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Funny feminists
Above: Rebekah Rentzel, left, and Jenny Moeller, artistic directors of Raw Sugar. Photography by Chris Garza.

Below: Ifrah Mansour, photo courtesy of Mansour.

IFYOUGO:
What: "The Funny"
When&Where: June 9, 2016, 7 p.m. and June 10-11, 2016, 10 p.m. at the Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Mpls. June 16-18, 2016, 7 p.m. at Bedlam Lowertown, 213 4th St. E., St. Paul
Cost: $15 pre-sale, $18 at door
FFI: www.rawsugartheater.com

by Sheila Regan


Who says women can't be funny? Enough of this nonsense. The powerhouse women from Raw Sugar are ready to set the world straight about one of the most tired tropes of comedy - that somehow gender has any bearing on a person's ability to tell a joke. "The Funny" is a cabaret performance where women and people not on the gender binary show off their comic muscles, proving once and for all that men aren't the only people that can be hilarious.

The impetus for the show, in 2012, was when Rebekah Rentzel and Jenny Moeller, artistic directors of Raw Sugar, realized that they knew tons of funny women and weren't seeing their work highlighted, or they were playing minor roles in local productions. "We thought, what if we were to give them a space?" Moeller says.

The mission of "The Funny" is "to create a show that talks about women's lives and issues they are experiencing right now, but in a funny way," Moeller says. "There are so many male comedians who get to talk about their lives, but when female comedians do it, it's suddenly a female issue piece. We want to talk about what's important to us."

For this year's show, Moeller and Rentzel are bringing in pieces from a broad spectrum. "Feminism can easily be pigeon-holed into one specific type of feminism," Rentzel says. "We are making sure we represent all the different ways to be a feminist, showing that there are many different ways to exist in the world."

"We believe that in 2016, it's a radical act to tell women's stories," Moeller says. "It shouldn't be, but it is." The organizers want to own that fact, by pushing boundaries of what feminism means, and how feminism relates to the world. "We want it to be a place where people can come together and laugh about stuff they don't get to laugh about in the mainstream," she says.

"The Funny" has grown since its inception. When they first started out, there were nine performers. Last year, there were 15. For this year's show, there will be around 24 performers participating. "We're expanding in numbers and in all kinds of backgrounds, including race, age, and gender," Moeller says. "It's a spectrum, and Raw Sugar gets to learn from all these performers. It's a mutual partnership and trade."

Funny woman

Ifrah Mansour will be returning to "The Funny" after performing with the show last year.

Mansour says she met with Rentzel, and their discussion turned to what the East African community thinks of feminism. That conversation led to Mansour being a part of the show and exploring this topic.

When Rentzel asked what she would need to participate, Mansour replied, "I'll need cleaning towels and a volunteer." They found performance artist Garrett Vollmer. In her piece "How to Clean a Man," Mansour scrubbed him clean, while the audience heard a recording of Mansour reading a text for a misogynistic website.

"Comedy is something that I really enjoy," Mansour says. "It's my free therapy. For most of my work, I'm not invited to be a comedian."

For this year's "The Funny," Mansour performance will be about brown bodies and public interaction.

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