“Fat Joke” tears fatphobia a new one

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      “As a fat person, I never thought of myself as ‘sexy,’” says comedian Cheyenne Rouleau in a statement. “Society never allowed me to be. So I got funny.” 

      That matter-of-fact cultural observation is at the heart of her new show, Fat Joke, which premieres at the Vancity Culture Lab as part of The Cultch’s annual Femme Festival later this month. 

      Through a mix of standup, storytelling, and dishing out the straight-up facts, Rouleau’s one-woman show explores how “fat” became such a dirty word—and the wide-ranging world of fatphobia. 

      Fatphobia, after all, is embedded in a whole web of structural inequities: it affects health care, diet and beauty culture, ableism, and income disparity. It’s baked into racism and white supremacy. Even the word “fat,” as a neutral descriptor, is considered by some to be the very worst thing a person can be—used as a dehumanizing cudgel to imply a wealth of negative traits based solely on a physical description. 

      “I commissioned the piece after Cheyenne sent me some research she had done,” says Neworld Theatre’s artistic director Chelsea Haberlin, who’s also pulling double duty as Fat Joke’s director. “It was challenging some of the assumptions that we have about fatness and health and the way that we perceive bodies in our North American culture and the stories we attach to those bodies.”

      Commissioned by Neworld Theatre and presented in association with Rumble Theatre, the show might get real, but it also promises to be fiercely funny. 

      “I think this show challenges some assumptions around health and wellness,” says Rouleau. “About what it's like to really exist in a fat body and have the outside world constantly judging you for something that maybe you can't control or just something that's a part of your identity.”

       

      Fat Joke 

      When: April 25 to May 5

      Where: Vancity Culture Lab (1895 Venables Street, Vancouver)

      Admission: From $29, available here

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