“I want to be a political wife, I’ve been training for this for all of my life,” Political Subversities performer Shaina Taub sings. “Let me in the sorority of Michelle Obama toned-arm candy.” “Political Wife” is just one of many hilarious sketches written and performed by musical sketch comedy group Political Subversities. It almost seems unfair that this massive group seems to be hogging all of the funniest, smartest, best-looking performers with incredible voices and impeccable hand-eye coordination. Their website describes their show as a combination of The Daily Show, Glee, Saturday Night Live and South Park, and I couldn’t have described it better myself. Over the course of the hour-long show they pack in over 40 sketches, songs and monologues in a giddy, fast-paced spectacular poking fun at politics and popular culture.
The company includes eighteen members divided fairly evenly among gender. PoliSub member nicHi Douglas told me that one of the biggest comments she hears in most comedy venues is “Wow, there are a LOT of girls in that group,” which makes her think, “Yeah, as many girls as there are guys…”
I spoke to nicHi and PoliSub members Emma Tattenbaum-Fine and Kim Blanck, all of whom said that one of the group’s biggest assets is the diversity among the writers and performers in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Because of the wide array of points of view, “someone can come in with a topic as simple as, ‘MTA sucks,’” nicHi said. “But with all of our varied opinions and points of view, as men and women who…have lived our very specific lives, the piece will turn into ‘MTA Clowns,’ where we all act out MTA workers like deranged munchkins and the Shuttle Bus sings a solo in slow motion. That sort of absurd hilarity might take a comedy duo weeks to come up with, whereby sometimes it only takes us 10 minutes in the writers' circle.”
While some of sketches and songs come together very collaboratively, the group dynamic is great for feedback on individually written pieces. nicHi wrote a piece called “Michelle Obama’s Arms” and Emma wrote “Cat Calls,” both of which were enthusiastically supported by the other members of the group. I found it refreshing that the group’s songs and sketches include female-oriented issues, something I’d usually expect only from an all-female group. Kim pointed out, “It is imperative to have a man's perspective on the more female-centric issues that are presented to the group. This way, we can know what's too alienating, or just plain unclear.”
“The diversity of our group allows us to take writing risks,” said Emma. “A guy in our group once brought in a song about the women's movement and he took risks in what he wrote about and we ultimately didn't…move forward with the piece. But I don't think he could have written it in the first place without the insurance policy of six women who would tell him if it was on point or not.” It’s not just the female members of the group that propose pieces concerning women’s issues; “One of our most successful sketches, ‘Real Housewives of the World,’ which imagines how the ‘Real Housewives of Sudan or the Congo’ deal with losing their husbands and female genital mutilation, was written by one of the guys,” said Kim.
With heavy hitters like Gilda Radner, Jane Krakowski, Amy Poehler, Leslie Mann, Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch among their female influences, some of their biggest inspiration comes from other PoliSub members. “I am continuously learning from both the men and the women in my group,” Kim told me. “Each one is so talented, and with every show I am challenged and inspired by them to bring in a more daring piece, or make a wilder acting choice.”
Ambitious, talented and hilarious, these women are certainly on my radar and I can’t wait to see what they do next. “I think that we are in a period of handholding,” Emma said. “Gently guiding network executives and movie producers toward an understanding that women can be the funny stars and funny writers of funny movies. I have no patience for this long, slow, silly pageant. I'm minding my own business and making my own comedy, ‘being the change,’ as it were.”
NicHi echoes this same sentiment, “I think we can expect to see more woman rising to the surface with an intention to stick around. I will consider myself one of those women.”
Political Subversities performs every Saturday at the PIT in NYC. They have a host of videos available online too, so check them out! I still have the tune from “Political Wife” stuck in my head, probably because I watch it over and over again.
Political Wife: Greg T. Gordon
Group photo by Kelli Patterson