Feminism, light bulbs, & comedy: Theater lecturer Megan Gogerty to stage presentation

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Feminism, light bulbs, & comedy: Theater lecturer Megan Gogerty to stage presentation

Gracey Murphy, [email protected]

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Democrats, Republicans, and independents. How can these people of vast and varying opinions find common ground? Well, through comedy, of course.

Megan Gogerty, a University of Iowa theater lecturer, will present “How Many Feminist Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb? Adventures in Comedy and Feminism” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St., as part of Floodwater Comedy Festival. Gogerty will discuss the history of comedy and whether it can ignite social change.

“Ultimately, when we’re talking about feminism, we’re talking about activism and particular social change,” Gogerty said. “We could expand those ideas to look at: how effective is satire, how effective is common rhetoric in forms of changing conversation — changing hearts and minds — does it affect people?”

Gogerty will examine the effect comedy has had on society today and in the past. It’s there partially for laughs but can also comment on politics and real issues. The comedy boom from the 1980s has fizzled out and lost its teeth, Gogerty said. Since 9/11, it has begun to claw its way back.

“After 9/11, Americans were really starting to weigh their liberty against their security,” Gogerty said. “Comedy came roaring back and started making space for satire.”

Now, comedians such as Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee consistently confront issues in politics and in the U.S. with their comedy. Their shows address conflicts head on.

“They’re not, like, lightly tiptoeing around these hot button political issues,” Gogerty said. “Like Jay Leno, when he did ‘The Tonight Show,’ was a real equal-opportunity offender, and all politics is applesauce, and he didn’t have a really sharp take that had any real weight. And yeah, that was really typical in the ’90s, but now you have this razor sharp commentary.”

Gogerty also discusses these topics with students in her classes, in which she talks about what comedy says about people. It reflects how people view society as a whole and how people think gender and race are fixed when they’re not, Gogerty said.

An example of this occurs in the popular show “Friends.” The show has absolutely no substantial characters of color (other than one walk-on by Aisha Taylor).

“We don’t even have to go back that far. Looking at ‘Friends’ teaches us about who we thought we were. Like who we thought we were, were white people,” Gogerty said. “That’s who we were making culture for, and a lot of days we’re still making culture by and for white people.

But can comedy really spawn a change in the cultural future? Oliver’s Donald Trump video got hundreds of thousands of views and shares, but it is unclear whether it persuaded anyone to not vote for Trump, Gogerty said. She may not be able to answer that questions definitively, but she has plenty to say on the topic.

“I think it should be fun,” she said. “I think it should be a good fun, meaty, brazenly vivacious discussion and give a little historical context.”

WORDS
“How Many Feminist Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb? Adventures in Comedy and Feminism”
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert
Cost: Free