“After years of performing standup comedy and making funny videos, Heather Fink struck out on her own as a writer/director. Paying the bills by day as a boom operator and sound utility, Fink got to work dreaming up her first feature film. The end product – Inside You – is a hilarious romantic comedy about Ryan (Marshall Stratton) and Stephanie (Fink), a long-term couple that switches bodies after the use of a magical (and frightening) sex toy. The pair set out in their new bodies to discover the wonders of the opposite sex and gain insight about their relationship in the process. Fink takes the Freaky Friday trope and turns it on its head, creating clever protagonists who avoid easy gender stereotypes and play against audience expectation. I talked to Fink about making movies, feminist agendas, and growing up funny.”
I spoke with founder and CEO of Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique, Jill Taplin about living out her dream, the nerd fandom scene in Seattle and making comics more accessible. Taplin strives to bring together a community of individuals (women, minorities, LGBTQ groups) who identify with geek culture, but have traditionally been underserved by comic shops. Here’s what she had to say on the topic.
Photo: Mindy Tucker
“Lizz Winstead (co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show) has put her passion for politics to work. After founding Lady Parts Justice League, “the first not safe for work, rapid response reproductive rights messaging hub that uses comedy, culture and digital media to sound an alarm about the terrifying erosion of reproductive access so people will get off their asses and reclaim their rights,” Winstead decided to take the show on the road. In May, LPJ launched the Vagical Mystery Tour, a 16-city national tour to bring comedy, music and activism to cities with some of the strictest birth control and abortion laws including Witchita, Indianapolis, Omaha, Birmingham, and Louisville. Guest comedians such as Aparna Nancherla, Gina Yashere, Maysoon Zayid, Helen Hong, Alonzo Bodden, Joyelle Johnson and more perform sets followed by a talkback after the show. At each talkback, local abortion providers and activists make the needs of their clinic known, giving an opportunity for the audience to step up and volunteer. The comedians also jump in on the outreach, pulling weeds, fixing fences, and raising morale at the clinics. I talked to Winstead about reproductive rights, the horrors of the Senate GOP healthcare bill, and bringing comedy to the deep South.”
Photos: Andrea Sassenrath
Popsicle Place, located primarily at the Mary’s Place Guest Rooms in South Lake Union and at a Mary’s Place house in Shoreline, gives homeless families with chronically sick kids a place to rest and recuperate. Families get private rooms, or the use of single-family houses that are loaned to the organization. The cost to run Popsicle Place varies by location and need of the families. The organization has received a couple of grants for the program, but primarily the funding comes from the general Mary’s Place budget.
Those who use Popsicle Place services include families with children battling cancer and mothers with babies born premature. The program is currently hosting about nine families but has the capacity to shelter more.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MARY’S PLACE HERE
“Amber Wise never imagined that her 5-year-old son Josiah would one day be diagnosed with leukemia.
‘He was complaining that his legs hurt,’ Wise said. ‘It kept getting worse, and so we took him to the local hospital in Spokane, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.’
Finally, after running several blood tests, Wise received a call informing her that her son had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
‘When we found out he had cancer, I felt like I hit the bottom of the barrel,’ Wise said.
At the time, Wise and her family were homeless, struggling to secure stable housing in Moses Lake, a city on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. With the help of a relative, she relocated with her wife and son to Seattle where Josiah could receive the best possible care at Seattle Children’s Hospital.”
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Photo: Cullen Tobin
“Jim O’Heir, best known for playing Jerry Gergich, the lovable object of mockery on Parks and Recreation, has made a surprising jump to star in the new indie dark comedy, Middle Man. O’Heir plays Lenny, a straight-laced accountant with dreams of becoming a standup comedian. But Lenny has a big problem — he is not funny. Nonetheless, when his mother suddenly dies leaving him nothing but debt and her ‘53 Oldsmobile, he quits his job and heads to Vegas in search of fame. But along the way, a mysterious hitchhiker (Andrew West) lures him into a desert-town killing spree with dark and twisted results – as the bodies pile up, Lenny becomes funnier and funnier on stage.
In the world of standup comedy, a Middle Man or “middler” is someone who comes on stage after the opening act and before the headliner. As Middle Mandirector Ned Crowley describes, “They are usually someone who has lost the hope and optimism that a fresh naïve opener still has. We all know middle men (and women) in life; people who are trapped in their jobs or relationships, with no hope of moving forward to their goals or backward to their innocence.” Middle Man the movie craftily explores our society’s obsession with fame and increasing taste for caustic comedy. O’Heir and Crowley have been good friends for thirty years, since their days performing at Second City. Crowley wrote the film with his friend in mind nearly a decade ago, but it took O’Heir’s rising profile to get it off the ground. I talked to O’Heir about his early days in comedy, life after Parks and Rec, and his personal relationship to fame.”
Photo: Jerry Davis
“For the young people at The Mockingbird Society who have experienced homelessness and foster care, advocating for the youth of the next generation is imperative.
‘Even as I’m going through this journey of being homeless, I’m teaching, I’m inviting people in and changing people’s lives,’ said Okesha Brandon, a youth advocate. ‘Everyone kind of learns your strengths and people notice, and it builds your confidence. That in itself is a contribution to society.’
Named after the great American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the organization draws inspiration from the book’s narrative.
“The power and promise of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in reminding each of us of the untapped potential our most vulnerable citizens hold,” states the organization’s website.
In the seventeen years since its founding, The Mockingbird Society has had a hand in 25 new laws and reform policies to better the lives of young people in Washington state. Mockingbird’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to be their own best advocates. The result? Changes in the policies and perceptions that stand in the way of every child having a safe, stable home and a healthy family.
Mockingbird’s legislative agenda for 2017 is ambitious, but already making an impact.”
“In our fractured political climate, it’s hard to envision a cause that could unite a rural farmer with a big-city tech worker, a union laborer with a grassroots environmentalist, or a tribal leader with a government official, but Bill Moyer thinks he’s found just the cause: Solutionary Rail.”
Solutionary Rail proposes that the public electrify America’s railroads, run them on renewable energy and transform railroad corridors into electricity superhighways transmitting wind and solar energy from remote rural areas to urban centers. If enacted, Moyer said the proposal would recenter the role of rail in U.S. transportation and provide the public with a new sustainable source of economic vitality.
In other words, with Solutionary Rail, everybody wins.
“It provides almost a psychic relief from the burden of being defined by what we oppose,” said Moyer, who serves as executive director of the Washington state-based Backbone Campaign, a nonprofit that creates “artful activism.” “This offers an opportunity to be for something great, to be in dialogue with communities that we may not have anything else otherwise in common about some shared interest.”
Excited to share my first story for Real Change. Real Change is an award-winning weekly newspaper that provides immediate employment opportunity and takes action for economic, social, and racial justice. If you live in Seattle, pick up a paper from your local vendor this week!