By Niki Hatzidis
According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. It was this year that congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and chances are you or someone you know has experienced some form of violence from their intimate partner. So, why shouldn’t we openly talk about it?
According to comedians Onika McLean and Brittany Brave, talking and laughter are the best ways to fight domestic violence. Their daring new podcast Violently Funny poses the question, can comedy and domestic violence mix?
McLean and Brave teamed up after meeting at a domestic violence benefit show and decided to dive into the endeavor of starting a podcast that tackled just that; talking openly about experiences with domestic violence, comedy, feminism and female empowerment.
"It was an intense experience, having to perform for women and victims who weren’t quite in the mood to laugh about their experience yet, and rightfully so," said Brave. "Onika and I powered through and immediately bonded. We realized we had a really important story to tell and could help others share theirs," she added.
“When Brittany and I met we instantly connected,” McLean commented, “[We] shared our stories, made each other laugh, healed a little and then birthed Violently Funny.”
“The best comedy is honest, personal and raw,” Brave said when asked about the format of the podcast, “It’s a direct reflection of a comedian’s life and viewpoints. It’s not necessary to talk about your trauma on stage, but there’s a commonality in doing so. It’s therapeutic and helps both a performer and an audience feel less alone.”
McLean agreed, “There are so many women dealing or have dealt with this issue. Often comedy comes from some sort of trauma or pain.”
McLean and Brave talked in great detail about their own personal experiences and the effect it has had on them.
“I was in a toxic relationship where we raised two children, and there was abuse on both parts. No way to raise healthy people," recalled McLean.
“I was in 3+ year romantic relationship in which there was consistent physical and emotional abuse, and it illuminated a lot of toxicity in past relationships. The only way to protect myself was through pressing chargers and a restraining order. I’m still fighting that fight in many ways," Brave added.
The podcast only just released its 10th episode, but it is already reaching and effecting listeners in a positive way.
“So far the support has been incredible,” said Brave, “Sometimes people are apprehensive to listen or don’t fully understand how this show could be funny or entertaining. We get it. We experience it when we try to address DV in day-to-day conversation, but they’re often totally surprised by how much they laugh and learn with each episode.”
The welcomed feedback has been positive.
“People are loving the format, the laughs and the educational portion,” said McLean, “We attempt to educate, entertain and motivate, and that’s what’s happening.”
Though the podcast started out as an open and raw conversation about a difficult problem women face, the show covers a myriad of other topics as well. It is ultimately about giving power back to women, with guests that talk about topics such as sex work, advocates for women’s mental health, dating and overall well-being.
“We are all about women empowerment,” McLean said, “Brittany and I come from two different worlds. I’m an old lady from the projects, and she’s a young hot thing from Florida - yet our stories are similar and we educate each other."
Brave and McLean never shy away from the hard truths, making sure nothing about domestic violence ever feels off limits or taboo.
“Like many things, if it doesn’t effect you directly, you don’t make time for it or don’t understand it or both," said Brave. “Mainstream media doesn’t do a very good job at realistically painting the issue so it takes survivors speaking out to correct the conversation.”
For the women who have experienced domestic violence McLean wants to say, “Talk about it. If there is no shame in being a slut, there should be no shame in enduring something horrific where you felt trapped and taken advantage of and abused. Speak openly — that’s your power. You always have your story and your truth.”
"Find a way for this experience to define you positively. Take the time you need to recover and heal and talk about it, but work to find a way to be proud of an otherwise traumatic experience. You’ll never look at the world or love the same way again and it’s a beautiful thing. You’ll learn to cherish struggle, pain, commitment, comedy and yourself in ways you never did before," Brave added.
Violently funny will have a live show recording to kick off its second season on Friday, January 31 at 7pm at Caveat in NYC. The women have big plans for what’s ahead with more guests, honest stories, and much more advocacy. Brave and McLean still perform at benefit shows and shelters, and are planning to donate a portion of the proceeds of the upcoming live show to a non-profit, Safe Horizon New York.
It is just the beginning for the Violently Funny comedians. In a country where we are trying to help and protect women, we need brave women like McLean and Brave to help lead the conversation.
Link: linktr.ee/violentlyfunnypodcast @violentlyfunnypodcast @brittanybrave @divaofcomedy The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.