#Veganhumor: Comedy For Karma 2011

Last night, I had a ball at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary’s annual fundraising laugh-a-thon, Comedy for Karma, held at the Gotham Comedy Club in NYC:

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This unique, annual event gives supporters of the Woodstock Farm a chance to come out, enjoy the work of a few wildly talented young comics, and help raise money for their beloved animal sanctuary in upstate NY. Woodstock Farm will always have a special place in my heart: it was at another of its annual fundraising events—Thanksliving of 2009—that I first started to redefine the terms of my vegan lifestyle, and began exploring the ethics of veganism.


Gena in Woodstock, 2009

I’ve never looked back.

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Gena at Poplar Springs, 2011

I’m always happy to attend or volunteer at Woodstock FAS events. Conveniently, they always happen to be a blast. I love that one of their annual events is a comedy show. Supporters of the farm, and anyone who takes a compassionate lifestyle seriously, know that there’s nothing funny about the way we treat farm animals in this country and around the world. But we spend a lot of time talking about the horrors of animal abuse, writing about them, debating them, and contemplating them seriously. Once in a while, it’s important for us to band together, celebrate our community, and enjoy a good joke or two. And that’s what Comedy for Karma is all about.

This year’s event featured some baked sugar cookies with buttercream frosting—dessert pizzettes, if you will—from Verite Catering, a brand new, all vegan catering company founded by my incredible young friend, Cassie:

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They were scrumptious. I even bought one to share with the strangers next to me at my table:

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I’ll have to get the recipe from Cassie—or perhaps she’ll share it with us in her upcoming CR interview!

Last night’s lineup of comics was stellar, featuring two vegans, Jamie Kilstein and Myk Kaplan, and some comics who are close to the Woodstock Farm and its mission: The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver, and the remarkably tall Gary Gulman. Our host and hostess for the night were Dan Piraro—vegan comedian extraordinaire and member of the Woodstock FAS family—and Olivia Munn, whom you may also know from The Daily Show, or from TV. They kicked things off with good spirits and a few fine quips:

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And onto the stage rushed Jamie, who was like a tattooed force of nature:

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Jamie and I had found each other before the show and chatted: he had recently tweeted me to say that he and his wife are exploring raw foods (yay!!) and they had a couple of questions for me. I assured him that horrifying detox symptoms are largely mythical, that he doesn’t really have to use his new dehydrator if he doesn’t want to, even though he spent money on it, and that it’s OK to keep eating cooked food, even if you fall in love with raw food. We also had some time to chat about our paths to veganism and animal rights: I always love to hear about peoples’ journeys to compassion, and this was no exception!

Jamie launched right into a very funny rant about how veganism tends to inspire more shock and defensiveness in strangers, family and friends than practically any other lifestyle stance or philosophical position. It’s true: I’ve found that I can describe almost religious view, political affiliation, or career choice without so much as a raised eyebrow (granted, I live in NYC—this might not be true everywhere). I mention veganism to polite company, however, and it’s immediately fair game to bombard me with questions—sometimes innocent and curious, sometimes rather defensive: “But WHY? You need protein, you know.” “I buy my eggs from the farmer’s market. What do you have to say about that??” “My doctor says you need meat to be healthy.” “Animals eat each other in the wild, so why shouldn’t we eat them?” “What if you were stranded on a dessert island? What would you do then?” “What about people? Don’t you care about HUMAN suffering??” And so on. Jamie tackled a bunch of these head on, starting with the desert island (“It’s 2011. I won’t be stranded on a dessert island.”)

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He also had some great material on gay rights.

Next up was Myk Kaplan, who, though more understated in demeanor than Jamie is, was also hilarious:

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He had a few of my favorite lines of the evening, including “my mother says she’s a vegetarian, but she’s actually a pescatarian. Which means she eats fish, including lying about being a vegetarian,” and “on average, vegans live 15 years longer than omnivores, mostly because we don’t get invited anywhere fun.” (Emily was enjoying my live tweets, which relayed the jokes in full!)

Gary Gulman changed the mood up, bringing the jokes out of the primarily vegan realm and talking about politics and culture, too:

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He is very, very tall.

Finally, Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver closed the show with energy and daring. I give Oliver special credit for making the tiring crowd guffaw—in part by teasing us about how obviously tired we were:

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In the middle of the event, Jenny Brown—co-founder of Woodstock FAS—took the stage to rally support for animals. “What isn’t funny,” she reminded us, “is the treatment of farm animals in this country.”

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Jenny will always get credit for being the woman who reminded me that veganism “isn’t just about having a perfect bowel movement. It’s about the animals.” I adore and admire her, and I thank her for helping to expand and add meaning to my veganism. Here she is with Jamie:

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And with the lovely Ms. Munn:

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Talk about the veggie glow!

In all, it was a fabulous and fun evening, and I’m already excited for next year. Not to mention my new shirt:

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Like it? The buy one for yourself! They’re for purchase here, and proceeds go to help the Woodstock Farm to shelter, heal, and care for animals.

