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An Interview with Alison Stevenson
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Alison Stevenson is an LA-based comic and writer. She recently released her debut comedy album "Eat Me" that paints an intimate portrait of the bullshit a romantic in Los Angeles has to wade through. We talked to Alison this week about dating, DJ Pauly D, self-worth, and mediocre men.

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Dust Empires: Hey Alison! Tell us about yourself, Tinder bio style.

Photo by Kim Newmoney

Alison Stevenson: My Tinder bio currently reads: “I give up”. In the past, it was “big girl with a small heart”, and “searching for my manic pixie dream cuck”. Do any of those bios describe me well enough? I guess for this I’ll say: feminist comedian sick of fuckboy bullshit. Actually, that should be my new Tinder bio.

DE: What are some projects you’re currently working on?

AS: Career-wise. I’m trying to get a book deal. Not so career-wise but still something I’m doing: I run a monthly feminist lecture series with Alexandra Tweten (Bye Felipe) called “Hey Dude, Ask a Feminist” at Junior High in Hollywood. I also have a weekly comedy show in East Hollywood called “Fine”. In the near future I’ll be co-launching an anti-sexual assault poster campaign with my friend Lola Blanc.

DE: What inspired you to create your album Eat Me?

AS: I figured it was about time I did something with my stand up that was more concrete and tangible than just urging people to see me live. This is material that I’ve been doing for a few years now, and I wanted to compile it and put it somewhere as a sort of career milestone, I guess. Not every comedian has to put out an album, but it’s something a lot more comedians are doing. It’s a great way to let people access your comedy who don’t live in the same city as you.

Art by Elizabeth T. Vasquez

DE: Your work is like a hilarious diary entry. How do you share such intimate material?

AS: Thanks, and I don’t know! I’ve always been an expressive person, and my favorite artists and writers are the ones who share from personal experience. I guess in that sense I just wanted to do what they were doing. I grew up an only child, so I didn’t have many people to talk to about my thoughts and feelings. I guess I see stand up as like, the siblings or therapy I never had. Except, now I do have siblings (long story). I have yet to go to therapy.

DE: Your comedy describes the dating world in LA to a T. What do you think is unique to LA, or do you think it’s a millennial issue?

AS: It’s a millennial issue for sure, but even worse in LA than other parts of the country (I am assuming). We are a far more jaded generation, seeing that so many of us are children of divorced parents. We are more aware that “true love” is kind of bullshit. We also don’t communicate our intentions and feelings clearly with one another all that well, which has always been the case, but I think has been made worse through dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Some people view it as purely a hook-up app while others don’t. It gives way for a lot more confusion and mixed communication. Especially since we are also the generation greater embracing casual sex. More hurt feelings are the result of this. In LA it’s worse because it’s an ego-driven city where both men and women are so obsessed with finding success that love is put in the back burner or seen as a deterrent from “making it”. Heterosexual men are also a lot more spoiled here, and are able to live like manchildren well into their 40s and 50s. Peter Pan syndrome is alive and well, and I guess heterosexual women don’t have that luxury the way men do because we are generally viewed less attractive as we age.

DE: What’s the worst part about dating in LA?

AS: I have yet to meet a man (who I feel a genuine spark with) that isn’t terrified of commitment or gets scared away easily at the thought of it. Maybe that’s just my luck though, I don’t know!

DE: What empowers you to speak out about the endless bullshit you have to wade through to date?

AS: Other women, really. A lot of men think I’m just bitter and complaining for the sake of complaining, but they don’t see the messages I get from women who thank me for speaking up and actually addressing this shit. The more encouragement I get from other women, the greater my desire to keep going.

DE: In this album you discuss a lot of men who seem to have a ridiculous amount of confidence for their level of mediocrity: a rollerblader, a not-me-it’s-you barista, and a bunch of other millennial man-children. What do you think makes these men so self-confident?

AS: I guess I touched on it earlier, but it’s apparent that society enables men to feel a sense of superiority over women. Even if they don’t consciously feel that way or see how they’re doing it, there are subtle ways that power dynamics work between the genders that so many men just consider normal. Regardless of how many pro-choice rallies they attend. They don’t see how much women go through to feel viable for obtaining a male’s attention while men just put on a dirty t-shirt and start a band and can ghost whoever the fuck they want and instead of feel bad about it they can just put the blame on her, claiming she should have known better.  

DE: What are your top five acts of self-care to get over nightmare dates?

AS: Writing, long baths, lighting sage, watching an entire season of Jersey Shore in one sitting, drinking whiskey.

Photo by Megan Beth Koester

DE: What do you think men are doing instead of texting back?

AS: Masturbating, playing video games, swiping, twiddling their thumbs, “liking” other girls selfies on Instagram thinking we don’t see that shit. Finishing up their screenplay about a sad guy living in the big city who can’t get laid.

DE: You’ve talked a bit about embracing your body, gut and all. How did you learn to love and accept your body? What advice can you give to people who aren’t quite there yet?

AS: It’s hard. Extremely hard. Especially in a city and industry that considers a size 6 “plus-size”. I kind of talk about it in one of my bits, but honestly just realizing that my body had nothing to do with the way I was being treated. My girlfriends who are way more obsessed with their body and appearance are dealing with the same behavior from men, and many of them are sadly preventing themselves from a much deeper happiness that comes from self-acceptance. My advice is to honestly just try not giving a fuck. Even if you have to pretend, pretend to not give a fuck until one day you truly just won’t. I’m a healthy person overall, and I feel good knowing that–even if others think I must be unhealthy. Accepting that there’s no such thing as physical perfection, and staying away from people who might lead you to think that way. Finding a core social circle or a community that supports you and sees the value in you as a person versus you in relation to your appearance. Gaining confidence comes from within, but it doesn’t hurt to have some words of encouragement from people who truly understand and love you. It’s going to take time, but things are slowly changing. More and more women are banding together to turn objectification in on itself, and we’re using our bodies to say fuck you to the deeply shallow culture mankind has created.

DE: What advice would you give your younger self?

AS: Say what’s on your mind more often.

DE: Who are some of your comedy role models?

AS: It’s kind of fucked up but I can’t deny that Woody Allen is it really. I saw Annie Hall when I was 12, and knew at that moment that I wanted to be just like Woody Allen (as an entertainer, not in any other sense). John Waters changed my life later in life. I consider myself the lovechild of the two. I love both styles of humor so much. Smart and trashy. Neurotic and volatile. Then of course, there’s the Golden Girls.

DE: Where can we buy your album?

AS: It’s available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.

DE: What’s the last book you read?

AS: I recently re-read Kafka’s Metamorphosis. That may sound pretentious, but if it helps, before that I read an old dating advice book I found in a dollar bin called “The Commitment Cure”. I want to say it was for research, but it wasn’t really. I took pictures of passages and sent them to the guy who was ghosting me.

DE: Finally, what’s your favorite garbage show to binge watch?

AS: All I watch is garbage television to be honest. I mentioned it as part of my self-care but one of my favorite shows of all time is The Jersey Shore. I have seen every season, multiple times. I follow Snooki, JWoww, Pauly, and Vinny on Instagram.

Photo by Kim Newmoney

Alison Stevenson is an LA-based writer and performer. Alison attended UC Davis, where Berkeley rejects go to thrive. She’s contributed to various publications including Vice, Medium, and xoJane. Alison regularly paints a raw portrait of what being a 20something lady feels like with articles about blowjobs, fuckboys, body acceptance, and ghosting. She successfully combines humor and vulnerability in her frank confessionals.  You can find her instagram here. This is her twitter. If you live in LA, you can check out on of her gut-busting shows at Junior High and other local venues.