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Chelsea Peretti doesn't joke around about gender stereotypes

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APRIL 13, 2014

Despite having once been rejected by UC Berkeley, comedienne Chelsea Peretti waltzed on stage and welcomed the audience: “Wheeler Auditorium, thank you for having me. This is where I first got high.” She still took a few jabs at the university: “Is this school Internet-installed?”

Star of Fox’s Golden Globe-winning “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” stand-up comedian and Oakland-native Chelsea Peretti performed at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium on Wednesday. Hosted by ASUC SUPERB, Peretti’s set revolved around her take on dealing with social anxiety and gender roles. By combining normal life and a continuously overflowing imagination, Peretti provided whimsical solutions to realistic situations.

Peretti cited her social anxiety as her rationale for developing intricate fantasies. As a result of her sudden rise to fame, Peretti became a regular at dinner parties and, to her chagrin, was forced to make small talk. Most of her imaginative solutions to end unwanted interaction were unbelievably believable and surprisingly logical. Peretti suggested asking the guest the simple question of “Are you crying?” to end the conversation.

Peretti continued to talk about her many other fantasies in love and life, eventually reaching her greatest fantasy: to be a male comedian. “I feel like the audience just wants a fat, bald guy to come on stage,” Peretti explained. “That’s comedy.”

Yet within her fantasies lie truth. All jokes aside, Peretti’s quirky bits illustrated an even greater issue: male dominance in comedy. Females are grossly underrepresented in the comedy realm. Only one out of 10 Comedy Central shows stars a female comedian. Not only are women underrepresented, but they are also subject to greatly inaccurate stereotypes about their humor.

Peretti challenged the common perception of female comics as “not funny” and “always talking about their periods,” dedicating parts of her set to debunking this stereotype. In her lighthearted response, Peretti jokingly refuted the stereotype, demonstrating that gender does not correlate with comedy: “People ask me all the time what it’s like to be a female comedian. And I tell them, ‘I’d be telling a joke. And then I have a pussy. And then I tell a really good joke and the audience loves it. And I still have a pussy! And then I tell a bad one and the audience doesn’t like it. And guess what? I still have the same set of genitals.’”

Comedians like Peretti are part of a new driving force that is greatly changing the male-dominated face of comedy. More and more female comedians such as Chelsea Handler, Jenny Slate and Mindy Kaling are stepping onto the stage or lighting up the screen with their perspectives on greater societal issues like gender and race — in this vein, Peretti encouraged the audience to not view comedy as just entertainment but as social commentary.

By providing a fresh perspective on life, Peretti stressed the importance of imagination and fantasy. In the end, she delivered an insightful and utterly brilliant set that challenges male dominance in comedy. Filled to the brim with fresh laughs and great life advice, Peretti taught the audience that it is sometimes worth pausing the fast-paced and unfairly competitive world to dream a bit.

Contact Matt Hong at [email protected].

APRIL 13, 2014

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