Kenny Sebastian On How Feminist Comedy Can Break Taboos
For some men, it still takes a lot of courage to broach the topic of the menstrual cycle, forget holding a (clean and unused) pad or tampon. Comedian Kenneth Sebastian’s latest sit-down episode explored the contents of a woman’s purse through the lens of humour. Not only did he pull out a pad, he also went through a number of makeup products and correctly identified them. Shocking, isn’t it? Kenny thinks not. Kenny, whose recent stand-up special on Amazon Prime was trending in India, took some time while traveling around the U.S. for his latest vlog to answer some questions for SheThePeople.
Q: Saw that one of first few things you pulled out, getting right to the point, was the sanitary napkin. What spurred this idea to begin with? How did you decide what was going to go in the bag?
A: So Chai Time has always been about the audience seeing a casual side of me. If you literally sit down with me for a cup of chai, I talk pretty much in the same way. Obviously since there is a live audience, there is a lot of exaggeration. As with my comedy, I usually don’t have any intention of trying to project an opinion. With Chai Time, the intention is to surprise myself and try to find comedy in places where comedians usually don’t go to. I felt it would be a fun personal challenge to talk about the female purse as male-female dynamics has always been a favourite topic of mine. I asked my female friend to give her bag and to fill it up with things she would genuinely carry.
I improvised all the jokes. The reason I pulled out the pad first is because I genuinely and personally don’t feel it is a big deal to hold/talk/mention a pad. Since comedy comes from an honest place, I spoke about how I used to be genuinely scared of finding a pad when I was younger, as I grow up I’ve realised it isn’t taboo as society makes us perceive it as one. It also seemed fun to make a guy in the audience catch it and get his honest reaction.
Q: As you said, it’s 2017, and boys should be equally comfortable with the knowledge of women’s everyday issues. How do you feel about the reactions you get from both genders?
A: I am very proud of the audience that comes to my shows. They are usually intelligent and forward thinking. The people who aren’t, I actively avoid them. I had faith that my audience (video and live audience) would respond positively to it. I knew they would be surprised, but that’s what i wanted to capture.
Many (women) were genuinely happy that I spoke about how it’s okay to talk about pads and periods which honestly shows how sad it is that it’s still a taboo to talk about it.
Q: You could be considered a sort of feminist ambassador– how do you feel about that?
A: Well I am a feminist. I haven’t done much at all to be called an ambassador. I am just glad people even bother to follow my work and even more lucky that my experiments with comedy get such positive reactions.
Q: How did it feel to go back to Chai Time after the Amazon video and all the recent attention?
It’s funny I was talking about the same thing to my friend. The reaction and the fact that it trended at No. 1 on Amazon Prime video was indeed a huge blessing but I will always be on YouTube. I started on YouTube and the medium encourages you to be genuine and more intimate with your audience. Chai Time has evolved from being a live vlog to a new form of comedy for me which constantly surprises me and is always something my audience can look forward to.
Anjalee Khemlani is a contributor to SheThePeople from New Jersey