“You look like you don’t belong here.”

To celebrate Women’s History month this March, I’ve produced and hosted two live comedy shows dedicated to the theme with a roster of all female performers. ***

After the second successful show of lady bits, myself and two other FEMALE comics ride the estrogen-adrenaline high (in a car!) to an open mic happening within the vicinity. My friend needs to practice her set for a show scheduled the following night at the Staples Center (rip) of comedy venues.

The three of us enter the back of the bar to a stage area where a small group is gathered watching a tortoise looking young man telling “jokes” into a microphone. We sit quietly and observe. We do not break out Charlie’s Angels poses or ask to see a brunch menu. We ask to put our names on the list to perform.

Franklin the Turtle pauses his story about getting high before work. He looks out to us and tells us he thinks we’ve walked into the wrong place. We shake our heads that he’s incorrect. He says, “ You look like you don’t belong here.”

What a nice way to close out and acknowledge Women’s History month by entering an open mic with two other female comics ( one featured on successful TV shows and teacher of comedy, one a professional poker champion and real state agent and one is me) to be told by a male wearing a BACKPACK that we are in the wrong place. If anyone looks like they don’t belong at a 21 years and up establishment it’s the fucking guy with the backpack and Heelys skate shoes. Looking like he needs to wheel his way back to the middle school he came from and figure out his locker combination to properly store his backpack.

We did our sets, my friend offered some advice to the mic host and audience, and we got some new instagram followers.

After a set back the past two years, it finally feels like the world is opening back up and in blossom for the spring. However, there’s still a virus around no one is talking about — incels at comedy shows.

Just because I wear a dress or tights when I perform doesn’t mean I’m incapable of delivering acerbic commentary on how men make inaccurate perceptions about me based on my appearance. Sometimes I wear pants on stage and normally it’s because my bit involves doing the worm across the floor or a provocative dance routine. Just because I’m wearing black leggings doesn’t mean I’m going to offer more than doing goofy and dumb shit.

The end of March is not only the closing of Women’s History month, but it’s also a sensitive time for myself. It’s not because I’m ovulating or menstruating or anything else cervix related. It’s the anniversary of two pivotal life events for myself: Sustaining a traumatic head injury ( skull split open in two literally) and April 8th losing my best friend and partner in life ( heart split open in two figuratively). These are two experiences that are still painful on the daily: enduring debilitating chronic migraines and crying whenever an Alabama Shakes song is playing. I overcome both challenges to perform comedy and gain personal fulfillment, but these terrible men don’t make it easy.

Over the summer I was asked to perform at a comedy club in Manhattan, on Broadway. It was my first time performing at this venue. I invited friends because I have a strong support system and wore a frilly dress because I wanted to show off my deltoids. I walked into the greenroom, a holding room for the comedians ( whoops forgot to mention I was wearing wedge sandals) and was redirected to sit in the audience and told the room was “for performers only”. After a back and forth of verifying I was indeed on the roster, I felt unenthused about getting on stage and took a seat to review my set.

Immediately, a women approached me and said, “You’re not from around here are you?” I looked down at my polka dot, shoulder baring dress and said “No.”

At that moment, I felt compelled to leave and take pictures of myself in the dress outside the venue so the night wasn’t a complete waste. The woman paused, looked me in the eyes and asked if I recently lost someone close to me, an ex boyfriend. I nodded and she proceeded to give me a full medium read and discussed a few things that only me and that person had known. She then told me he was at the show…in spirit. It felt believable. Eugene had attended all my comedy shows in the past and after each one said “not my type of humor”. This was one of the first shows where he was noticeably absent. Suddenly, the show’s host called my name and I had to deliver ten minutes of jokes about dating in New York City and prove to the crowd I was an actual comedian and not someone who got lost at Anne Taylor Loft in Times Square.

I think back to that night often. Like, last week at a show when a comedian on stage addressed me in the audience saying I look like I am from Texas and was in a sorority. These two things are actually true, but not what I want as a precursor to my set. I also think back to that night how the ghost of my ex can attend my comedy shows and be posthumously available, but a dude that raw dogs me only sends a “have a great show!” text. Men (clap) are (clap) trash!

So what I’m saying is this:

Being a woman should warrant applause when entering an open mic.

(mic drop)

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Heather Ann Harrison is a southern bred comedian/actor/writer trained at the Annoyance theater NYC originally from Raleigh, North Carolina

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Heather Harrison

Heather Harrison

Heather Ann Harrison is a southern bred comedian/actor/writer trained at the Annoyance theater NYC originally from Raleigh, North Carolina

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