How to write a funny protest sign

Right now, everyone’s mad about something. And during a time of high-visibility, ultra-Instagrammed civic engagement, we have more opportunities than ever to amplify our infuriated opinions.

 

You only have one piece of poster board to make your point, and you want to hit home.


This is about getting a laugh—and it’s about using humor to make a serious point.

But what makes for a funny and powerful protest sign? Let’s look at what makes these signs hilarious and important, and talk about how you can be not just bitter — but better.

 

Be passionate (but open to understatements).

 

If you’re thinking of going to a protest, but you feel so lukewarm about it that you’re tempted to carry an anti-protest sign, think again. That’s a dick move. Unless you’re counter-protesting – which should ignite equally passionate feelings – there’s no reason to show up just to yuck someone’s yum.

Here’s an exception missed by the people who made the post I linked to above: If your “lukewarm” sign is deliberately ironic, understated for comic effect, and/or flat-out sarcastic. For instance, this lady, from that article:

That’s not the face of a someone who’s “a little upset.” That’s the face of a woman who has brought home the bacon, fried it up in the pan, and gives zero f*cks if you feel like a man at this point. If you want to harness the power of sarcasm, think of the thing you would love to SCREAM at people. Then, think of how you would dial that all the way back to where it’s totally ludicrously understated. For instance:

At a rally for DREAMers: “Please let my friends’ parents stay here to actually parent them.”

At a protest against bullfighting: “This is bull.”

At a demand to take down confederate statues: “Didn’t these guys lose the war?”

 

You see what I mean.

 

Go big. Comedy is about being genuine, and then exaggerating—taking your point to the max. Things just aren’t bad, or hellish, they are almost literally HELL, says this woman:

Use comparisons. This is one of GOLD’s own  5.5 types of jokes! This girl’s sign is hilarious, awful, and true. By comparing dress codes to guns, she’s highlighting their ridiculous nature. What’s more is she’s actually raising two important issues instead of one: girls’ dress codes and gun control. Comparisons are great for multifaceted protesting—and for, you know, being funny.

 

This is where corny works.

I’m not usually pro-puns. Used wrong, they can be so corny they make you cringe. However, when you’re working with a fortune-cookie-sized message, you have to employ whatever will work in a small space. Be punny, rhyme like the wind, indulge your inner dad.

Use your age. It’s funny when kids swear. It just fucking is. Also, kids are usually more observant than adults — we’re not so cynical, and we care a lot about the world around us, despite the stereotype of the bored and angsty teenager. Take your unique point-of-view and apply it to comedy! This kid probably has uttered the words “I’d rather die than go to math class”. That’s something kids say. They don’t usually follow it up with calling people a-holes. That’s the punch. Solid.


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. 

 




 

Teen girl stereotypes that need to go away

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the bored teenager. It’s everywhere we look, from magazines to movies to TV. You know the type: Obsessed with selfies, never holds a conversation without using abbreviations, and rolls their eyes at everything their parents say (“OMG, Mom, WTF?!”). Overwhelmingly, and unfortunately, these stereotypes we see are of teen girls. No group is more misunderstood, and no group hates being categorized as “misunderstood” more.

I say this with authority, because I am a teen girl.

Nothing makes me dislike a movie more than watching over-dramatized teen angst develop into its own character on screen. Painting any generation with broad brush is problematic, but the way teen girls are dismissed as Lip-Smacker-scented dingbats is particularly loathsome to me. Not only are these stereotypes untrue, I believe they’re going to be (if they aren’t already) downright dangerous.

Back off, grownups
First of all, most screenwriters and media executives are adult men. And while adults are capable of producing nuanced, realistic portrayals of high-school and middle-school aged students, more often than not, school (and teens) have changed a lot since they were that age, and it’s this knowledge gap that makes teen characters so obnoxious and unrelatable. And it’s not just the writers. Often, actors playing teens are much older, leading to the same lack of understanding. I don’t believe it to be intentional, but there is a desperate need for more communication between teens and adults, especially if you’re attempting to portray one.

Tiny details, huge disconnects
As a frequent observer of media centered around young adults, even little things stand out to me. For example, I adored the movie Love, Simon, and I do feel as though, overall, it did an excellent job of illustrating modern adolescence. But in one scene, the main characters all go to get iced coffee. Black iced coffee. OMG, WTF? All my schoolmates drink iced coffee only if it’s more than 3/4 milk or cream (and with like 11 sugars). It made it all the more clear that the adults writing, directing, even acting in the film were just that: Adults. It’s little things like that which remind me of the profound disconnect between adolescents and adults in the media.

