Comedian Arielle Isaac Norman Asks, “How Dark Can We Get?”
Podcast and Off Script host wants to have uncomfortable conversations
By Beth Sullivan,
10:16AM, Mon. May 13, 2019
Arielle Isaac Norman might be the grossest comic in Austin. Or, then again, it might be Norman’s friend and Gender Fluids podcast co-host Austin Smartt. “I have always described her as the only comic in Austin who’s more disgusting than I am.” Norman assures, “We really are the two most disgusting comics in town.”
”Disgusting-ness” is next to godli-, er, queerness for the comedian who, in addition to hosting the anything-goes, often raunchy podcast on sex and gender, also puts on the monthly stand-up shebang Off Script. That show, while not billed as exclusively queer, is “always a li’l queer and a lot sex postive” and returns to the Fallout Theater Saturday, May 18, at 10pm.
Over a year ago, Norman and Smartt created the queer- and trans-minded podcast that they’d want to hear. “We’re really open and honest about exploring things from different angles and not just following the rules of what you’re supposed to say, what you’re supposed to think, or what you’re supposed to believe.” According to Norman, the pair refers to their recording location as “Safe Space Studios” in the sense that Gender Fluids is a safe place for to duo to discuss whatever they want. “Let’s have those real conversations,” implores Norman, even if those conversations delve into forays in threesomes.
Sometimes, Norman’s jokes are pretty dang qweeah (like her bit at March’s QueerTowne showcase on the unfortunate, shall we say, entanglements of scissoring with tampons), other times, they’re not. Either way, Norman’s “always gonna question what’s around me,” because, as she sees it, challenging and talking about opinions and assumptions – regardless if they’re “right” or “wrong,” in jest or not, in front of a queer audience or otherwise – makes space for folks to shift their perspectives. “If they can’t say them out loud, they’re never going to move forward or challenge those ideas.”
Off the podcast and onto the stand-up stage, Off Script creates an ideal if raucous environment for such conversation, as heckling (that's “any" uncalled for crowd participation, Norman defines) is not only welcome but encouraged. “Everything is allowed at my show,” says Norman, even heckling a heckler that takes things too far. “I just want my show to be as interactive as possible.” One show particularly sticks out to the comedian, an evening where the front row was comprised of “eight to ten people who were all late 20s, married, Christians,” and most likely conservative. Afterwards, Norman recalls, “one of them was telling me, ‘Hey, I don’t understand all the gender stuff and all the queer stuff, but whoever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’re beautiful. You just keep being yourself because this is really cool.’ I can’t tell you how much that’s very sustaining.” Similar to Gender Fluids, Norman tries to make Off Script a safe space for open dialogue. “Go ahead and yell stuff out, like let’s talk about, and if you need to be publicly shamed for a thought, you’re probably gonna learn that’s not a popular thing to say sometimes.”
For the last five years Norman has mainly focused on her stand-up career, and lately has started exploring writing a TV show about Austin – the city, not her podcast co-host. For Norman, the future might hold that aspiring comic pilgrimage to Los Angeles, but she’s in no rush for the time being. It’s a welcome change for the comedian, who moved to town for a relationship that would become her second wife and now future second ex-wife legally. “Until my second separation, I was always like, not trying to rush things or do things before I was ready, but trying my best to be as ready as possible ‘cause I was trying to make babies, on a timeline. I felt like everything was so high stakes, like, ‘Let me see how quickly I can get this career going.’
“I no longer have this timeline of ‘Oh, I’ve gotta ‘make it.’ Which I think is really freeing me up to experiment and take a lot of risks that I’ve always really wanted to take.”
Off Script hosted by Arielle Isaac Norman is Sat., May 18, 10pm, at Fallout Theater, 616 Lavaca. $10. Tickets are available online.
You can stream Gender Fluids online.