Alison Stevenson is a stand-up comedian and writer committed to calling out misogynistic bullshit. A self-proclaimed “cunnilingus crusader,” Stevenson fearlessly uses comedy to fight the sexist expectations women are held to in relationships and dating. Her self-released stand up album, Eat Me, is available for download now.
Stevenson took some time to talk to Ms. about orgasm equality, being a woman in comedy and calling men out.
How did you begin doing comedy?
I’ve always been obsessed with comedy and wanted to be a comedian and a writer since I was a kid. I started performing and doing stand up as soon as I graduated college. I did my first open mic when I was 18 years old. Then as soon as I graduated, I moved to Oakland and I was dumped by the boy I moved there for. Like I was all set to move in and I was like, “okay, I gotta figure out what to do with my life now.” I wanted to be involved with comedy but I didn’t know what yet.
My friend invited me to see her dad perform in an open mic in San Francisco. At the show, I realized I should get into stand-up. So ever since then, I kept going back to that open mic that I saw my friend’s dad perform at. And then I kinda just immersed myself in stand up comedy. I was doing it in the bay area for about two years, and then I moved to L.A., where I’m from, and continued doing it here.
How have you dealt with the male-dominated aspects of comedy?
As a woman in comedy you’re immediately put into the category of either fuckable or “one of the guys.” As a woman in comedy I’m not really respected for my material, and I always felt like there was underlying motives for getting booked on shows. Like, bookers would hit on me, and then if I rejected their advances, I wouldn’t get booked on their show again. I definitely feel like things are so different now because I’m more confident in myself and I don’t let other people’s opinions sway me as much, but I still feel it. A lot of women’s material is seen as cliche, or trivial. Like, men are always talking about love, marriage, and dating, and when they do it, it’s seen as universal. But when a woman does it it’s seen as “female comedy”. And that’s something that we have to power through. Like a lot of my material is about dating or relationships, and I’m made to feel like that’s wrong or beginning level comedy. There’s definitely a gender bias going on, and that’s something I have to battle with all the time. As soon as women get on stage they have way more to prove than a male-stand up does.
I noticed that a lot of men get uncomfortable finding a woman funny. I feel like there’s a weird pressure to stroke the male ego and I try not to do that. I do have a lot of male fans but I just stopped catering to them and trying to please them. The day I publicly said I don’t want to give blow jobs anymore I kind of gave up.
How else have you had to use persistence to advance your career?
This is something that female comedians say to each others all the time. Like guys are putting themselves out there and not giving a fuck how they look. They don’t care if they seem annoying or too persistent, they just keep doing it until something finally lands for them. And I think women are always put in a position where we don’t want to put ourselves out there because of fear. But men were raised to think of themselves as the shit. So the main thing I’ve been learning is to put myself out there. I email people and ask them for favors. I’m putting the work in, and 9/10 people are willing to help you out. It’s been putting me in a place where I can help other women out. When I get something, I want to make sure someone else does too.
Tell me about your self-released stand-up album, Eat Me.
I got some of the inspiration from an event me and my friend put on—a cunnilingus-themed art show also called “Eat Me.” I’m an advocate for orgasm equality. You know, men who are “woke” or “feminist” need to be aware of that type of misogyny. I recorded it in a dive bar. Basically I really like calling men out on their bullshit.
What types of things do you call men out on?
I think that we are often told that we’re crazy or we need to chill out, or we’re too much drama. Men want to make us feel bad for having feelings, and you can’t fault someone for having feelings. And men suppress their emotions, and then they want women to suppress their emotions, and that’s kind of how we got this “chill culture.”
Ghosting is a perfect example—like I wanna bring it up and call them out, but everyone else around me is advising me to “be the bigger person” and forget them. But that never sits well with me. That’s not me being the bigger person, that’s them getting away with their bullshit. They hope that’s the route I take because they don’t want to have a confrontation.
We should be at a place right now where if we are going to be having casual sex, that’s totally fine, but a lot of men’s behavior needs to change. On the first date, if men could just be honest and say they’re not looking for a girlfriend, that would vastly improve things. I think men are very capable of being honest and talk about their feelings, but the fear of vulnerability probably prevents them.
What advice would you give to girls who want to be comedians?
Go with your gut instinct and power through. I’ve lived through endless open mics where the audience is 50 dudes and 5 girls and you feel like the audience doesn’t think your stuff is funny. I’ve learned that so many times jokes that I knew in my gut were funny. Like if you feel strongly about a bit or a joke, keep going with it and don’t let male comedians sway the material you come up with. When I was starting out, things were a lot different. Women are a lot more supportive of one another.