The Feministing Five: Katie Halper

Katie Halper in jacket and red top, wearing earrings and hair in a ponytailKatie Halper is a comic, filmmaker, and one of the newest contributors here at Feministing. Her work has appeared in sites like Guernica, Alternet, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, Comedy Central and GritTV. When she’s not writing sharp and entertaining commentaries on politics, she’s doing stand-up comedy or working on her documentary called, “Got Camp.” Her comic routine encompasses everything from her Jewish heritage to sexism and homophobia. She’s performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, DC Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise. Her documentary tells the story of the summer camp Halper attended, which she calls “the opposite of Jesus camp,” where all religions and ideologies are encouraged. As she says, “It’s basically the right wing’s nightmare.” She’s one of the founders of the stand-up political comedy group Laughing Liberally, which is a project of Living Liberally that tours and performs in cities all over the U.S. On top of all this funny, political work, she teaches Latin American history during her day job.

Katie’s refreshing and funny voice has been a great addition to the site. No matter how serious the topic, she always finds a way to insert her comedic perspective into everything she writes about. Make sure you keep an eye out for Katie’s posts and get to know her better. Also, stay up to date on her comedic mashup videos on YouTube.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Katie Halper.

Anna Sterling: What came first—politics or comedy?

Katie Halper: Politics came first. I went on my first anti-nukes march when I was one year old. I remember as a kid going to pro-choice rallies and anti-war rallies. I was very influential in the public discourse around Dukakis and Bush among 7 year olds, I’d like to think. I went to a very political summer camp where the bunks were named Harriet Tubman, Anne Frank and Pablo Neruda. And then people in college told me I should do stand-up and I remember thinking, “I’m not funny on command, maybe I’m funny spontaneously.” I did a stand-up show, it went well and since then, I’ve been doing comedy.

Anna Sterling: Tell me about your documentary.

Katie Halper: I wanted to make a documentary about the summer camp that I went to because it’s a really important alternative to Jesus camp. It’s the opposite of Jesus camp. Instead of preaching one religion, exclusion of others, and a Christian crusades mentality, it’s the opposite. My mom went there and my grandma went there too. It’s very inclusive and it espouses all these ideas about social justice. It’s the right wing’s nightmare.

AS: Who’s funnier– the right or the left?

KT: We’re much funnier than the right. There’s a controlled experiment with Dennis Miller. He used to be funny and then he became right-wing and he’s no longer funny. There’s anger on the right and the left, but the anger on the right is mean-spirited and picks on the underdog. Anger that’s mean-spirited is alienating. The anger on the left is based on a sense of justice. Also, to be a good comedian you have to be empathetic and observant. You have to be interested enough in other people to be able to make deep observations and that doesn’t happen when you don’t have a commitment to social justice. You’re less empathetic and, therefore, less funny.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

KT: I love Anne of Green Gables. Although, I wanted red hair so much when I was younger, I could never relate to the fact that she didn’t like having red hair. I always thought she was such an ingrate.  I also love Shirley from Oklahoma and Jo from Little Women. Oh, and Sheila from Waiting for Guffman.

My mom is my real life heroine. She’s a professor and fiction writer. We blog at the same places and we’ve had articles up the same day at Alternet and Guernica. She’s incredibly supportive, loyal, ethical and a great person. She’s also fun, smart, political. She’s friends with my friends and really funny.

AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?

KT: Food: pesto pasta. Drink: white wine. Feminist: Stephen Colbert. Mostly because I want to spend time on a desert island with him and I do think he’s a feminist. I also think he’d keep me entertained.

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