Richmond-based comedian, Fredia Lucas (Travis Matthews)
Comedian Fredia Lucas’ first standup special, F is for, explores her Richmond roots, family truths and obsession with the letter F.
F is for... feelings.
Lucas cleverly uses the English language to delve into personal topics, taking the audience on a bit of emotional escapade. She weaves in and out of her family history, misconceptions about her hometown and how her jump shot intimidates men. But at the heart of the tale is a story about love.
Watching the newly released 40-minute video, which was filmed in the summer of 2019, it’s important to note that stage left is a group of her homegirls. And stage right are her cousin, uncle and his wife.
“In that part where I say, ‘My cousins have cheated, my uncles have cheated,’ my family is sitting right there,” Lucas tells me during a phone call. “And none of them anticipated I’d say anything like that.”
She leans into the story of her father’s infidelity about midway through her special.
Lucas says, “At the escalation of that, I talk about my parents—my parents are at the show… They were sitting all the way in the back.” She tells me her parents were seated next to people who knew them but didn’t know about the inner workings of their marriage.
Her folks weren’t completely oblivious to the subject matter in F is for. The comedian talked to her dad about it before the show, to which he said, “Do whatever you need to do.” Her mother supported her as well, but with one request: “Just make sure not to curse.”
She says her father’s affair, which she found out about six years prior to the standup routine, is “in a place where it’s healed, and there’s closure.” But still, her parents had never heard Lucas’ “evolved perspective” of how it impacted her family.
After hearing Lucas voice her understanding that her father didn’t cheat on the family, but cheated on her mother and then worked to mend that transgression, Lucas says her parents told her, “This is really beautiful, and we’re really proud of you.”
F is for... family.
Lucas can trace her linage back six generations in America, and she has a family history book to prove it. Her first name, Fredia, is something she says was “borrowed” from her maternal grandmother. And her father’s roots go back to the small town of Happy Bend, Arkansas.
But it’s here, in Richmond, where her tale takes root. She grew up all over the East Bay, and would spend holidays in Richmond. Just three years ago, she moved back to the city her family has called home for generations, taking up residency in her grandfather’s house. After he passed in 2018, she began to dig deeper into the tale of her family.
She says she’s been exploring the house, and seeing “60 years worth of stuff” makes her want to learn more about her family and the history of the city they call home.
“I’m really excited about Richmond,” says Fredia. “It’s important to change the perspective of the city of Richmond—it’s so slept on.”
In her set, she clowns a friend for being scared to come to Richmond to see her perform because of the notion that Richmond is a violent place—and the friend is from East Oakland.
F is for... friends.
Discussing the early days of her comedy career, Lucas says, “I just kept bombing.” She remembers thinking, “I don’t think I’m ready for this.” And then she realized she hadn’t been putting in a consistent amount of time on stage.
So at the top of last year, she went on a girls’ trip with Jena Dominique, her co-host of the podcast It’s A Look. That's where Lucas came to the conclusion that she's at the age where she’s “ready to do her best work.” She hit the ground running.
She started doing shows around the East Bay, and became a Wednesday night regular at Oakland’s AU Lounge. Eventually, she felt ready to put her plan for a one-woman stand up show into action.
“I just put the show together, and put a date out there,” says Lucas, noting that rehearsals in the mirror were another form of practice. “You set an expectation for yourself, and make sure that happens. That's how that show came to be.”
F is for... framing.
Lucas’ birthday is July 19, making her a Cancer, an astrological sign known for its sensitivity. She says one of the goals of her show was to use that to her advantage and “drive people through really deep emotions.”
She realizes that certain parts are going to make some people uncomfortable, so she relies on comic relief to make things easier to digest. And, again, the whole set hinges on her usage of “F-words.”
“Fuck is probably the most famous ‘F-word,’ and I don’t know if I said it all,” says Lucas.
(Upon further review, she sprinkles a F-bomb or two in there, but it’s not a major point of emphasis.)
When asked what her favorite “F-word” is, Fredia says, “I don’t have one, they all tell such an important story. I can’t even pick one within the show, because they all serve their own purpose.”
When she started this “F thing” she was on Instagram, trying to familiarize people with her name. “F is for Fredia,” became a tagline and then she kept it going from there. “I’m still really exploring the F,” says Fredia, with a laugh.
As a writer, I can appreciate using words for structure. She loves language, but doesn't call herself a writer, per se. Although she’s been avidly journaling this year—the perfect time for that.
F is for... future.
Lucas says that beyond comedy and podcasting, she’s most excited about auditioning for voice acting roles.
“I watch so many cartoons, my TV is on Cartoon Network right now,” she says before listing off a few shows she really likes. (She shares an appreciation for Pinkalicious with my daughter.)
Lucas is qualified for the job. Her voice is uniquely animated. She’s well-versed in her study of cartoons. And after the this summer’s series of non-Black voice actors stepping down from roles as Black cartoon characters, Lucas says she sees an opening in the industry. “I love voices, I love playing around,” says Lucas. “And I can read… out loud!”
The one knock might be that she didn’t go to school for theater; she did, however, take a long-form improv class last year. She says it’s something she’s wanted to do for a while. As a kid, she was inspired by the show Whose Line Is It Anyway. “I used to think, ‘I could be in the audience,’” Lucas says. “Now I’m thinking, ‘I could be on stage.’”
She also plans on doing more stand up in the future, but that’ll come after she has more life experiences to base her stand up on. After all, the meat of this show—the story about her mother and father—happened in 2014.
“I didn’t share that story for four years,” Lucas tells me in a serious tone. “I wasn’t holding on to it, but healing and living through it... It gave me time to understand why and how I was impacted.”
But it was that time taken to process her story that makes her stand up noteworthy. It’s almost like she took some raw ingredients and let them ferment until she found the proper format to feature them—an effective way to approach storytelling.
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