There’s a good chance that Jena Friedman’s next stand up special will be amazing. That’s not meant as a dig at her current hour of comedy, premiering on Seeso this week. The provocatively-titled American Cunt is a powerful set of material. It’s rife with fiercely and unapologetically feminist material that worries openly how a healthy portion of our electorate “would rather see a tweeting asteroid crash into our country than let a woman lead it.”
But it’s obvious that this set was written and filmed well before the release of the Access Hollywood tape and the multiple women coming forward to accuse the Republican candidate of being a serial sex abuser. I have to think that there’s some part of Friedman that wishes she could have addressed all this insanity on stage for her debut special. But that’s what Twitter’s for, right?
Whatever small measure of regret she may carry at missing out on some prime material, Friedman more than supersedes with the strength of this hour. The former Daily Show producer is gleefully pushing buttons on hot topic issues throughout, provoking both thoughtful rumination and belly laughs from the modest audience in attendance at this taping (and most likely anyone watching at home).
The rumination will come later. Friedman burns hot through this hour, leaving just enough time for a laughter or applause break before jumping to her next thought and set up. It suits her dry delivery and the feeling of a woman finally getting her chance in the spotlight and not wanting to miss any detail of what’s on her mind.
Turns out she has a lot to say about helping turn the country more pro-choice by rebranding abortion as “fetus hunting” or “early retirement,” the invisibility of women as they get older, the death of Antonin Scalia (“Now that’s what I call a late-term abortion!”), and—my favorite line—how the phrase “working moms” is just like “chai tea: two words that mean the exact same thing.” Friedman also is well aware of how potentially hacky some of her one-liners are but gives them a postmodernist zing with her knowing delivery and self-deprecation.
Naturally, she comes out strong about the current election cycle, and reserves her hardest hits for the aforementioned asteroid that is the Republican candidate. She rolls her eyes at folks comparing him to the leader of the Nazi Party because, as she says, “Hitler served in his military” and wonders out loud “What’s Trump ever done to support female directors?” It’s not every day that you get a Leni Riefenstahl shout out in a stand-up set. And like so many of us, she is baffled by the fact that the only c-word more offensive than cunt in the eyes of half of America is “Clinton.”
My hope is that history will be kind to the future of our nation with the election of our first female president. I also hope that historians use American Cunt as a kind of running commentary about the weird and wonderful time we’re currently living in, cutting between this electoral insanity and Friedman’s cutting remarks about it in one glorious and hilarious montage sequence. We just need her to hurry out her next special addressing the amplification of this craziness so we can complete this diptych.
Robert Ham is a regular contributor to Paste and the author of Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, out now via Regan Arts. Follow him on Twitter.