Have you ever seen a painting of a fire-breathing Brendan Fraser driving around the streets of Los Angeles? If so, you may have been in the midst of comedian Brandie Posey, whose stand-up album Opinion Cave debuted last month. I had the pleasure of seeing her painted legendary car in person and it was glorious. “In college me and my girlfriends, our way of making frat boys stop talking to us,” she explains, “we’d be like ‘name ten Brendan Fraser movies in sixty seconds and if you can’t do it, you can’t talk to us anymore.’” Walking around to the other side of her car, I saw there was a second mural; this side featured Abraham Lincoln fighting a T-Rex in space.
“I’m interested in being very authentic to who I am because I don’t know how to not do that,” Posey explains when I ask her about the comedy niche she occupies. Evident in her bright blue hair and checkerprint clothes, one of her biggest influences is ska music. She’s always reveled in the alternative. (She once did stand-up for an Against Me! show.) In a lot of ways, the ska music scene prepared her for the male-dominated world of comedy.
“I happened to be the only girl in the neighborhood [growing up],” Posey explains. But she quickly learned that solidarity with other women was essential, especially in comedy. “I love my guy friends but they aren’t gonna get everything. I remember hanging out with a bunch of my guy friends and they all ganged up on me and I was like ‘man, I didn’t realize I was an other to you guys and that sucks because I don’t see myself that way.’ But I will never be the same to you as you are to each other.” From a young age, she knew: “You need to find the people who are going to understand exactly what you’re going through.”
As a woman, it’s easy to be lumped in a broad “female comedy” category with other women even if you have little in common with them. Even in cities like New York and Los Angeles, most comedy line-ups feature several men and usually one “token” woman. But that’s changing.
“The internet’s made things really interesting,” she says, telling me about the myriad secret Facebook groups where women in comedy gather to provide each other with support. “If you’re not gonna book us on shows, we’re gonna find each other anyway.” Brandie pointed out that the week her album Opinion Cave debuted, three other women also released comedy albums. Three of them, including Brandie’s, charted on iTunes thanks to the help and support of the other women. Women are often forced to compete with each other for the few “female comic” slots available to them, but it doesn’t have to be that way—women are not a niche category. They have their own audiences and having more than one woman release an album at a time doesn’t cannibalize album sales, as people often fear. “Women like comedy,” Posey says with emphasis. “Comedy just hasn’t liked women for a long time.”
Posey’s accepted that the comedy system is in many ways stacked against women, and she doesn’t let it set her back. She is constantly working on new projects (her current endeavors include her animated improv show Picture This and live podcast Lady To Lady), despite setbacks that come her way.
Her mother passed away recently from Lou Gehrig’s disease, Brandie tells me, and for a while she found herself flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Baltimore to be with her mother (everyone near Washington D.C., she jokes, “has at least one spy in their family”). A lot of the raw emotion she felt became inspiration for Opinion Cave. “It’s weird living in a place that isn’t your home because nobody here knew her,” she says of her return to the comedy scene. “It made me feel anonymous and powerless. I needed to do something big to work through this and feel control of something again.” That’s when she began touring and assembling the material that would go into Opinion Cave, which she released herself.
“I’m not gonna sit here and wait,” she remembers thinking. “I need to figure something out.” She traveled across the country performing stand-up in places where no one knew her name or recognized her colorful hair. Losing her mother gave her the courage to stop worrying about whether people would find her funny. She wasn’t just trying to be funny anymore. She was channeling her grief.
Above all, Brandie knew she had to be sincere in her sets, both to cope and to make people laugh. “These jokes have an emotional honesty that has a shelf life,” she explains. “Your mom dying isn’t ‘airplane food.’ It’s not going to have the same feeling five years from now.” She planned to honor her mother’s memory with the tour and album. Comedy became her ultimate coping mechanism, but she also wanted to use her stand-up to help others who were going through the same thing.
Now that the album’s out on iTunes, Amazon and elsewhere, she’s re-focused on her podcast and live show. Brandie and her co-creators have created a pilot out of Lady to Lady that they’re hoping to start shopping around, but no matter how successful Brandie Posey gets, you can always find her driving around Los Angeles with a fire-breathing Brendan Fraser.
Olga Lexell is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Daily Dot, Splitsider and Reductress. You can find her jokes on Twitter.