I’ve been to BDSM clubs where people have pushed nails and needles through skin and other more private parts, where whips and flogs are commonplace and candlewax is merely prosaic. Generally, people watching tend to be respectfully silent. Those not interested would mill around the bar as one does. It’s rare for anyone to laugh. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone in BDSM circles find the spectacle of people in self-inflicted pain funny.
Last night, I saw a woman violently lacerate herself and expose terrible wounds and old unhealed scars to an audience that was pretty much convulsed with laughter. It was ok because she was a comedian. Her name is Janelle Koenig and it was ok because the damage she was doing and showing was all on the emotional level.
She was eurasian, born here to an Australian mother and a Singaporean father.
I’d never seen that level of self-hatred on gender, racial and body dimensions so nakedly exposed before. Unlike many in the audience (but by no means the majority), I did not find her performance funny. I found it horrifying. I was never sure at any point how conscious she was that most of her act, from my point of view, was an extended and poorly disguised plea to be accepted and healed for/of her gender, race and sexuality issues combined equally with a desire to be jeered at, laughed at and hence confirm and perpetuate those very wounds.
I wont go into the gender and sexuality portions as it was the race bits that interested me most. At one point, she was talking about her father and quoting him, she put on a credible singaporean accent. I cant quite remember how it goes exactly but it pretty much went like this:
“why are there so many coloured people in australia these days, la?”
“dad, you cant call them coloured people.”
“i’ll call them niggers then.”
“ah, what does he know anyway, ching chong chinaman. he should just go back to where he belongs. The gold rush is over old man. You know, my dad finds me funny. he’s seen my act and he was laughing all the way through. Dont know why. He doesnt understand a single word.”
There was also a part of her act where she talked about being eurasian.
“i’m half and half. I get my height and my boobs from my australian side. I get my long glossy black hair and my lower parts from my dad’s side,” Adopting a thigh wide pelvic thrust stance and exaggerated asian accent, “Me love you vely good long time. Or fifteen minutes anyway.”
Anyway, writing it out now, it doesnt seem that bad but then, it’s all in the delivery and there was too much pain and self-hate in it for me to not recognise and finally pity.