeling attacked”

“It’s not that comedy should be political, it’s just that there is a relationship between comedy and politics that I consider to be undervalued”

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World News – AU – How this Canberra comedian is fighting sexism through stand-up