She doesn’t even go here

But it’s also the bigger things. Teen girls are usually portrayed as vapid, ignorant things, obsessed with social media and clothes. Examples abound, but take Xanthippe from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show I otherwise adore. While Xan does show some degree of three-dimensionality, like her good grades and her aversion to her pill-popping friends, most of her characterization centers around her reactions to Kimmy: instead of being excited to have an adult to confide in and trust, she lashes out, with “typical” teen you’re-not-my-mom attitude. She is constantly attached to her phone, throwing tantrums, and trying to avoid any degree of connection with another person. Now,  while I am sure there is a stray teen that sees herself in Xan, I have never met, nor heard of, her.

The teens I know

The teens I know are kind, thoughtful, concerned, both self-conscious and conscientious. (Also, to be clear, we are FUN.) We are, after all, people, and should be displayed with the same care and levity that adult (and even child) characters are in most media. Look at the children of Parkland. Look at Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks. Look at the teens in your own life. I take lots of pride in my generation. I find we are accepting and aware in ways that are as unexpected as they are refreshing. We’re not eye-rolling, text-obsessed, careless zombies, and portraying us as such isn’t only offensive, it’s harmful.

It’s no secret that what we see in the media directly affects how we act, and, more importantly, what standards we hold ourselves to. The body positivity and diversity movements have done a lot to expose how deeply young girls can be affected by what they see. So when they’re seeing teens yell, and scream, and act in the vapid, aloof, and angry way that we see everywhere we look, we’re sending a message that not only this is how true teens act, but it’s how they’re expected to act. By putting angsty Barbie dolls on the pedestal that is entertainment, we can create, in real life, the very creatures we love to hate on TV.  If we don’t begin to create dynamic, sympathetic, and realistic teen girl characters on our screens, we may cease to see them in our lives.


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.


Tips from a teen: 7 pieces of PURE GOLD ADVICE for teen comics, by teen comics

Being young comes with its own set of challenges. Waiters ask you if you want kids’ menus, you get carded at R-rated movies, and parents just don’t understand. While these situations are frustrating, they also have their upsides (chicken nuggets for dinner, anyone?). And in comedy, where so many things are upside down, that frustratingly unusual perspective is a huge asset for teen comics.

Because it’s true. Adults don’t understand — which means kids like us have the comedic chance to explain it all. A lot of our favorite comedians started their careers in their teens, like Tiffany Haddish and Josie Long. And lots of teens are starting out in comedy right now!

But howww? I hear you. Well, what do I know? I’m just a teen standup comedian. Here’s how I see it.

Get inspired by a role model…

Teen comic and Inspiring Person™ Avery Lender says that her favorite comics are the ones who manage to be funny in ways that she’s not- comics like Dave Chappelle and Donald Glover, who are opposite from her style, but funny nonetheless. However, she loves female comedians best. Mindy Kaling, in particular, is a role model–she is a writer with her own tv show, her own book AND she was on The Office…talk about #goals! Female writers in particular help Avery see how to construct a joke and bring her own personal spin on it. And finding your own mentors will help you, too.

…or, better yet, a mentor

First thing you need is a doorway into that crazy world of comedy. Now more than ever, teens are helping teens get into comedy and slowly taking over, one millennial-run industry at a time! Just kidding. Sort of. Teens are helping each other out: they are even writing books on it, like Young, Funny, and Unbalanced, the book from the Kids ‘N Comedy team. If you don’t want to commit to a whole book about it, check out their blog!

Don’t “find” the time … MAKE the time

Finding time to do just about any extracurricular activity is hard. Comics, especially teens, have to be extra dedicated to squeeze it in between sports, college applications, and homework. We don’t recommend it, but Alyssa Stonoha says she even used to do her homework “like, in between classes.” Not great for grades, but potentially great for comedy!

Figure out what builds your confidence. Then do that. A lot.

Even if it’s just making your mom laugh, like Avery Lender, finding something that makes you feel funny is a great confidence boost. And that boost will keep you going when things get challenging. We comedians, in particular, are our own biggest critics. Even Mindy Project legend Chris Messina says he doesn’t find himself “particularly funny.” So spend time filling that emotional bucket with self-confidence so you’ll have it when the well runs dry.

Negotiate late night gigs with your parents (or find daytime ones). As a certified teen, you probably aren’t allowed in bars yet. Don’t despair! There are other options. Weekends are great, and so are comedy clubs who allow teens to perform (like the Broadway Comedy Club). Also, remember that mentor we mentioned earlier? Introduce this person to your parents. Even if she’s not old enough to be a chaperone, you can invoke the safety of the good old buddy system.

Remember who runs the world. But we don’t run comedy … yet. YET.

