Have you ever seen a stand-up comedy show full of straight people and clutched the arm of the person beside you, both feeling a deep sense of dread and collective responsibility for the horribly offensive jokes that will ensue? We thought so. Now here is the real question. Have you ever seen an entire cast of trans women of color perform a knockout stand-up show in front of 800+ people in a massive stained-glass church? Thought not. Welcome to Brouhaha.
Peacock Rebellion in Oakland is known for hosting this historic event: the first trans women of color comedy night. Brouhaha is a truly groundbreaking show. If you haven’t heard of the show already, click File > New Tab > and get on it. Peacock Rebellion is a grassroots organization in East Oakland that serves as an artist makers space for queer and trans people of color to gather together and create. In the rapidly changing landscape of gentrified Oakland, space for folks of color is a commodity that is both hard to come by and hard to hold onto.
To get the full breakdown of Brouhaha’s origin story, I sat down (virtually) with Lexi Adsit, the Managing Director of Peacock. Adsit explains where all the magic began:
“In 2014, activists and community leaders from Peacock brought together a cohort of about fifteen individuals located in the Bay Area to go through a comedy training program taught by established comedian Micia Mosely, Nia King, and produced by Vanessa Rochelle Lewis. After that inaugural cohort Devi, our executive director, approached myself and Luna Merbruja to create an all-trans women of color comedy show and in 2015 that show was created. Brouhaha was a vision of Devi Peacock and over the years we've been blessed to have an amazing crew of trainers and producers to help make it happen.”
The night featured eight trans women of color: Lexi Adsit, Charlotte Tate, Elena Rose, Erica Kane, KOKUMO, Nava Mau, and Nori Reed. Before the show started at 7pm, the line was already out the door and snaking around the front corner of the First Congregational Church of Oakland. The second annual Brouhaha show took place this year in this breathtaking venue on Harrison and 27th near Lake Merritt. The cavernous ceilings rise over 200 feet above the rows of wooden pews flanked on either side by large cerulean stained-glass panes.
You might think that a church is the last place where eight fierce TWOC (trans women of color) comedians would have audiences cry-laughing in their seats, but the space was strangely fitting. Adsit explains,”I love churches. I love the architecture and First Congregational is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the opportunity to perform in. I was raised in a Roman Catholic family so it felt weird to be back in a church after not having been in one since I stopped going to church around twelve. I definitely had some old habits come back, like feeling I should cross myself and kneel before entering a pew.” This event gave folks the opportunity to reclaim the church not only as a place where trans people can be unequivocally true to themselves but also as a place of laughter. This year’s Brouhaha was a healing experience, to say the least.
The night was full of anti-street harassment fashion tips, Ships in the Night shade, Handmaiden’s Tale dilating dystopian futures, and All Lives Matter exorcisms. In this painful moment of Time Magazine’s Transgender Tipping Point juxtaposed with increased violence and stigma against trans women of color alongside this newfound visibility, some days it can feel almost impossible to smile. With this comedy show, these women are doing something revolutionary. Brouhaha shows us that the best remedy for pain is laughter. Sometimes, the only way to cope with relentless injustice is to use humor as a tool.
Adsit says, “Brouhaha to me means an opportunity to engage people and educate people when they least expect it. When someone buys a ticket to a comedy show, they're not thinking they might be about to learn something, but that's what we do so well: use comedy as a tool to engage and educate our audiences.”
This year, Peacock Rebellion has brought on artistic director Lisa Evans to create new programming and add to their ongoing vision of seeing and keeping black femmes in leadership positions. You can learn more about the work Peacock Rebellion does at www.peacockrebellion.org.
Mud Howard is a white, non-binary trans poet who believes in the healing power of the selfie. Mud writes creative non-fiction, lyrical essays and really good international love letters. They write about witches and ghouls, the inadequacy of the binary, covert toxic masculinity in the queer community and the big blue ocean. You can find their work in THEM literary journal, The Lifted Brow, Black Napkin Press, and Cleaver Magazine. Mud is so excited to collaborate with Transfaith for this monumental fellowship.