podcast

Vee Chattie. (Photo by Mandy Flame, courtesy of Vee Chattie)

One of the best people I have met through sex worker groups is undoubtedly Vee Chattie. We met in person a couple of years ago in the back seat of a car on the way to a hearing at the Capitol.

Vee develops hard-hitting performance art and organizes activist events, but the bulk of their work is stand-up comedy. They took a brief hiatus from stand-up when moving to Seattle a few years ago, but came back to it with force, hitting multiple open mics per night and making a name for themselves as not only a hilarious stand-up, but a tough person who is cool to hang out with. What follows is an edited and condensed version of an interview I did with them via text messaging:

What was the impetus behind The Comedy Whore?

Basically, every time I went to an open mic, comedians (mostly the young male ones, go figure) would ask me questions about work. At first, I just told them I’d answer the question if they bought me a drink, and that request was completely ignored. So, I thought I could just invite them for a sit down and they could ask the questions in a more formal way. And also I could record it and use it for the entertainment value rather than just going home annoyed.

Also, you’ve got them on record being ridiculous. So they can’t ever deny being shitty (if they were being shitty rather than ignorant).

Honestly, it doesn’t take that much to get a comedian on record being shitty.

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The tagline for American Courtesans describes it as a “documentary that takes you into the lives of American Sex Workers” and telling “a different kind of American story…” The film is (thankfully) less ambitious in scope, focusing on high-end escorts instead of the entirety of the sex trades. What American Courtesans does, and does powerfully, is offer an intimate perspective into the lives of its subjects, giving them a space to talk about their lives and work. The women share stories of both triumph and trauma, showing that there is no single or simple story about work in the sex industries. With exceptional production quality and sincere, candid interviews, American Courtesans moves us further towards changing the popular conceptions of sex work.

The film weaves the stories of eleven current and former sex workers together through interviews and casual conversations with Kristen DiAngelo, the driving force behind the project. Though all of the women ended their careers as independent escorts charging high rates, their backgrounds up to that point are extremely varied. The majority of the women are still working, and quite a few illustrate the fluidity of the sex industries as they describe their experiences in pro-BDSM work, porn, stripping, and other fields of sex work than escorting. The women in the film give the audience a diverse set of experiences in the sex industries. From Juliet Capulet in San Francisco, who talks about escorting as a way to explore her identity as a sexual being, to Gina DePalma in New York City, who was working on the streets as a thirteen-year-old runaway, the audience is reminded that sex workers belong to and come from all communities. [READ MORE]

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The one thing that all the well-adjusted, fiscally responsible, long-term sex workers I know have in common is a sense of humor. Not that I hate my job, but certain things have happened where I’ve had a choice of either collapsing into a fetal position and bawling, or folding over with laughter, with really no middle ground between the two. It’s like Abe Lincoln said, “I laugh because I must not cry.” (Actually, I just wanted to quote Abe Lincoln and have no idea whether he’s talking about the Civil War or what.)

As a fan of standup comedy, I’ve had to sit through too many jokes about my vocation to count. There are just so many strippers’-names-are-so-fake, dead hooker, and porn star bad childhood jokes out there.* Have you heard the one about how we’re all dead inside, which you can tell from our lifeless/soulless eyes? Yeah, me too, about a million times since I first heard it on Family Guy. Sometimes after I hear these jokes, I worry that people can smell the stripper on me, what with the blond mane and the not laughing. And then I wonder why these people at the open mic can’t make fun of their own coworkers at Kinko’s and why I can’t just see some comedy without being reminded of my daddy issues.

Where are all the sex-positive comedians with Women’s Studies degrees who can discuss Female Chauvanist Pigs? Wouldn’t it be nice if they were also Jewish and loved animals? These guys really exist and their names are Eli Olsberg** and Jake Weisman. They host a podcast called The Morning After and I love it. Each episode typically has one porn performer guest and one comedian guest and they all discuss the porn industry and life. [READ MORE]

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