We’ve asked each comedian on our Stand up for Comedy lineup to answer a few questions about herself, feminism and the power of humor. Here’s our conversation with Deb Farrar-Parkman.
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Boston NOW: What was the first joke that you ever told?
Deb Farrar-Parkman: I am old and cannot remember the first joke I ever told on stage. But I remember the first joke I ever told consistently. It wasn’t even my joke but it got me through 10th grade Geometry class. Every morning I started off the class by leaning over and telling Tony Cowan (a present-day musician who back in the day had the misfortune of sitting next to me in that class) the same joke: ‘ I got this dog who doesn’t have any legs. So mornin’ I take him out for a draaaaaaag!’ Yeah, I know pretty pathetic and cruel. But I was 15 and everything’s funny at 15. Tony laughed. But maybe he had a crush on me. I don’t know. Anyway, I disrupted Ms. Grady’s class every single morning with laughter. The good news is I ran into her years later at the gym and all is forgiven. Turns out she had way more bad-asses to endure throughout her teaching career than me.
Boston NOW: Who is your favorite female comedian?
Deb Farrar-Parkman: My favorite comedians include: Wanda Sykes, Leslie Jones, Rita Rudner, Amy Poehler and Betty White. The first female comedian I remember and whose humor has impacted me the most was from my parent’s era: Moms Mabley. Here was this Black woman in a sea of male comics claiming her place on stage, creating and owning her brand and proving that sarcasm was indeed the highest form of intelligence and not at all the lowest form of wit. I remember she told a joke about Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus and how she was riding in a plane behind him and she overhears him telling his wife how he was going to throw $100 from a plane to make someone happy and his wife suggests that he divide the money and throw it from the plane in order to make more people happy. Faubus was the governor who tried to block the enforcement of the Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation decision by calling in the National Guard to stop Black children from attending Little Rock Central High School. Moms Mabley taps him on the shoulder and asks him why he doesn’t jump from the plane and make everybody happy. She used the stage as her platform for political commentary. She understood the power she had on that stage and the number of people who would hear and absorb her commentary, after they stopped laughing.
Boston NOW: Boston NOW considers feminism to be the fight to end all forms of oppression. How do you think humor can be used to advance the aims of feminism?
Deb Farrar-Parkman: Feminism can be advanced through humor very much the same way that Moms Mabley used the stage to advance the rights of African Americans in society. Humor, when presented intelligently, will always be a powerful tool for shifting people’s perceptions and mis-conceptions about the “other.”