If you’re an New Yorker, I urge you to join me next year for Comedy for Karma—it’s really not to be missed! Just ask these laughing folks:

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One thing I took away from the evening was that all of the comics were into exploring not just veganism and AR, but also gay rights, gender, race, and religion. Now, I’m guessing that these topics are standard fare in the world of standup: comedy is transgressive, and what better topics to push the envelope with than these? Even so, I had the feeling that this was a particularly daring and open-minded group of comedians, and I loved it.

Thanks to Woodstock FAS for a great night. I’ll be back here tomorrow with a favorite new raw noodle dish.


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  1. So sorry I didn’t get to see you! There was such a long line when I got there, so I wasn’t as early as I planned on being. I loved Cassie’s cookies, she is amazing! One of the things Gary Gulman said made me cry from laughing… I will have to check your tweets and see if you got that one there since I can’t remember!

  2. Oh,I would SO love to be able to support clever comedy like this – and clever comedy with a purpose, to boot! I’ve seen a bit of standup over the years and while some comics have been great, some have been extremely self-focused, bitter, and mean. Clearly the latter need to go vegan 😉

  3. Where I am, if I mention I homeschool my kids I get the same reaction. Is it legal? Do you have to be a teacher? What about highschool and the dreaded (stupid) question What about socialisation? (really! we don’t lock them in a cupboard, we have internet and we live in a town not some remote outback station!!!). So if they were to find out I’m vegan too – hmm, maybe I should just tattoo a target on my forehead!!! lol People are challenged by our choices and so feel threatened that the very fabric of the universe would tear if they did the same thing. These are the ones who ask the questions, we share our POV and maybe sway them our way a little, so it’s a good thing, annoying, but good.

  4. Would love to hi-five whoever came up with the idea for this event. I think an injection of humor is exactly what the vegan movement (or gay rights, or AR, or any similarly weighty-yet-important issue) needs. If an organization like Woodstock Farm Sanctuary is a foot in the door between ignorance and making people aware of animal rights, comedy has the potential to blow it wide open. I would bet that those disinclined to devote their attention to issues that need all the support they can get are more likely to willingly listen to a comedian, regardless of the routine’s subject matter. And who doesn’t love to repeat a great joke? Helloooo viral marketing. 🙂

  5. Love the shirt. Maybe you can give one away to a lucky reader. Or to me. 😉

    A vegan themed comedy night sounds like so much fun. I think Seattle needs to steal the idea. I’d go for sure.

  6. I’m wearing the t-shirt right now! I had the best time last night. Thanks for sharing our desserts with you table-mates and always helping support my favorite animal sanctuary 🙂

  7. I feel as though the world of veganism, LGBT issues, feminism, etc. are all tied together as part of a domination problem.

  8. Looks like a good time was had by all. I’m very active in my local companion animal rescue community but I’ve never visited a farm sanctuary. This makes me want to do some research and find one to visit.

  9. How fun! I loved Myk Kaplin on Last Comic Standing, and not just because he is a vegan! 😉 love that shirt! Thanks for tweeting some of the jokes, I was “laughing out loud!”.

  10. What a great event! It honestly never crossed my mind that a vegan comedy show would exist..but leave it to NYC to be the home of awesome live events like that. Wow!

    And the tshirt…adorable! Thanks for the link!

    You reassuring John that horrifying detox symptoms are largely mythical,he doenst “need” a dehydrator and talking where do you get your protein?…oh, that is awesome!

    What a fun night, Gena 🙂

  11. What an amazing event! I wish I had been there- Piraro’s comics are brilliant and I loooove John Oliver. Very awesome that this was for a great cause!

  12. The popular bumper sticker in my neck of the woods is: “What’s the definition of a vegetarian? A bad hunter.” Ha ha. Glad you had a good laugh, for a great cause.

  13. Woodstock Animal Sanctuary is my favorite! It is SO gorgeous in the summer, the cows are my favorite. I’ve always had a soft spot for them <3

    You are GORGEOUS and I have enver been to a comedy show…I want to find one in my neck of the woods!

  14. Jealous! I was loving your Twitter play-by-play. I’ve been on a vegan-themed t-shirt buying kick and you may have given me another one to buy. At least this is for a great cause.

    And you’re right, I could say anything about my strange life, but once I bring up veganism, it’s like all people can see is a starving hippie who doesn’t shave her armpits.

  15. Makes me wish I was back in NYC!
    Looks like such a fun event for an incredible cause.
    And I’d love to see a post from Cassie! She was one of my first vegan mentors and her passion is contagious 🙂

  16. ahhh I’m kicking myself for not going! I totally knew this would happen too!!! Next time, no excuses. Sounds like it was a blast! 🙂

  17. This event looks like tons of fun! I wiah I had known, I would have loved to have gone! Please keep us posted for it next year!

  18. What an awesome shirt! I want one! That sounds like a great event–for a good cause too. I never thought about a comedy show about veganism–it sounds like it was really funny!

    • I want one of those shirts as well! However, I am always wary of buying clothing online… I am going to shoot for either the small or the medium. I don’t want it to be super tight but I don’t want to be drowning either.

      Gena after having seen the shirts in person: do you know how much of a difference there is between the medium and the small?

      Thanks! Sarah

  19. Yes, it’s about the animals but, a perfect bowel movement is a pretty awesome experience!

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