Sunday, September 06, 2009

VAGINA LADY


Her Pussy Is Magic


Songs about vaginas. Denounced by the Catholic League. Banned from YouTube. She must be good. I speak exclusively to singer/song-writer and comedian Jessica Delfino.


‘I’m surprised I haven’t been taken away by the state,’ Delfino jokes nonchalantly, referring to her recent controversies. Described as an ‘envelope-pushing artist’, Jessica certainly does not shy away from trouble, in fact she positively thrives off it, which is perhaps why the President of the Catholic League in her home country, the US, publicly condemned her. And they’re not the only ones...


Jessica’s shameless ode to the female anatomy, My Pussy Is Magic, proved popular with viewers (over 250,000 hits), but not with Internet conglomerates, evidently: the day corporate giants Google bought ownership of YouTube, the video mysteriously disappeared. ‘We had to change the name to Jessica Delfino Is Magic. Actually, they just removed another video of mine, Saving This Rape (For Someone Who Loves Me) a few days ago,’ she shrugs. ‘That video was actually based on a famous piece of literature by Margaret Atwood, but it was a bit out there. I’m not that sad they took it down.’ Really? ‘Ok, I am.’ Clearly Delfino, as any artist would understand, doesn’t appreciate her art being censored and restricted, but sometimes she has no choice. ‘Lately, I’ve found myself toning it down at times because I want to be able to perform in any venue I choose without having the FCC all up in my grill.’


Well, thankfully, she’s not compromising her act too much; not if she’s making Russell Brand blush. When Delfino was a guest on his ill-fated BBC Radio 2 show, Brand, no stranger to controversy himself, introduced her as a woman who ‘either sings about, out of, or into her own vagina.’ A nomenclature then developed by which they abbreviated her entire identity to the moniker ‘Vagina Lady’, to which Jessica gracefully replied ‘Thank you. I think vaginas are important and I like to sing songs about them.’ But Brand couldn’t help himself: ‘Can you sing out of or into your vagina?’ Delfino hilariously quipped, ‘I wish. I would like to see that myself, that would be very impressive.’ She went on to perform two songs (out of her mouthSudden Change and A Message to All Men, of which the lyrics shocked even Brand and his cohorts.


But Jessica can’t see what all the fuss is about: ‘I don’t aim to be shocking or controversial, I aim to be funny.’ Most would say that there’s absolutely nothing funny in rape, or war. Not Jessy. ‘My music and jokes are about fucked up people and situations, but one of my major goals is to find what is funny in situations that are real, dark and bizarre. I like that challenge. It’s easy to see what’s “funny” about a cat that can do hand-stands. That’s obviously hilarious. It’s just more of a challenge to find funny things in places they don’t naturally exist. Duh.’ She believes that blanket censorship just shuts down any possible debate, so in writing funny songs, jokes or films, she feels as though she is reigniting public discussion, be it on war or rape, oral sex or vaginas, which is really very exciting. ‘It’s important to me -- I made a career out of it. The world’s problems are eternal debates and will never end.’


Delfino’s musical style is deceptively sweet, but the lyrical content is often surprisingly sharp. Jessica explains how she first discovered music: ‘I spent a lot of time as a kid hanging out in Maine, which is a small state, so I had a lot a free time and I taught myself how to play the guitar. I listened to a lot of Joni Mitchell and classic rock music and I just thought it would be nice for people to actually sing what they were thinking in their heads exactly, without all of the decoration around it. The world would be a better place if they could just say what they wanted.’ So that’s precisely what she did. With her simple songs, honest lyrics and genius titles, it’s no wonder she’s received up to 1 million views on YouTube for the stupidly catchy I Wanna Be Famous.


So what inspired this thirst for free, uncensored, limitless, black comedy? ‘I come from a funny family. My great-grandmother told dirty jokes, so I probably got my sense of humour hereditarily, from her. I also love Mae West, Joan Rivers, Peggy Lee, Pee Wee Herman – my influences come from all over the place. And my sisters are really funny, they are like a real life Patty & Selma [The Simpsons]’ Eek! ‘But I’ve also been inspired by people who aren’t really musical or comedic or related to me at all, such as Joan of Arc, Holly Golightly and even certain kinds of fabrics, images, natural phenomena, drugs and MTV.’


Delfino idolises women from both popular culture to historical feminist icons, so does she identify as a feminist? ‘I’m not afraid of being called a feminist or handling so-called feminist topics. If feminists like what I do and can find meaning in it, that’s great.’ When I tell her that I think the messages in her ditties are very much rooted in feminist principles, she seems confused. ‘They do? I never noticed.’ Whilst Jessica might not intentionally be writing ‘feminist’ songs or ‘feminist’ jokes, she is certainly behaving like a feminist: breaking stereotypes, smashing down the boundaries of feminine sexuality and, basically, saying what we’re all thinking.


Another up-and-coming female comedian/musician who has also been hailed for her feminist material is Sarah Silverman, ‘I think I have been compared to Sarah because we’re both nice looking women telling dirty jokes.’ It’s true. It’s not traditionally a very elegant, lady-like thing to do: to stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people and show off. Hopefully Delfino and Silverman will help bring this double-standard to an end. ‘If I’m getting compared to funny, famous people I think that’s great and I’m honoured... I’ve also been compared to Redd Foxx because I’m an old, funny, black man, on the inside.’


Delfino senses the humour in everything, which seems to me to be a really important, powerful characteristic. Ultimately it's about death; it's about the acknowledgement that nothing matters. If everything is meaningless and everything is fair game, anything and everything can be funny, which is what makes her so untouchable. ‘It would take a huge planetary shift, or magic, or a "touched" unicorn with something to prove to make evil and chaos end. So until any of those non-existent things happen, I will be making jokes about war and rape and whatever else is wrong with the world. And when those things are fixed, I’ll move on to trying to find comedy in other things that I'm told aren't funny.’


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