Manish Vaidya

Manish Vaidya, Peacock Rebellion

July 18, 2014

Manish Vaidya, artistic director of Peacock Rebellion, talks to One+Love about peacock femmes, awkward sock puppets, “punch up” social justice comedy, and more:

What inspired the name, “Peacock Rebellion”? If the name had a mini-manifesto, what would it say?

Peacocks come from South Asia. There’s proof of (same-sex) peacocks getting it on. Darwin made some snarky comment about how peacocks made him sick because their flamboyant feathers had nothing to do with evolution; he later admitted he was wrong. Colonizers took peacocks from their homes, caged them, experimented on them…and they survived. They’re shimmery and gorgeous and resilient and fierce. Sometimes they have drama with each other but they look out for each other in the forest. I think of them as awesome femmes. Don’t mess with a peacock; they’ll fuck you up.

What excited/challenged/surprised you about the conception and reception of Brouhaha: QTPOC Activists-Comics Rise Up?

When I first started dreaming about having a social justice stand-up comedy training series, I really didn’t know if folks would go for it. Writing and performing comedy is hard enough as it is. Doing comedy that doesn’t punch down at marginalized folks? That’s even harder. Building a funny comedy set that skips all the terrible jokes that punch down, but that also punches up — that carries deep, nuanced social justice messages about systems of inequality — is damn near impossible. My co-director Jezebel Delilah X and the lead trainers Micia Mosely and Nia King worked with nine amazing QTPOC activists who brought hilarious comedy with sharp messages to the stage.

And we sold out our shows: 400 people came to watch the debut at the National Queer Arts Festival, with another 300 people watching on the live stream. So many people came through for us; it was beautiful to witness.

What does Peacock Rebellion aim to add to the QTPOC activist-sphere? What rebellious medicine do you want to offer?

We hope to be a sassy, snarky training institute for QTPOC to make all kinds of amazing art for social justice. We center comedy and healing in our work. That’s our jam.

What’s next for Peacock Rebellion?

In August, Jezebel Delilah X and I head to Baltimore for Money for Our Movements: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference. We’re co-emceeing the conference with Cara Page of the Audre Lorde Project and we’re doing a workshop based on our first cabaret show, Agen(c)y, a show about life in and beyond nonprofits. This summer, the first season of The Sock World comes out — our web series featuring QTPOC activist sock puppets getting in awkward situations. Brouhaha has a show in Oakland this fall. Then we train a new crew of Brouhaha stand-up comedians, and maybe even a crew of sketch comedy writers and performers next spring.

Anything else you want to say?

I’m single (wink).