Let’s talk about rape: Rape is Real and Everywhere comedy show

Walking into the venue, my first thought was “of course the show is being put on here.” The setting was exactly the kind of thing that pops into your head when you hear the word “sketchy”. A little hole in the wall located off 8th Avenue SW, Vern’s smells like the kind of place that used to let you smoke but had to stop because of, you know, the law. Not to put down Vern’s; they host some excellent bands on nights they aren’t hosting a rape comedy show.

Rape Is Real and Everywhere is a show where sexual assault survivors get on stage, tell the story of their rape, and then joke about it. The show is produced Heather Jordan Ross and Emma Cooper, both from Vancouver and who both have their own stories to tell.

The show sold out three times in Vancouver and then hit the road and came to Calgary May 18th. This edition featured some native Calgarians, including Amy Edgar and  Adora Nwofor. The Calgary show, while not sold out, packed Vern’s Bar so tight that some people were left standing.

Cooper played the role of MC, and opened the show with a tentative warning of what was to come.  Edgar, the opening act, began her set, and you could already tell how uncomfortable the audience was. The first few jokes she told heard scattered laughs from the crowd.

Oh, was that too dark? I’m sorry, next time I get raped I’ll try to make sure it’s funnier

The joke struck a chord, and the rest of the evening played out easier. Somehow, over the course of a few hours, six rape survivors told us how they were raped, and made us laugh about it.

At the end of the show, Cooper made sure to explain their purpose. Where there is praise, there is criticism, and the show has received its fair share.

“A lot of people think we’re two white girls trying to capitalize on how popular rape is.” Cooper says.

Instead, she explained the purpose of the show is to start a conversation about rape culture and what kind of world we are living in. Rape often doesn’t take the shape we expect it to take, and in many cases, it comes from people we thought we could trust. Many of the stories told were about friends and acquaintances.

In reality, rape takes a much more sinister form than we would expect. A “stereotypical” rape happens in a back alley because a stranger snuck up on you and overpowered you, or because someone slipped something into your drink. Instead, most sexual assault often takes place with a partner, a one-night stand, or even a trusted friend.

This show provided insight into the reality of rape, and how survivors are forced to deal with the aftermath. The jokes that are often told about rape are told by non-survivors. Ross, who spoke to Vice Canada, explained that “most of the new comics who are telling those shitty jokes ... they're telling shitty rape jokes that support the predator”.

This show supports the survivors. It demonstrates the changes that are happening in society regarding rape culture when a show about rape can pack venues. In a society where rapists are often seen as victims and survivors are doubted, it’s important for audiences and for other survivors to see a show where women are seeking to challenge that idea.

Rape is Real and Everywhere poster.

Rape is Real and Everywhere poster.