What makes a Broad, Five questions with Joilet Harris

Broads is a comedy cabaret celebrating bold female comedians from the 1920s through the 1960s. The show is directed by Jennifer Childs and stars Jess Conda, Joilet Harris, and MB Scallen and features material from more than a dozen comedians including Sophie Tucker, Moms Mabley, Mae West, and many more.

The history of women in comedy has long been a favorite subject at 1812 Productions and has inspired several projects over the past 15 years. Before rehearsals began for Broads, we asked each of the performers five questions about what makes a broad a Broad. We loved their responses so much, we’re sharing them here.

From MB Scallen:

1. What does the word 'broad' mean to you?

Broads:  Larger than life female! Sassy, sexy, shoots straight from the hip, says what she means and means what she says.  FIERCE! Sarcastic, living in her own truth. Strong and bold, wise and wiiiiiide, all encompassing. Passionate and compassionate, has wholesome morals. Multi-facted. STRAIGHT, NO CHASER.  She’s got the inside scoop, and enough common sense not to spill all the beans.  Sometimes brash and brassy.   Sometimes, got her best education in the school of hard knocks. She makes things happen!

 2. Who are some of your favorite broads? Anyone whose material (or muse-like presence) you'll be calling on for this show?

The first person who came to mind was my maternal grandmother, the chick who raised me…LILLIAN H. HARRIS!!! And then my mother…SANDRA HARRIS.  From them, the dye was cast.  Honorable mentions:  Jill Scott, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, my cousin Gwen Goodman, Mary Martello, Michelle Obama, every woman who has ever parented a person…especially single parents of teenagers (WHEW!!!)

 3. What makes a broad timeless?

In the case of women who are/were public figures, their notoriety enhances their timelessness, along with whatever gift they brought to the world.   But I think what makes a “Broad” timeless, is the impact that she made/makes and the impression she leaves on the world. Sometimes that “world” doesn’t reach any farther than her immediate surroundings.  Unfortunately, sooo many will remain nameless, throughout the ages.  Those who endured and SURVIVED the Middle Passage, the Holocaust, the Sex Slave Trade, sometimes…the prison walls.

 4. While creating the script, Jennifer Childs offered that one of the main themes of the show is ‘being unafraid.’ In art-making, specifically, what does it mean to you to be unafraid? Is it different from being terrified and doing it anyway?

I think to be un-afraid, you’d have to have been afraid at one point, or else there would be no “un-doing” or reversal.  I think it’s “TO NO LONGER BE AFRAID”. To make the decision that for you, whatever that demon was that kept you bound and at bay, pent up and stifled, scared and frightened to move, take action, step up, take the chance, will no longer claim that power over your life.  Different from terrified.  You can be terrified of something at the onset, without having had prior experience with it. But to be willing  face or do something that you know can have variable outcomes, good, bad or indifferent, and still take the plunge, that’s UNAFRAID.

 5. Last question- maybe related to question 2- who or what always, no matter what, makes you laugh?

Old people – they don’t have filters (I love it!) Babies – they are fearless. (And they shit they say…if you can understand it! LOL)   And yup, I think Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy are hilarious.  And I crack myself up every day!

Joilet Harris. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Joilet Harris. Photo by Mark Garvin.

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