Last night I realized why Sunday Night Sex Talk feels different than most live performances. The answer: earnestness.
Last night was another very special night of Sunday Night Sex Talks. This one was a NO BOYS ALLOWED show (the original incarnation) and, not only did this show fall on my birthday, but I arranged a line-up of ladies that I knew would bring the house down. They delivered. People laughed. People cried. I saw one woman clutch her chest as if she was maybe having a heart attack but probably just deeply touched.
After the show I was chatting with a bunch of friends/colleagues/mentors/idols about what makes the performances connect on such a strong level. Yes, it is about intimate subject matter which always creates a level of intimacy. Yes, there are no men in the room which makes for a unique environment where people feel and behave more freely, especially the performers. But I think one of the main differences is that the show is earnest, and there’s not a whole lot of that going around these days.
What does it mean to be earnest? Dictionary-wise, this:
But I like to think of it as really giving a shit and not pretending you don’t. You might also think of it as really believing in something and not hiding behind a but, you know, whatever… To be earnest is to say I am/believe in/support/love/want/feel/know THIS and I’m going to celebrate that fact.
Or, to make it simple: Oprah. Oprah is earnest.
Take the idea of Oprah’s entire personality – living your best life, caring unapologetically, striving for more, believing you can achieve it, etc. Oprah does not care if you think she’s crazy. She shows intense conviction aka certainty aka belief aka earnestness.
But Millennials and more specifically the generation before us – X I think? – are not wildly comfortable with being earnest. Gen X literally gave us the phrases WHAT-ever and take a chill pill! Why? Take a look back up at the definition’s synonyms list: serious, solemn, sober, humorless.
Who wants to come off earnest if it means you’re a not funny, not fun bore?
First, no one, but second, I challenge those comparisons.
I think you can be hysterically earnest and I don’t mean so earnest it’s funny. I think that you can actually deliver real comedy that comes from a place of deep certainty. That’s what comedian and (full brag) SEX TALKS alum Cameron Esposito is doing, and she is killing. Take a look at this set of hers where she very strongly and yet hysterically shares her thoughts on the women’s health issue.
Cam is not holding back. She’s not covering up the very important case she’s making with jokes just so the audience doesn’t think she’s too serious or too boring. She has something to say that is more important to her than playing it safe and going for all laughs. She is being earnest. And – and here’s why I think we’re really so scared of that word – she is being vulnerable. She is saying you don’t like it? Too bad.This is me.
The same sort of thing happened last night at my show. One performer unapologetically proclaimed that she’s trying to change herself for x/y/z reasons, and she’s succeeding. She did not care if anyone in the audience rolled their eyes at her attempts at greater greatness. Another performer begged women to love ourselves and our specifically our bodies without once stopping to say, I know this makes me sound like one of those women but… Another schooled us on how important sex is in her life and didn’t give a shit if we thought that was crazy or not.
It is moving to see someone believe in herself without questioning whether or not you believe in her.
That, to me, is the real heart of the definition of earnest. It means that you trust in yourself and your position so much that you’re not worried it might come across as too serious. Because you know what, it is serious. Life is serious. We go through serious things and we need to be able to share them even though they’re a little hard to hear or a lot hard to say. Sometimes life can’t be reduced to whatever. And I think it is a real relief to hear that position supported, out loud, through true stories.
I haven’t read The Importance Of Being Earnest since high school and even then I’m pretty sure I read the Cliff Notes, but I remember that it’s a comedy about all the ridiculous things that can happen if you treat life with triviality. True story, Oscar Wilde, especially when it pertains to love and sex.
So, every month at Sex Talks we try a little harder to be a little more earnest and every month the show – and the audience – get a little bit better. Come see for yourself.
We’re back Sunday, September 4th for another NO BOYS ALLOWED edition of the show at Bar Lubitsch and Saturday, September 10th for a CO-ED show at UCB Sunset. All details at SundayNightSexTalks.com.