In the midst of all of the terrifying political news out there, sometimes you just need to laugh it off. Mindy Raf brings audience members on a hilarious journey through life and death, polyamorous relationship struggles, anxiety, bisexuality, and sex positivity in her 60-minute performance of “Keeping My Kidneys.”
As a queer woman going to comedy shows in NYC can be risky. You never know if you’re going to hear misogynistic comments, rape jokes or homophobic slurs coming from the stage. “Keeping My Kidneys” was different; Raf used her intersecting identities as a Jewish, bi/pansexual, polyamorous woman to bring the audience together in similar lived experiences like awkward texting, office romances, and nerve-wracking anxiety. Raf had the audience in fits of laughter as she smoothly moved through her relatable and witty narrative of trying to figure it all out.
GO caught up with Mindy after the show to see what it’s like to bear it all onstage as a comedian.
GO Magazine: What inspired the name “Keeping my Kidneys”?
Mindy Raf: The title “Keeping My Kidneys” was inspired by a story in the show about my mom’s disturbing way of avoiding the topic of abortion while we were watching the movie Dirty Dancing. The show weaves flashbacks with my mother into a current narrative involving my fiancé. As we (myself and director Tara Elliot) starting rehearsing the show, it was clear the Dirty Dancing moment was an important narrative thread that should be represented in the title.
GO: How does comedy provide you a space for cathartic healing in these political strife times?
MR: Humor is a medium to share stories, and hopefully make other people feel a little less alone. Whether I’m creating, watching, or reading it, comedy clears my head; gives my anxiety a little time off. Keeping my Kidneys is an all-female production (written/performed/directed/produced/tech). The first run of the show was in November and was planned for what was meant to be the celebratory week we elected our first female president. The climate was not ideal, but doing the show the week of the election brought people together. Doing the show the week of the election reminded us to laugh, to be kind to one another, to keep supporting artists, and keep sharing our stories. I love live comedy because when you manage to be present and connect with the audience, you create this new third space together that’s fleeting, and magical, and – at its very best-downright medicinal.
GO: What do you hope audience members take away from your performance (besides laughter)?
MR: I dive into topics in Keeping My Kidneys like polyamory, anxiety, bisexual visibility… I hope audience members laugh with me about my experiences, but relate to them regardless of how they identify or define love in their lives. I open up to the audience and get vulnerable on stage, and I hope someone who sees is encouraged to do the same whether on stage or off. Girls are often taught feelings and emotions make them weak, and that just couldn’t be further from the truth.
GO: What has your experience been in the comedy world, as an LGBTQ woman? The industry is typically known as being male dominated, and sometimes quite misogynistic.
MR: Fabulous! [rainbow emoji followed by heart emoji]. I’ve been performing stand-up, storytelling, and musical comedy in NYC for the past 10 years, so I have my battle stories–as I know all women identifying people in comedy do. I once got advice from a male comic to not talk about my vagina and to “focus on current events instead.” I think I said, “thank you,” at the time, when really I was thinking, “you idiot, my vagina is a current event.” A booker once told me to ditch my jeans and wear a short skirt…those are a few of the tamer ones. As these experiences add up over time, they can muck up your gears and influence how you represent yourself through comedy and writing. When I came out as bi/pan, I was at a very confident place with my comedy and writing and was also consciously surrounding myself with a kickass community of women, queers and allies. I had a goal–cheesy as it may sound–to “just be me.” I put effort in ever day to figure out who that “me” is, and how I want to write for her on stage. I should look up that guy who advised me to not talk about my vagina on stage so much, and I should send him a vagina-heavy clip of Keeping My Kidneys. The problem is, which one do I choose?
GO: How to Connect?
MR: Keeping My Kidneys will continue to run monthly. Saturday, March 4 the show will be headlining Curious Fox Presents, and in April it will be back at the PIT Loft.
People can visit my website mindyraf.com/shows to for upcoming dates and details, and to join my mailing list (I send monthly and I’ll have some exciting news about the show to share soon).
And if you like morning hair-selfies, cats, and queers: my Instagram is @mmmindela.