Chicago is Most Segregated City in America. Or, How to Make Jokes About Unfunny Things

I’m a semi-regular contributor to Paper Machete, a live news magazine that happens (for FREE!) every Saturday at the Horseshoe Lounge here in Chicago. Basically, what it is is a bunch of mostly funny people getting together to perform short pieces about the news of the week, plus some cultural commentary and musical acts. The way it works is that performers “choose” a topic and then go for it. I have to put “choose” in “quotes” because I am always strongly encouraged to “choose” a specific topic that is always THE LEAST FUNNY THING A PERSON COULD POSSIBLY BE ASSIGNED TO WRITE ABOUT! I’m not even joking. First, it was LESBIAN TORTURE CLINICS IN ECUADOR! And last week, it was Chicago Is Most Segregated City in America. Weirdly, it was MUCH easier to make a funny piece about torture clinics, because I am a lesbian, I grew up in Ecuador, and I happen to be an expert on torture, if by “expert” one means “I got a PhD by writing about the role of torture and violence in shaping U.S. national identity,” which is exactly what I mean when I say expert. But segregation is a more difficult topic, because to talk about it honestly is to implicate the very kind of audience who stereotypically attend performance events in Lincoln Square or who listen to WBEZ, where this show is also podcasted. WHY, Chris Piatt, WHY? (Chris Piatt, btw, is the man who got me into all of this, and I’m just telling you right now… it is very hard to say No to him. He is charming, and exuberant, and clever, and also will not take no for an answer.)

I guess one, if by “one” you mean “Chris Piatt,” would ask “who better to perform essays about segregation and lesbian torture clinics for than the ones implicated in your critique?” Actually, that’s just me making up that rationale, but I’m sure he would agree.

If you’re curious about how I handled a semi-funny piece about Chicago segregation, you can check it out right here, on the WBEZ page. And lesbian torture clinics in Ecuador? Here. For the record, I don’t make jokes about violence. Or segregation. That stuff is for real for real serious. Instead, I make fun of myself, jealousy induced arson, insurance fraud, and, throw in a few line-dancers, and wrap it all up with a few lip gloss one-liners. Easy, peasy. What you got next for me, folks? War? Poverty? Health hazards of gel manicures? WHAT YOU GOT?!