Being the ‘token girl’ in comedy can be hard. Even Avery says that she doesn’t “think girls are encouraged at all to be funny.” The important thing in comedy, like in life, is to remember to ignore anyone telling you you can’t do it. Sexism can look like a lot of different things, from the classic “women aren’t funny” to eye-rollingly stupid catcalls to even backhanded compliments from other women (see: “you’re so brave to do that” and “I love how you don’t care what anyone else thinks”). When in doubt, gird your emotional loins and prove ‘em wrong. Nevertheless, PERSIST!

Write what you know…carefully.
If your comedy is based in your personal life, be aware of how it might affect anyone you talk about. Being funny and being mean aren’t (necessarily) the same. If your jokes are about things like “peanuts and lizards and sexual harassment,” like teen-comic-turned-adult Alyssa Stonoha, keep private things private, or at least change the names to protect the innocent.

Love it!
No one ever said comedy was easy. Remember that you have plenty of funny years ahead of you. Not getting a laugh won’t kill you — but losing your passion might. Stay funny, ladies!


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.

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Crouching weirdos, hidden fencing

As a young girl, with an ambitious, athletic and empowered mother, I was signed up for many sports classes. I soon found out, through softball, soccer, basketball, even gymnastics, that I wasn’t coordinated, fast, competitive, or even flexible. I would pout on the way to practices, count down the minutes of games, and await with anticipation the end-of-season pizza parties which would inevitably reward 6 weeks of hanging on for dear life. Which is how, at the end of a very long list of possible athletic talents, I came to rest my sights on fencing.

Fencing is a weird sport to talk about. First of all, chances are, people won’t even know what it is. All too often, well-meaning moms or, more frequently, dads, will assume I’m building literal white picket fences. I’ll save you the trouble: not even close.

To speed things along, here’s how Wikipedia describes it: “Fencing is a sport in which two competitors fight using ‘rapier-style’ swords, called the foil, the épée, and the sabre; winning points are made through contact with an opponent.” It’s a pretty basic concept, but the long, awkward conversations in which I have to find multiple ways to describe it to confused and regretful houseguests (see: Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party) say otherwise.

The next reaction, usually delivered in that high-pitched, condescending tone that teenagers all know and hate, is, “that’s so cooool!” Adults, just because it isn’t football or soccer doesn’t mean you get to squeal different synonyms for the word “unique” at us.  We’re fencers, not unicorns. My problem isn’t even the forced excitement, it’s the unwillingness to admit that you have nothing else to say on the subject. There are painfully few people who know enough to ask about weapons, or new rules, or their favorite fencers, and even fewer who care enough to ask about anything at all. Adults need to get their shit together when it comes to fencing.

That said, “unique” might be the kindest description of fencers. I knew I was in for it when I saw that was about the most socially adept person in the gym. We fencers are — there’s no other way to put it — an odd bunch. Most high school varsity sports hold the promise of their players being considered cool, or at least cool-adjacent. Fencing, not so much. Let me put it this way: most of the school is unaware that a fencing team even exists, because, even if you’re in it, you don’t advertise it.

So what is so weird? First things first: in high school sports, looks matter. Football wouldn’t look half as badass (not that it is) as it does without the muscle-padding protective gear. In fencing, though, our masks are more reminiscent of fly eyeballs. The head-to-toe white canvas jackets and pants make us look like Renaissance knight paper dolls. In addition, fencing is the sporting world’s island of misfit toys. Sure there are some ‘real’ athletes, but most are like me- kids who couldn’t hack it in more ~mainstream~ sports. In fact, it’s even a perk sometimes to be gangly and oddly thin- more wingspan, less target area for an opponent to hit. Overall, our already-mostly-poor social skills don’t quite get developed at the same rate- it’s a pretty individual thing, just you and your opponent. All in all, we’re all pretty much some degree of weirdo, although we technically fall under the ‘varsity athlete’ umbrella.

That being said, my fellow weirdos are irreplaceable. Without all the external pressure from a cutthroat sport (like Connecticut soccer, the white-boy sport to end all white-boy sports), our teammates can actually become friends, close friends, rather than just competitors. Some of my closest friends are my team members, and if the price we pay for keeping the team sacred is listening to ignorant adults and snotty kids talk about how “special” it is, then we’ll gladly take that. We wouldn’t trade fencing for anything in the world.

Five things you SHOULD say to a teenage fencer:

  1. What’s your weapon? This demonstrates interest without making you sound completely clueless to the person you’re talking to. Chances are, they’re pretty passionate about their weapon and will be more than happy to discuss it.
  2. I heard they call it ‘physical chess’. This is true! Aside from the ‘strategy’ similarities, fencers tend to be some of the smartest athletes.
  3. What’s your academy? Just like ‘what’s your weapon?”, this shows you know a little something about the sport. Most fencers, even basic high school ones, practice in the off-season at an academy. More likely than not, they love theirs (there are some fierce rivalries) and will tell you all about it.
  4. Who’s your favorite fencer? Although fencers aren’t as famous as football players, there are some incredible, inspiring fencers out there. Check out Ibtihaj Muhammad, who recently had a barbie made in her image.
  5. Fencing seems really difficult. We often get brushed off, since our nerdy rep precedes us. But fencers work just as hard, if not harder, than most other athletes. Give us some credit!

Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.

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5 ways the internet has transformed comedy

Watch this clip! Download this podcast! HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN the latest episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee?!? Thanks to the internet, comedy is EVERYWHERE—and it’s pretty much always screaming at you to take your funny vitamins. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, for both comedy and comedians? The answer: IT DEPENDS, OBVIOUSLY. Here are five key changes, according to me.

1. The internet makes performing easy.

In the immortal words of Aparna Nancherla: “Best part of internet: everyone has a voice. Worst part of internet: everyone has a voice.” In a comedy context, that means that the internet can help budding comedians—especially those in club-starved towns, or too young for THAT LIFESTYLE—find an audience, or help anyone with a YouTube account think they can become an overnight comedy sensation.

2. 140 characters is the soul of wit.

Or is it? Some, like Peter Serafinowicz, laud platforms like Twitter for forcing them to hone their one-line game. Others (see Martin Trickey) think this makes an audience too hard to work with the online audience craves instant gratification, and can only sometimes get it, leading to instant approval or dismissal of a performance.

3. It’s there…FOREVER.

The ability to replay and rewatch has led to increased scrutiny. That’s good, when it helps hold comedians like Tosh, Bill Maher, etc. accountable for inappropriate jokes. But it also opens up every last detail of a set for criticism. Internet hecklers don’t leave when the show’s over.

4. It makes for a bigger farm team.

Not every attempt to convert internet comedy to mainstream works (think Netflix specials like Haters Back Off). But comedians like Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer originally started out on a web series. That’s where HBO’s Insecure came from, too. The Internet might not make everyone a star, but it is fertile new ground for talent.

5. It opens virtual doors.

The internet is high on bias, but also pretty low on red tape. This means that folks who normally come up against barriers to entry in comedy (sexism and racism, say!) can produce and share their own work, set their own terms, and build their own audiences. Best part of internet: everyone has a voice!

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GILLIAN ROONEY is a teenage comedian and writer based in Connecticut and an alum of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series.

Wonder Woman: 0/5 Stars

Wonder Woman not only barely deserves the praise it has thus far received, it barely deserved to be made at all. It was utterly unrealistic and completely devoid of well-rounded white male protagonists.

For years, Hollywood’s biggest studios have been producing original, high-caliber, male-led projects. Where would we be without The Hangover Part III, Dumb and Dumber To, and of course that compelling Fantastic Four reboot? Now unfortunately, it seems that DC is following its competitor Marvel in their quest for “PC/minority” characters, disregarding all facts that point to male dominance in almost all fields. This time, their unnecessary pandering to cries for “diversity” has cost them a quality film.

It should be clear to the audience that women are too delicate to fight crime effectively, no matter the circumstances. There’s a reason there aren’t any female soldiers fighting on the front lines in America, or at least any that have reached my computer screen, here in my stepfather’s basement apartment (I have my own door and everything). Biologically, it just makes sense that Steve Trevor should be the hero of the film, not Diana Prince. Steve, played by the fantastic and capable Chris Pine, is tragically overshadowed by Gal Gadot’s grunting hulk of a Wonder Woman throughout the film.

Wonder Woman’s disrespectful attitude towards Steve sets a bad example. I, for one, won’t be taking any daughter of mine to see it, and not just because I don’t have one. I’m not about to take my goth niece either, and not just because she doesn’t respond to the articles I forward her from deep-web Reddit. Throughout the movie, Diana disrespects her mother’s wishes, and later on, the wishes of her boyfriend, who only wants to keep her safe! Her imperviousness to any sense of authority is appalling. Diana cares not for the rules that keep women safe and threatens the very fabric of our nation in a film that glorifies both bad behavior and over-accessorizing.

Gadot herself shows no regard for safety either. She was pregnant while filming! Her callousness for the safety of her unborn children is disgusting. Imagine if every woman in our society followed her example. What kind of madness would befall our country if even our athletes and businesswomen had the gall to work while with child?

Watching the film, I found myself rooting for the Germans. At least that side had the sense to let men do the fighting. Diana should have listened to her mother and left the movies to the real superheroes. Where’s Superman when you need him? Zero stars.

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy 8QS Plus, while on the toilet in my stepdad’s basement


GILLIAN ROONEY is a teenage comedian and writer based in Connecticut and an alum of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series.

 

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