INTERVIEW: Stand up comedian Natasha Brock on periods, representation and laughing *with* ourselves as women

Our conversation with the comedian who responded to critiques that “no one could relate” to her jokes about being a woman. . .by doing a whole show about periods.

I don’t know how many apartments you’ve seen that are decked out like Natasha Brock’s place, but it was a first for me. There really isn’t a shelf, windowsill or side table in the Danish/Filipino stand up comedian’s place that doesn’t sport something like a mug with an illustration of breasts, or a cross-stitch of a happy-looking uterus with a funny quote. It’s something of a whimsical shrine to the female body, tucked neatly away on a city sidestreet – it’s absolutely fabulous. And very Natasha. The fact that she shares the place with her fiancé Albert (to whom she proposed, actually – cute lil’ bit of trivia there for ya) only makes me love it more.

Video/Subs: Emma Ishøy

I’m here to catch up with her about life, her show Psyclus (“Cycle” in English), and being a woman of color in an industry where she’s far outnumbered by guys in general, and white guys in particular. She hands me a coffee as we sit down on her couch next to the window, and chat for a few minutes while my GAA sis, Emma, sets up the camera stuff.

Back in 2019, before the world face-planted and everything became terrible, I plus-oned my way into Psyclus’ debut show: an hour-long, unapologetic “deep-dive into the awesome, underground world of periods.” Those are Natasha’s words, but the chills are all mine. It’s a night I’ve thought about often in the time since, and not just because a two-meter-long tampon was hanging in the middle of the stage. I’ve been to comedy shows before, but there was something so different about the experience of that evening; the fact that 100% of the jokes clicked for me, yes. But there was also a tangible feeling of sisterhood created in that room full of (mostly) women and folks who menstruate, as we sat together laughing at the absurdity of it all. I’d never tried anything like it. It was dope as hell.

comedy | Interview | menstruation
Photo: Emma Ishøy

I’ve been meaning to pick her brain about it for a while, and today’s the day. Not wanting to waste any time, I kick us off by asking about what it’s like to bring her female-centered brand of comedy to a scene that she shares with (tons of) guys:

“I think when you first get into ‘the biz’, it can be overwhelming because there are a lot of men,” Natasha says. “That’s just how it is right now. And you find out really quickly that you need to toughen up and not take everything so personally. I definitely learned that folks can be joking around, and it’s about your profession – not you as a person. Separating the two is really important.”

I like that, and scribble it down on my notepad (next to the name of the Etsy shop where she got that cute boobie mug). But I want to hear more about the scene, and her experience in it. I tell her that yes, we all have more exposure to diverse voices in comedy these days because of streaming services and whatnot; but the world is still a small place in many ways. So I’m wondering what it’s like for her as a woman of color in comedy, especially in a country as translucent, porcelain white homogeneous as her native Denmark:

“In the beginning, I made jokes about it, because I knew that’s what people saw when they saw me go on stage – that I had darker skin. And I felt like I had to talk about it, you know? But now that I’ve become more aware, I try not to talk myself down as much as I did before. Like, I made a lot of jokes about my mom, and I can still do that because she’s still hilarious” (author’s note: can confirm – she’s a hoot). “But when I do jokes about her, I want people to laugh with me, and not feed into people’s assumptions. I don’t want people to laugh at my mom. I want them to laugh at my experience with my mom.” 

“So that’s something that I found out, the longer I made comedy,” Natasha continues. “And I became more aware that, when some people saw me and could relate to me because of the way I looked, it kind of gave me more responsibility. With great jokes comes… great responsibility? Haha, I don’t know,” she laughs.

comedy | Interview | menstruation
Photo: Emma Ishøy

“It’s interesting, because I didn’t think I needed representation when I was younger. Like, it never made sense to me that people would want that. And then I saw it,” she says. “I remember the first time I saw Ali Wong, who does amazing comedy. When I saw her, and when I saw the comedian Jo Koi, who’s also half-Filipino, I got it. I found out how important representation is. I didn’t know, because I’d never seen it before. And when I realized I could potentially be that representation for someone, that made me think a lot more about my jokes. It made it more important for me. It’s not just jokes anymore. It could mean something to someone else.”

