When producers of the all-female comedy festival All Jane No Dick learned that protesters were planning to ambush their third annual event this week in Portland, Oregon, they were understandably upset. "For the first time in three years, our comedy festival is being protested and our promotional materials are being destroyed by men's rights activists," stated a press release issued by All Jane No Dick late on Friday afternoon.
Festival founder and artistic director Stacey Hallal was tipped off to the protest late last week when her Google alert pointed to a Craigslist post that called for a peaceful picketing of the festival's "outright segregation" and "prejudice" towards men. It seemed the protest had already begun on the streets, where festival fliers had been covered up with fake posters bearing slogans like "All dick envy but no dick man-bash festival."
While festival organizers scrambled to deal with the impending protest, comedian Amy Miller decided to confront the protest organizer herself. As she found out, the protest isn't organized by a horde of "men's rights activists." In fact, it's planned by just one man named Matt, "The Lone Woof" (he refuses to give his last name), a "very standard-looking Portland dude, complete with a knit beanie and an accidental beard thing," Miller discovered.
She wrote about their bizarre encounter at a Whole Foods for her Willamette Week column. Matt is portrayed as a pseudo-hipster who eats kale salads and sounds so genuinely confused about feminism that he might sooner evoke pity than anger. Certainly, he's not the kind of guy Miller expected to be spouting hate speech about women. He couldn't be all that bad, was the sentiment from some comedians in the scene.
But others, like L.A. comedy promoter Samantha Varela, couldn't just forget about the Craigslist post or the defaced fliers, even after knowing it came from a "sad, lonely guy," nearly 1,000 miles away.
"This guy's definitely a confused asshole," she says. "But from my perspective, this thing has now clouded what was going to be just a general normal festival."
Varela's L.A.-based show Picture This!, a kind of absurdist live Pictionary for comedians, is scheduled in Portland this week as part of All Jane No Dick, with performances by L.A. comedians Kate Berlant and Brandie Posey.
Now that the protest has been perceived as mostly nonthreatening, it puts some performers in a difficult position, for totally different reasons. On the one hand, says Varela, she doesn't want Matt to become a target for hate, since "he's obviously too ignorant to deserve the amount of hate that he's riled up." But on the other hand, it wouldn't be right to ignore his harassment and vandalism altogether. Perhaps even more problematic at this point, she says, is that "he's not going to learn anything from this, besides keep your mouth shut, which is also not the lesson you want to teach," especially at a comedy festival.
L.A. Weekly reached out to Matt by phone and confirmed that the protest is in fact still scheduled for next week outside the Curious Comedy Theater in Portland, although he admits it's unlikely anyone else will show up to protest with him.
"I'm not part of any association or organization, and I didn't know what M.R.A. represented before this whole thing so I had to look it up," he says.
So what motivated the "Lone Woof" to stage his first-ever protest in the first place? "I've seen a growing, burgeoning sort of anti-male sentiment here in Portland and it's been getting to me," he says. "It takes a great amount of bravery to stand up against the anti-male sort of regime."
All Jane No Dick was founded not as an anti-male militia but as a means of combatting the fact that women still represent less than 20 percent of the comedy industry, according to the festival's website. The website also states: "All Jane No Dick was created to help bridge the gap between women comedians, audiences and industry decision-makers."
"If he thinks he’s just taking down [only] Portland people, like, I want him to know, no, you're fucking dealing with people all over the country," Varela says of the protestor. "It's crazy that we can't have a women’s comedy festival at this level" — a fairly low-budget, independent level — "without some sort of drama. That's crazy."
It's uncertain how the protest will actually affect the festival when it kicks off on Wednesday, but one thing's for sure: Even at a women's comedy festival, there won't be any shortage of dicks, at least during Picture This!, which relies heavily on comedians drawing penises on a giant projected screen.
"Brandie [Posey] is aware of the situation," Varela insists. "It is not going to affect our dick-heavy show." Indeed, the show must go on — even one interrupted by a dick.
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