Jena Friedman’s album, American Cunt, is available now, everywhere albums are sold.
The stupidest I have ever felt in my life is that time that I realized that “c’mon” was not an abbreviation for cinnamon. But I hit a new peak in my stupidity during my conversation with Jena Friedman. She didn’t intentionally make me feel stupid- she is actually lovely and hilarious in addition to brilliant, and it is likely that I learned more during my brief conversation with her than I did in the three years it took me to get an entirely useless Master’s degree. But her intelligence is remarkable because it is just so casual. She’s so nonchalantly smart, and yes, I’m slightly self-obsessed, so my initial takeaway was just how much smarter she is than almost anyone I’ve ever met (and I once met Michael Chabon… he’s this incredibly gifted author, he won the Pulitzer Prize… it’s not important).
For those of you who don’t know who Jena Friedman is, y’all weak. She has written for The Late Show with David Letterman and was a producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She can also boast receiving a cease and desist letter from the New York Times after she created “Ted & Gracie,” a parody of NYT’s wedding videos. And she’s done a ton of other funny shit, too, but I don’t work for you guys, so check it out for yourself here. And her special is called “American Cunt,” so if you aren’t into it now, I’m sorry, there’s just no help for you.
Considering her background and after seeing the special, I knew that she knew her shit regarding the clusterfuck that is contemporary American politics. So I immediately disregarded all questions pertaining to the special itself, which was the sole reason I was interviewing her in the first place, and asked for some advice on what to do now, since I really can’t continue spending my time sitting in the corner of a dark room, hugging my knees to my chest and crying, which is what I’ve been doing for the past three months. Apparently, I was not the only one to seek her advice since she told me that all of her interviews were turning into therapy sessions in which she assured her interviewer that we’d all be okay. I really want to believe her on that one.
“American Cunt” is both a special and an album. Both were recorded before the election, but the material focuses quite a bit on it. Strangely enough, she urges Trump supporters to go out there and Make America Great Again on November 28th, but that was well before that orange buffoon got the date wrong himself. And even though that (questionably) human incarnate of Cheez Whiz seems like a walking punch-line, Friedman recognizes that Trump is actually a pretty difficult topic to tackle comedy-wise. “He’s too untethered to reality and too absurd,” she told me, that it’s “like making a joke on a joke.” Considering it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between actual Trump tweets and Trump parody account tweets, I’m thinking she’s got a point there.
In her album, Friedman advocates for ignoring Trump in an attempt to not feed his ego. But since he’s officially the POTUS now, we can’t exactly ignore him anymore. But what we can do, she says, is work against normalizing his behavior. To her, that means both “focusing on policy” and how we can resist the delusional whims of Trump’s administration, and “treating him like an actual politician, as opposed to treating him like a crazy TV character.”
What’s really refreshing about “American Cunt,” though, is that it’s unlike what we typically hear from a lot of female comedians these days. Her comedy is purposefully not personal. She has no desire to talk about dating or sex or any of that juicy stuff. Sure, she admits, that a young female comedian in their 20’s can use material on sex and dating to ensure that men will actually listen. But what makes her special, well, special (very lame, I know), is that it seems to be primarily directed at women. And she is unapologetic in women being her target demographic. And she acknowledges that feminism is super trendy right now but, in my estimation, comedy by women for women is far more rare. Obviously though, there are men in the audience. So, it’s an environment in which one gender may matter more than the other and the other is left powerless? Sounds familiar.
As an American cunt myself, I had to ask about the title. Friedman wrote the show for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and “the title was kind of a joke and a play on how the word ‘cunt’ is a term of endearment in the UK,” but it was also a strategic move- if she calls herself an American cunt first and beats you to the punch, it gives her the freedom to say whatever the hell she wants. And luckily for us, we’re privy to her uncensored take on everything from her still fitting into her 9/11 jeans to how Bill Cosby is her favorite anesthesiologist. And, according to Friedman, the worst thing to call a woman isn’t a cunt, but that other “c” word: crazy.
Jena Friedman’s comedy is dark, for sure: she has an entire “Abortion Portion” track within her show (my personal favorite: the best thing about abortion jokes is that no one tries to steal them) and if that’s your cup of tea (it should be), then order “American Cunt” on Amazon or iTunes or watch the special here on Seeso or here on Amazon. And if you’ve already used Seeso’s free trial and are too cheap to shell out the money for a subscription, then you can check out some of her other work on her bio. Or stalk her @JenaFriedman, but fair warning: if you’re going to start shit, my money is on her.