Election Anxiety? Laughter Gets Us Through with Luna Malbroux

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Luna Malbroux looks back at the camera over her shoulder in a knowing way. She's wearing a green top, leopard printed shorts and yellow skates. She's coasting across some pavement next to a patch of grass, her dreads are flying in the air and we can see flecks of red in them.
Comic Luna Malbroux (Sharee Allen)

Comic Luna Malbroux loves to stay informed, and she also loves to laugh.

By prioritizing joy in her life, she has the energy to confront racism, sexism and the stress of this election season.

Just this week, Malbroux— who is also a musician and sex coach in training– spent election night co-hosting a live event for the San Francisco AIDS foundation. She brought the laughs and she brought some deep political knowledge.

In this week’s episode of Rightnowish, Luna’s got jokes and wisdom on how to find pleasure in these tense times. Hit the play button to catch some serotonin.

Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Luna Malbroux.

LUNA:  …The humor for me comes from celebrating the resiliency of our spirit. And I know a lot of us are tired of being so resilient. It’s like, “you know what? I don’t want to be resilient anymore. How about somebody else be resilient?” And I feel like there’s humor even in that. Like the shared emotions of, “Wow, like we’re all going through it.” And when I can be honest with myself about what I’m going through and my struggles and how the world is affecting me, then that may free someone else to be like, “OK, I’m not the only one.”

PEN: What stands out to me in that comment is that it’s an informed laughter, it’s not just an ignorance is bliss. It’s not just let let’s laugh and ignore it…

LUNA: I’ve based my comedy off of people that I interact with, but mostly it’s about my own neuroses or my own experiences and how I move through the world. I’m a black queer woman and so it seems as though, if one listens to my comedy, it seems like I’m commenting on so many aspects of the world. But I’m quite self-centered. It’s about me [laughs].

PEN: Can you bring us into the work that you were doing in 2016 as you traveled across the nation?

LUNA: Sure. So in my exploration of genres and art and comedy, I stumbled upon Comedy Hack Day where I won a competition by creating a dope satirical app that really explored the wage gap with a lot of great, funny comedians and techies. So it was really amazing.  It garnered international attention… and it also garnered a lot of hate and a lot of haters.

LUNA: So I stumbled upon this whole world of like an emerging angry right wing that were saying things like white genocide at the very mention that there was a pay gap, at the very mention that that there’s white privilege, and that a black woman had the audacity to try to say, like, “oh, you should be charged for that.”

LUNA: So through those eye-opening realizations that people are hearing things differently, I felt emboldened/impassioned to really explore and investigate how people are talking about privilege. So I got in my car like a crazy person and I drove across the country having conversations with strangers and really trying to investigate, like, how do you see yourself? What’s your understanding of privilege?

LUNA: It was during a time of 2016 when a lot of folks were on that kind of Van Jones, like, we just need to be civil with each other. We just need to sit across the aisle from each other and have conversations. But what that fails to recognize is that for many people, it’s unsafe to have those conversations. Like I’m a black, queer woman. It’s 2016. I still needed a green book essentially to figure out what parts of the country would it be safe for me to drive through. And the trauma of that experiment kind of stayed in my body… the fear that I felt of like, oh, I’m not safe here. The signaling of unsafety.

LUNA: And one of the most fascinating examples of that, that still sits with me is an experience I had when I was in the middle of Utah. Friendly state, by the way. And I was camping with a friend and we were trying to figure out what’s a safe place to go. We finally found a spot, but there was a camper down the road with an American flag. At 11 o’clock at night, like, just seeing an American flag… I was like, “am I safe here?” [it was] an American flag, not a Confederate flag, not a Trump sign.

LUNA: When you think about what that means… that an American flag symbolizes unsafety to a black woman… there’s a lot there that we can unpack and that we can explore.

PEN: It’s wild to me, like the American flag would cause that reaction within you. At the same time, you’re doing this work essentially to make America a better place. Did that ever stand out to you that you’re doing kind of patriotic work? No?

LUNA: I mean, thank you, Pendarvis. That’s very generous of you… I mean, I guess I wouldn’t call it patriotic, cause I never use that word to describe myself. But the goal is to root forth an understanding that could definitely help more people feel safe and seen in this country.

LUNA: From that experience, I got super focused on safety and trying to figure out like, what do I need to do to be super safe? You know, there’s people watching. There’s things brewin’, white supremacist are radicalizing and they’re targeting folks who are speaking out in many different ways. And then over the past few years, I’ve just realized, you know, safety is an illusion. I was never safe in this country and I won’t be. So let me just live my life to the fullness of what I could do and be and grow and expand and say what I have to say, because they’re going to do what they’re going to do, regardless of how safe I try to be. Right. Like walking, sleeping in my bed essentially should be safe, but for Breonna Taylor, it wasn’t. Walking around my neighborhood essentially should be safe, but for Ahmaud Arbery, it wasn’t. So if we can’t be safe doing those things, might as well make some people mad along the way and just do what I want to do.

PEN: So after this election, what do you expect to come? What’s the future? What does the future hold?

LUNA:  I don’t know what the future holds for you, but for me I’m trying to build a commune [laughs]. I’m just trying to grow my own food.  I’m still going to be rooting in joy and I’m still going to be focusing on liberation and whatever ways that may need to shift or adapt.

LUNA: When we look at the span of history, we see that there have always been moments where things have been dark, where people have had to face many, many different dark things. And we all we always make it through. We always keep going. I’m trying to have that view and everything. And I’m trying to just be one of those people that helps people move forward with joy as much joy as we possibly can. So that’s what I’m focusing on, regardless of what the results of the election are.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.