A Hilarious and Half-Naked Show—All About Rape

AT with Lenny and Bill
Covering topics from roofies to Bill Cosby, Adrienne Truscott uses humor and wit to mock rapists and their apologists. Julieta Cervantes

I was still looking for my seat Thursday night at The Headwaters Theatre in Portland, Oregon, when a woman came up to me with a cold, bruised banana in her hand. She asked if I would hold it.

“Am I going to regret this later?” I asked.

“No,” she assured me. “It’s noninvasive.”

I took the fruit and allowed a few people to shuffle past me to their seats. One of them, a woman in her 60s, stopped: “It’s a brave thing to be a man coming to this. Thank you for being brave.”

I sat down and set the banana on the floor beneath my chair, wondering what exactly the next hour would entail. I was on a first date. The show was her idea.

I knew the evening would be a bit uncomfortable. The show was called “Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else!” By “starring her pussy,” my date had warned me, that meant a comedienne would be telling jokes about rape, while not wearing any pants. I figured it had to be more interesting than Netflix. (Spoiler alert: I am about to ruin some of Truscott’s jokes, but only a few of them).

On stage, someone had lined up framed portraits of a select group of well-known comedians: Cognizant of the theme of this particular performance, I couldn’t help but notice Bill Cosby and Daniel Tosh, displayed a bit more prominently than the others.

As we waited for the show to start, a woman appeared with a tray of tequila shots, offering them to the audience. I downed one. Then another woman, wearing a jean jacket (three jean jackets, as it turns out), paraded into the crowd. She was naked from the waist down.

Her name is Adrienne Truscott, and she’s been touring the world, pantless, making audiences alternately laugh or squirm because she’s telling jokes about a taboo subject in comedy: rape. She’s in Portland, sponsored by local company Boom Arts, until October 24, and I caught the opening act.

Truscott began with slapstick, chucking her extra jackets and then sunglasses into the crowd, snatching audience members’ wine cups for a quick drink here and there before prancing back on stage to crack a Coors Light.

This was the safe part of her act, which seemed intended to loosen us up. Things got pretty real after that. “So this lady walks into a bar, orders a case of Coors Light, and by the end of the night, everybody in the bar has fucked her,” she says. The joke ends with the lady asking to switch to Heineken, “because those Coors Light sure hurt my pussy.”

What followed was unlike anything I had ever seen at a comedy show. There were self-deprecating references to her lady parts. An impersonation of a duck vagina. The term “rape queef.” She talked about eating an infant conceived by rape, the way gerbils sometimes consume their own babies. She described slipping a man a roofie to rape him, only to discover a roofied man might have a little trouble, uh, rising to the occasion. “It was like trying to fuck an éclair!”

Awkward? For Truscott at least, not so much. “I feel really comfortable,” she said. “Even if none of you guys do.”

If the audience was uncomfortable then, it wasn’t going to get any better. “Anyone here been raped?” Truscott asked. Silence “Anyone here raped anyone?”

Silence. “Woo, tough crowd.”

Statistically, she added, “there’s probably a rapist in here. Sit tight, everyone, because I’m going to do a comedy about rape whether you like it or not. Get it?”

Some jokes were funny, some subversive, some a little too punny for the heady Portland crowd (“cereal rape”). The point of her performance: to use humor to call out those ignorant and insensitive about rape (including, of course, rapists themselves).

“Some people were like, 'How are you going to do this? What’s going to be the hardest part of preparing for a show like this?'” Truscott said on stage. “I’ll tell you what, the research was a bitch.”

Truscott lambasted all aspects of misogyny: the idea that a gussied-up woman is asking for it, street harassment and the notion that there’s any such thing as “gray area” when it comes to rape, which if nothing else, is “really rude.”

“People don’t agree. What’s funny? What’s a joke? What’s comedy? What’s a rape? It’s super hard to figure out,” she said.

Fifteen minutes into the show, Truscott asked for my banana, and I gave it to her. “I wouldn’t try to get through a whole night of comedy without the world’s best comedy prop. Look at this thing.”

The show was hilarious, and not without some pretty straightforward messaging. The framed photographs on stage were all of male comedians who’ve made rape jokes or been accused of rape. She singled out Tosh for his reported response to a heckler who disapproved of him doing rape jokes at a 2012 show at the Laugh Factory. That response: “Wouldn’t it be funny if she got raped by, like, five guys right now?”

The Portland crowd didn’t laugh at this. “You guys, it’s just a joke, come on. He’s just talking about gang rape in real time in a room full of drunken strangers. Cheers!” Nervous chuckle. “Forevermore, Daniel Tosh is like the poster child for rape jokes. You guys, that is hilarious, because look at him: He looks exactly like a date rapist. Right? Like all thin-lipped and college education?”

Whether you find “rape jokes” funny or not, Truscott has discovered a brilliant way to talk about the subject. I expected her to make a point. I didn’t expect to enjoy myself as much as I did. My date’s take? “Halfway through the show, I forgot she was naked.” It was weird, wild, and it ended with the star of the show doing a headstand on a chair, aligning herself just so, as that famous scene of Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver was projected in the space between her legs. De Niro has a mohawk, in the movie. On stage, he didn’t need one.