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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Funny Feminism: Podcast "The Guilty Feminist" comes to Chicago
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2020-01-03

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Deborah Frances-White knew there was humor to be mined from her bungled attempts to be a good feminist. Which is why the U.K.-based Australian comedian/writer/producer co-created the comedy podcast The Guilty Feminist.

Frances-White's first "guilty" admission was: "I'm a feminist, but one time I went on a women's rights march, and I popped into a department store to use the loo, and I got distracted trying out face cream. And when I came out the march was gone."

Frances-White was certain she wasn't alone. So she co-created a podcast platform for other comedians and guests to "explore our noble goals as 21st century feminists and the hypocrisies and insecurities that undermine them."

"I think comedians create audiences in their own image to a certain extent," said Frances-White during a recent telephone interview. "The wonderful thing about podcasting is you can attract a global audience who want to hear that and find that funny."

Since it's creation in 2015, The Guilty Feminist has been downloaded more than 60 million times. The podcast's success has prompted The Guilty Feminist to tour across the U.K., Australia and New Zealand in increasingly larger theaters.

Frances-White also wrote a book of The Guilty Feminist in 2018. It gained the subtitle "You Don't Have to be Perfect to Overthrow the Patriarchy" for its recent North American release.

As part of the book launch, Frances-White is taping episodes of The Guilty Feminist in select Canadian and U.S. cities. One tour stop is at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, at Thalia Hall in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

Frances-White is keen to return to the Windy City, since she was once was an artistic associate with the former Chicago Improv Festival. Sneaking out to take improvisation classes as a teenager was also a way for Frances-White to "rebel" while being raised as a ( now former ) Jehovah's Witness in Australia.

"Being a good improviser makes you a good podcaster," said Frances-White, who also co-authored the book The Improv Handbook with Tom Salinsky, her British husband and Guilty Feminist co-producer.

Most episodes of The Guilty Feminist feature Frances-White co-hosting with a ( usually female-identified ) comedian. Then they like to "ally up" with special guests to tackle topics both light-hearted and serious.

For example, one recently released Guilty Feminist episode riffed on the idea of being "Big" ( women feeling comfortable taking up space in all kinds of ways ). Another dove headlong into the current refugee and humanitarian crisis on the Greek island of Lesbos.

"If the values—the humanitarian or the feminist values—were absent from the comedy, that would be a problem," said Frances-White about the podcast's mix of being funny and promoting active compassion. "Audiences will go there with you if the values go across the comedy and sad truths."

Early on with The Guilty Feminist, Frances-White realized that she needed to have as many diverse voices as possible. For example, some past co-hosts and guests have included queer African-American comedian/writer Kemah Bob, transgender scientist Reubs Walsh and lesbian folk singer-songwriter Grace Petrie.

"If we do a podcast about feminism and it's full of white middle-class straight ladies, then we're only doing a show with a very specific perspective," Frances-White said. "But honestly, ( diversity ) just makes the show better and more interesting and funny."

The Guilty Feminist also occasionally has famous guests. For example, Emmy Award-winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge ( Fleabag, Killing Eve ) and lesbian comedian Hannah Gadsby ( Nanette, Douglas ) both appeared on the podcast long before the two women skyrocketed into to super-stardom.

"They're close friends of mine, and to see their success has been absolutely amazing," said Frances-White. She added that Waller-Bridge and Gadsby contributed interviews for the second U.K. edition of The Guilty Feminist book.

Frances-White also wrote the screenplay and has a cameo in the 2019 screwball film comedy Say My Name. She is also tied to other podcasts.

Frances-White is a producer of the show GrownUpLand on BBC Radio 4. She is also a co-creator and co-host of Global Pillage, which grew out of a response to the historical lack of diversity on British TV panel shows.

But for now Frances-White is looking to build more North American audiences for The Guilty Feminist—especially amid these difficult political times with Brexit in the U.K. and the Trump administration in the U.S.

The Guilty Feminist is "a place where you can really find your tribe and feel part of something that is contemporary and relevant," Frances-White said. "It's absolutely necessary in an age where we must absolutely resist and be resilient in resiting. And resilience is built through joy and laughter, so please come out and bring friends."

A live episode taping of the podcast "The Guilty Feminist" is at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St. Tickets are $35-$45. For more information, visit GuiltyFeminist.com .


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