Bodies are gross. It’s true of all bodies, but while men are often encouraged to embrace the disgusting, women are often taught to be ashamed of it. The comedy show and podcast Ladylike encourages women and nonbinary folks to celebrate the sickening by sharing their stories about blood, guts, sex, puke, and feces galore.
“Basically your whole life not only are you not supposed to think it’s funny but you constantly have to hide it, and that can be really exhausting and frustrating,” says Ladylike cofounder Gena Gephart. “So to go up to a microphone and say, ‘I shit my pants on the bus,’ I think it is kind of empowering. I think it’s empowering to reclaim the quote unquote ‘unladylike’ parts of our bodies and behavior.”
During the live show, which takes place on the third Monday of every month at Cafe Mustache in Logan Square, comedians and musicians tell their grossest stories onstage, often to a packed house. (Full disclosure: the first time I attended I was a performer on the show and talked about all the times my bodily functions had betrayed me in front of an attractive nurse during a weeklong hospitalization.) Before the show starts, members of the audience can anonymously submit their own disgusting confessions to be read onstage in between acts—though Gephart says most people end up proudly owning up to the stories. One such instance that’s stayed with her is when a woman in the audience wrote down a story about a sexual encounter that involved her big toenail drawing blood from the inside of a man’s mouth. “She did stand up and was like, ‘It was me!'” Gephart says.
Inspired by other storytelling shows like This American Life and the Moth, Gephart started recording the performances for a weekly podcast in November of last year. She didn’t want to waste the opportunity to collect all the stories being told every month and share them with more people to continue breaking down the stigma around gendered grotesqueness.
While women and nonbinary audiences have embraced the show, Gephart does wish that more men would attend. Not only would they be treated to a fun and hilarious night, but they also might learn a thing or two about the unnecessarily mystifying female body. And performers are more than happy to tell every nitty-gritty detail to assist in that education.
“Most people when I ask them to do the show are like, ‘Oh, I know exactly what story I’m telling,'” Gephart says. “Everyone’s got a nasty story that they’ve just been waiting in the wings with.” v