On August 26, the Gotham Comedy Club hosted a sold-out show of Dudes Against Violence Against Women because DUH, an all-male comedy show held to support the work of global human rights organization Breakthrough.
The all-star cast of comedians provided introspection within their comedy routines on themes that relate to the cultural norms that make VAW possible to exist. The show was dedicated to helping men realize their role in stopping the violence.
The cast of performers for the evening included Todd Barry, Ted Alexandro, Wali Collins, Pete Dominick, Ritch Duncan, Dean Edwards, Rob Paravonian, Adam Wade and Obeidallah.
“These are all guys who are really well known in their craft and in their field, so to have Dean really move his brothers, his community, to take on something like violence against women, is a big deal for Breakthrough”, says Mallika Dutt, president of Breakthrough.
Comedians explored norms within subtle and overt themes that included assumptions of how men and women are expected to behave, the awkwardness of men approaching women to express an interest in dating and sexualizing girls by attributing womanly value to their presence.
The charity fundraiser was the brainchild of comedian Dean Obeidallah, who is one of many men inspired by the Ring the Bell: One million men, one million promises to end violence against women campaign that Breakthrough began in 2013.
Obeidallah co-organized the show with Breakthrough with a strategic purpose in mind. Six years ago, Obeidallah became acquainted with Breakthrough through a series of encounters that included his performance in a comedy show and the meetings that led to the Ring the Bell campaign.
Obeidallah was shocked and appalled at the statistics he learned about the abuse of women throughout the country. Obeidallah later penned a piece in his column with The Daily Beast about his thoughts on men taking ownership in the fight against domestic violence and surprising feedback he received from calling out men.
“I realized that not just the message was important, but the tone is important. If guys feel like it’s an accusation when you raise the issue they will recoil and shut down; they’ll even become very defensive, frankly, and that doesn’t help anyone”, Obeidallah admits.
Obeidallah thought that men should have more of a conversation, like a comedy show, about the subject of violence against women. With the help of Breakthrough and a host of other sponsors, the DUH event took shape.
For Breakthrough, the event was a success at creating awareness without hostility. President Dutt of Breakthrough elaborates, “for us, violence against women happens a lot because of the kinds of norms that we created in our society. Popular culture and comedy are often places where those norms get created.”