Muted microphones and turned off cameras are not ideal conditions for most comedians. Yet comedian Maya May wasn’t fazed, practically transcending the computer screen with such energetic presence that I felt as though she was performing directly for me.
AMP invited May to perform virtually for the College of William and Mary on Thursday, Oct. 1; the College was a stop on her tour of campuses across the country.
May began her performance with a bit about 2020: the year of junk food and awkwardness. She joked that comedy has allowed her to be an “essential worker.” Personally, I felt a bit tired of 2020 and did not want to relive the year through comedy at that moment, but May’s jokes and strong delivery brought a comedic twist on the events that perfectly encapsulates many aspects of our reality. When she shifted into more general comedy that was not 2020 specific, though, it was a nice distraction from our complicated present.
I really appreciated May’s ability to bring up serious topics in light-hearted ways without diminishing the topic itself, allowing for it to be more easily discussed. For example, May knew her child was gender non-conforming from an early age, and she ended up being transgender, so she let her daughter pick out her own name when she was eight years old. For starters, it was amazing for May to be so accepting of her child’s identity. She educated her child on gender from such an early age, which is commendable. But the way she introduced her daughter’s name choice was pure genius.
“I named her after a strong Black leader, like power to the people. She named herself after a Pokémon. Yes. There are five letters in her name and four of them are ‘e,’” May said.
After a deserved pause and several guesses from the audience in the Zoom chat, she revealed her daughter’s name choice was Eevee. I know next to nothing about Pokémon, but I do know that the one named Eevee is adorable. Mainly, though, I am just obsessed with her line, “there are five letters in her name and four of them are ‘e.’” It is such an archetypal eight-year-old’s choice. I love it.
And then there were May’s comments surrounding a subject that almost every college student can relate to: student loan debt. I did cringe a bit when she said, “O-M-G” and “G-T-F-O,” mainly because I find it disconcerting to hear text-speak in real time. Other than that, though, her perspective on student loans was quite entertaining.
“The only thing that’s going to survive COVID are cockroaches and my student loan debt,” May said. “Like millions of years from now, they’re going to find us, and they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh my god, these were some educated cockroaches, like damn.’”
All students here at the College can also relate to that cockroach acknowledgment. I mean, I’m just a freshman, and I’ve already had two in my dorm room -— though, honestly, I was expecting more, so I suppose that is a pleasant surprise. It was as if she had done her research on the dorms at the College, specifically freshman dorms, and was prepared to appeal to that pain of students: discovering how resilient cockroaches can be. Personally, I was surprised at the lack of a large audience reaction to that line, though I suppose it can also be attributed to the muted microphones, mostly turned off cameras and audience size of under 25 people.
One great audience reaction — a student nearly spitting out her drink — came after May detailed the realization that she, along with many of her other Black female friends, date a lot of “broken, problematic white dudes.” Her understanding of why this happens is because Black women are problem solvers, and cisgender white men cause all of the world’s problems.
“Like okay so I’ve broken it down: what happens is their dads are mean to them and expect too much; they can’t live the life they want to live; they get real sad and then they are racist. It’s so weird. Serious. So I don’t have daddy issues, unless it’s like daddy issues with the patriarchy,” May said.
She really nailed it there. The patriarchy is inherently flawed, and I couldn’t have described it better myself. Of course, not all “cis white men” cause all of the world’s problems, but historically it would be fairly accurate to say many of the world’s problems have been caused by cisgender white men failing to listen to others’ perspectives or ideas. “Daddy issues with the patriarchy” is a much more amusing way of saying that, though.
When May ran out of time and had given some closing remarks, she added that she had a joke she still really wanted to tell. So after asking the audience, she decided to share one last set of thoughts, this time on modern-day feminism compared to the definition of feminism from when she was growing up. She said she was never encouraged to try stripping, and now it has become much more normalized in our society. I appreciated her definition of feminism in that a woman should have the right to do what she wants to do with herself and her body. With this basis, she made some pretty strong points against the naysayers who call stripping “degrading,” adding a nice reference back to student loans.
May said, “Degrading to women? You mean like working 60 hours a week at a job you hate to pay back student loans for a degree you’re not even using, degrading? When you could’ve just gotten a Groupon for some pole dancing classes?”
By the end of the performance, I knew AMP made a strong choice in May for this event. She did not let technology inhibit her performance, acting as if it were truly face-to-face. She brought up important topics in a fun manner, educating the audience on her experience and views in an understandable way.