"I was a weird kid," confesses Rebecca Drysdale. She was a tomboy by nature and her family moved frequently, which, combined, put Drysdale on the line separating weird from outcast.Comedy, then, was a means of social survival as well as entertainment."Humor was my defense and my way in," said Drysdale. "When you're different, you're either weird or you're funny. I chose funny."
So before she hit the big one-oh, Drysdale was reciting the routines of Ellen Degeneres and Paula Poundstone on the playground. Which didn't make Drysdale seem any more normal. But it did give her at least some measure of peer acceptance, and gave her more focus than the average preadolescent has."Nobody knew what I was talking about," said Drysdale, who began doing stand-up at the age of 16. "I was so nerdy about it. There was a time when all I wanted to do was stand-up. So I'd speak entirely in stand-up quotes. Everyone else was getting drunk for the first time and I was focused on writing."Some would say that weird kid has turned into a weird adult. Drysdale, a member of Chicago's Second City, Etc. cast, specializes in the kind of humor that has audiences wondering whether laughter is the appropriate response.
"I love looking at the audience's faces, trying to figure out what to do," said the 25-year-old, whose brother Eric, 10 years her senior, is a writer for "The Daily Show with John Stewart." "Because nobody wants to see a Jewish white woman saying 'nigger' over and over. So people don't know what to do with it."Drysdale is referring to the rap song that is one of four bits she'll be performing in her one-woman show at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. The rap features exactly three words: yeah, come-on and the aforementioned nigger, repeated endlessly. By the end, listeners don't know what to make of either Drysdale or the material."It's one of my favorites," she said. "Because on one hand, I'm a giant hip-hop fan and it's a good song. But the force and the anger in these words lose their meaning. My saying the words over and over, it's commenting on the nature of content. People are shocked at first, but at the end they're nodding their heads."
Crowds will get more insight into Drysdale with her song parody, set to Dr. Seuss' anti-segregationist masterpiece "The Sneetches." But instead of examining the conflicts between star-bellied Sneetches and Sneetches with no stars upon thars, Drysdale cuts up the divide between different camps of lesbians."It's a template to talk about butch/fem politics that I don't really understand and don't want any part of," said Drysdale, a lesbian. "At Sarah Lawrence, I was introduced to this whole world of gay politics. I questioned why do you bother dividing butch from fem, this kind of lesbian from that kind? Because I was 20, it had a lot of fire to it." Drysdale ends the piece with the line, "You can't rely on clothes to make a good match/'Cause when the clothing comes off, a snatch is a snatch."Rounding out Drysdale's show are a monologue where she uses the lingo and style of a personal trainer to point out what's wrong with the United States, and a mock bat mitzvah speech that she says is "lovingly bitter."Stewart Oksenhorn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org