“I love you,” I accidentally say out loud. “God, these answers are amazing. You’re so much more prepared than me and like, I called you for this interview. Geez…”

We take a quick beat to laugh it off and grab some water, and I work up the courage to sample the coconut-licorice cookies that had been eyeing me from her coffee table this whole time (author’s note: *chef’s kiss*). When we gather again, I’m curious to hear more about her start in comedy, and how she went about finding her voice:

“It took time to figure out how to be a woman in a guys’ profession without changing myself,” she tells me. “Because in the beginning, I was told that it’d be best if people didn’t… know I was a woman, if that makes sense?” I nod, and roll my eyes in solidarity. “Like, not wearing too much makeup, not showing my legs… ‘Don’t make jokes about being a woman, because nobody can relate’. But, I found out that… that’s what I do.”

“So folks are telling you to cool it with the lady-jokes, and then you come through with a whole-ass show about menstruation,” I say, laughing. “It’s the ultimate, ‘hold my beer’!”

“Exactly!” she replies. “I mean, I can’t really make jokes about penises… Haha, I actually do make a lot of jokes about pensises – about not having one. But I made the show because I couldn’t… not make the show, if you know what I mean. I had so many jokes about PMS, my first period, cramps, absolutely freaking out…” 

“Lots of chocolate talk too, just saying,” I remind her. “I mean, as one must…”

“Lots of chocolate talk,” she laughs back. “And I think I needed to do this kind of comedy for me. Because the kind of comedy I watch, women have often been the butt of the joke; and I think we’ve learned that we have to laugh at ourselves. But I wanted women to be able to laugh with themselves, if that makes sense? Like, you can relate to something and say ‘that’s me’ or ‘been there’ or ‘I do that’, instead of wondering if there’s something weird about them, that they should be insecure about. I wanted everyone to feel like, ‘Oh shit! Somebody else does that too? I’m not alone.”

comedy | Interview | menstruation
Photo: Emma Ishøy

“And at the same time, I wanted to challenge men to not expect that comedy be for them; but for them to learn something as well,” Natascha adds. “Because what I hear a lot is, ‘Oh, I can’t relate to it, so how can it be funny to me?’ And I’ve heard a lot of jokes I can’t relate to. Like, I’ve never woken up with… what’s it called?”

“…A boner?” I hear myself say from behind the camera.

“Haha, yeah, a boner. But sometimes those kinds of jokes can be funny as well. There are lots of jokes I can’t relate to that are funny, and I want men to sort of open their minds about whether something can be funny regardless of whether or not they’ve personally tried it before.”

OK, that last line was a bit of a mic drop moment for me. What follows on the audio recording of the interview is about three minutes of a muffled monologue (mine) as I try to process, out loud and in real time, what Natasha just said. Because I knew she was right, but I also knew there were layers to dig through before I’d be able to get back to my questions.

When it comes to stand up, I’d never really questioned the fact that most of my favorite comedians are actually men – men who absolutely crack me up about “dude things” I’ve never tried, and couldn’t if I wanted to. And yet, if that’s possible – even possible to the degree that I literally hadn’t noticed it before Natasha pointed it out – there’s an important lesson to unpack there about seeing the world from others’ perspectives. And that’s something we could definitely use right now. 

I hear Natasha say, basically, that not everything has to be about you in order for it to be funny. And as I talked through what I understood it to mean, that line began to rhyme more and more with, “Not everything has to be about you – something you’ve personally tried or experienced – in order for it to be… Valid. True, for the person sharing about it. Worth taking seriously.” 

And I was grateful she said it. So many applications were hitting me all at once, particularly because I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately, in light of some of the conversations many of us are having right now. This gentle reminder to set ourselves to the side, to practice a little extra self-skepticism as we move through the world and do our best not to treat our tastes, feelings and experiences as the objective standard for others is a timely one. So, cheers for that, with our (superb) little coconut-licorice cookies.

comedy | Interview | menstruation
Photo: Emma Ishøy

I try and organize some of these relatively huge takeaways as we wind down our conversation: For one, the importance of being yourself, regardless of whether other people get you or not. Two, the importance of seeing yourself represented in the world around you, and having folks that look like you to look up to. And also, the importance of trying to be someone who sees the value in other people and their stories, even when they’re very different from our own.

“At the heart of everything,” Natasha says, in a parting word about Psyclus, “I just wanted people who mensturate to feel more comfortable talking about it.”

“Well, I feel comfortable talking about it,” I interject, ready to put my money where my mouth is: “ I have the worst PMS today!”

“SO DO I!” Natasha and Emma shout at the same exact time. We laugh so loudly that the audio is actually crackling when I play the recording back to type up the quotes from our afternoon. And there it is again – that sisterhood vibe, caught on tape. Love it.

0

Your Cart