Sara Schaefer is Just Trying to Stay Pure

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer for brands and publications like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time Out NY/LA, and the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

Comedian was recently faced with an agonizing question: Should she, or should she not, shop at Hobby Lobby?

Schaefer, an arts and crafts connoisseur, was looking for the perfect basket to add to her craft nook in her home in Los Angeles. She was driving around Burbank with her boyfriend of seven years, comedy special director Scott Moran, when she encountered the controversial crafts store.

On the one hand, Schaefer thought, Hobby Lobby was a mecca for all things crafts. On the other, she had grown up as a fundamentalist Christian and rejected it, and Christians that refuse to pay for employees’ birth control own the store. But when she walked into Hobby Lobby, she couldn’t help but gravitate towards a certain magnificent basket and ended up taking it home. Now, she says she plans to store her birth control in it.

Schaefer expounds on this story and more in her debut Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, “Little White Box.” It opens with the comedian talking about her disdain for Trump, goes into her childhood memories of living in a Southern Baptist home and singing a song about Jesus and the devil called “Little White Box,” and ends with an anecdote about her mother’s funeral.

The Hobby Lobby tale falls right in the middle of the show, and the point of it is how she and everyone else can never be completely pure. She cannot be a pure liberal and pro-women’s rights because she shopped at the anti-women store. She may have an opinion about a topic, and then change her mind the next day. Everyone is a hypocrite in some way.

And in our society, if you change your mind, people are quick to dig through your old social media statuses and call you out on your hypocrisy… even if, she said, you simply proclaimed that you didn’t like pizza online, and a little while later, you posted that pizza is your favorite.

“There is this idea I had about how hard it is to be pure and live by your ideals,” Schaefer said, sitting in a hotel on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, halfway through her Fringe run. “That’s the material I’m excited about. It feels so relevant. You can feel the audience breathing a sigh of relief saying, ‘I understand this and agree with you.’”

“Little White Box” is based on Schaefer’s individual standup jokes. The comedian wrote a stronger narrative and a through line for her standup specifically for the Fringe, which she decided to do at the urging of her manager and agent. Before she arrived in Edinburgh, she toured around the United States telling her jokes and even performed for her family to prepare.

“My dad was in the front row, and I was nervous because some of it is political and he’s a conservative,” Schaefer said. “But he was almost crying he was laughing so hard. It made me feel so good that he was appreciating what I had to say. He was not uncomfortable. I knew I was on the right track.”

Though Schaefer may disagree with religious zealots and Trump supporters, she said she doesn’t want to come across as judgmental of those people in her act. “The point for me is to make people feel good and laugh. Other comedians, their strategy is to mock a certain group so everyone can laugh at that group. And that works and I enjoy that type of comedy, as long as it’s not abusive.”

Schaefer, who doesn’t shy away from talking about her intimate sex life on stage, said that “Little White Box” marked the first time she discussed religion in her act. And it feels much more personal. “I’m afraid of people being like, ‘Oh you loser, you care about religion, but it’s all made up,’ or being judged by people who come from the kind of church I grew up in. My worst fear is that after a show, someone will come up to me and say, ‘I’ll pray for you. Your soul is lost.’ I’d be horrified.”

Along with the fear of judgment from atheists and the non-religious as well as right wing Christians, Schaefer said it’s been difficult to get a read on the audiences and comedy culture in Edinburgh. “It’s been an emotional minefield here. There’s nothing like this anywhere in the world. The immediate thing was trying to understand how these audiences are different. They don’t laugh as loud as Americans. I’m not bombing or anything but it’s a different energy. Audiences are quiet, polite, sophisticated.”

Since there are about 1,300 comedian shows in the Fringe this year, Schaefer attributed the audiences’ unwillingness to laugh out loud to their high standards. “They get slammed with tons of shows every August, and some of the greatest comedians come here,” she said. “They won’t give you a laugh unless you really earned it.”

Still, Schaefer is selling out every night, earning good reviews in the papers, and has improved the show over the past few weeks. “I cannot wait to perform at home,” she said.

When Schaefer gets back to Silverlake, and boyfriend Moran, and her craft nook, and her evil Hobby Lobby birth control basket, she plans to dismantle the narrative of her show a bit and write more jokes about the pure concept. “I feel like I’m circling the target,” she said. “I think I’ll get there. I’d love to be able to come up with some great comment on how fucked up things are. It’ll keep getting tighter and more pointed.”



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Kylie Ora Lobell

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer for brands and publications like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time Out NY/LA, and the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

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  1. Miranda Chang

    August 25, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Hobby Lobby does have birth control – just four types are excluded, which is their right as a private company. Also much of the leadership are women, and the family that own it are predominantly female. Their wages are higher than other retailers and they offer significant benefits, including healthcare that has remained the same price for the last four years. Hobby Lobby is not your enemy. I am a progressive and understand your concerns, but Hobby Lobby is not the vile monster that social media will lead you to believe.

    • tripleogtim

      August 25, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      Please take your facts elsewhere, this is the internet and we are here for outrage whether it’s based in reality or not

    • Sara

      August 27, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Hey Miranda. I understand that you’ve read this article about me but I assume you haven’t actually seen my jokes about Hobby Lobby. Social media did not educate me about Hobby Lobby. Reporting from legitimate sources did, and I’m well aware of the nuance debate around the case. (A big theme in my show is how hard it is to find the black and white in this messy gray world.) anyway, for me it boils down to this: Hobby Lobby is a private corporation that fought to establish legal precedence for companies to discriminate based on their company’s religious beliefs. The negative consequences this will have not only on women but LGBTQ people and others is real and already being tested. I’m not sure how women being a part of Hobby Lobby leadership has anything to do with my joke or this issue. Women can, after all, be soaked in internalized misogyny. All of the female Supreme Court judges dissented in this case. So what does that mean? Anyway, in my joke, I don’t call Hobby Lobby a “monster,” and I’m certainly not the idiot you’ve made me out to be in this comment. Godspeed to you.