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Comedian Grace Parra On The Verbal Sparring At Politicon: "I Love This Shit"

If politics is a bloodsport, then the main event is this weekend's third-annual Politicon at the Pasadena Convention Center in California. The two-day political smackdown features policy makers, commentators and comedians like Grace Parra -- the former 'Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore' panelist who is now co-host of comedy shows like Lady Freak and the creator of the comic documentary Grace Anatomy.

Parra will be hosting a panel at Politicon this year that will delve into whether Trump's America will give rise to a dystopian future for women, or if that's the sort of "liberal sensationalism" that everyone on the left is susceptible to now and then. To find out more, we reached out to Grace and chatted about the event. 

Are you excited for Politicon? 

I don't know if there are other events that get me more excited every year than Politicon -- with the exception of my birthday and Christmas since I receive physical presents. Politicon is the best. Last year was the first time that I got to participate as a panelist. The year before I went as a fan because I love this shit.

What was the highlight of last year, when you got to go as a guest for the first time? 

The ability to be on panels with people that I admire or kind of loathe all within a span of the same few hours. I got to do sets with my former boss and good friend Larry Wilmore, which is awesome. And I got to do a panel with Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico. And I also sat on a panel with Tomi Lahren and talked to her about life and femininity as it relates to politics in America today. So all of that happening within a 24 hour period is just so exciting.

Did you ever see a guest you loathed so much that you thought, "I don't want to die, but if the roof caved in and killed us all, at least that person would be gone as well"? 

I'm not gonna name names, so let's call her Shan Moulter. I think many people probably felt that sentiment about her and still do. And in fact, she's coming to this year's Politicon as well.

Can you tell us a bit about your panel? 

I'm curating one this year with Jen Bartels -- my best friend and co-host of 'Lady Freak.' It's basically a sex-positive comedy talk show with a panel of women on every episode, talking about something specific in the world of sexuality and femininity. We do topics like how sex and technology intertwine or the legality (or lack thereof) of sex work.

And we've always wanted to do something on the intersection of sex and politics. So when the amazing founders of Politicon came to see 'Lady Freak' and suggested we do a topic that has something to do with those intersecting worlds, we thought it was a very cool, exciting opportunity to bring our brand of comedy to the table.

How will your panel tackle a huge subject like sex and politics?

We decided to focus on the topic of sex, presidents and handmaids because -- I don't know if you've seen 'The Handmaid's Tale' TV series -- but it's a dystopian nightmare for people like Jen and I as purveyors of the idea that sexuality should be something that women own -- something for female pleasure, not just for procreative purposes. The idea that what is portrayed in 'Handmaid's Tale' could potentially be feasible is something that's of real interest to discuss. So we're very excited to have a panel of very outspoken women from a number of different political backgrounds who will hopefully agree with and also refute those ideas.

Do you prefer meeting like-minded people at Politicon, or do you look forward to the challenge of persuading or fighting with others?

Yeah, it's more the latter. Not that we want to fight with people by any means. But I think it's more exciting to have a panel of people who have differing opinions. I think one of the elements of 'Lady Freak' is that, even though we have guests with varied backgrounds and varied perspectives, we tend to do these shows in Los Angeles and New York -- places where people tend to be liberal. So I think it'll be exciting to have perspectives that are different. It's a challenge for us as hosts, and it's more entertaining for the audience.

Could that lead to inertia though? On the one hand it's exciting and entertaining to tackle issues and confront people, but there's that risk of it turning into a Jerry Springer episode where there's a lot of shouting but nothing really gets accomplished.

Yeah, in the context of a conference like Politicon, you wonder what is going to be accomplished. But I think there is accomplishment in dialogue itself. In bringing together both sides of the political table under the same roof. I've never seen these things escalate to be Jerry Springer-esque. There's a lot of decorum.

And we're dealing with a house full of political nerds: we don't even know how to fight physically. We have atrophied limbs, so we'd be very bad at that. But our words will be very biting, I'm sure. So you'll find that kind of contention more in rhetoric than physicality.

You mentioned that 'Lady Freak' is a sex-positive show. What do you think is the most sex-negative thing in American culture today?

The Trump administration, probably. 

The whole administration? Should we paint everyone in it with the same brush?

Well, one thing I want to do on this panel is take a step back now that we've lived in Trump's America for six or seven months and ask, "How much would things be different for women if Hillary had won? Would we still be living with the status quo?" I mean, Hillary is a true feminist in every sense of the word, but have things changed that dramatically for women now?

And I say that as someone who opposes this administration in a number of ways. I think that Trump is awful for our country and that we've only begun to see the ramifications of living in Trump's America. We've seen women's health being attacked in a number of ways, but I think there is more concern about it being under attack than actually being under attack. So I want to ask the panelists on our show, "Do you think that we have to manage our expectations about just how bad it is and just how bad it's going to get? And how much more stable would things be under Hillary?"

I think things would be much more stable and that there would be a sense of calm and excitement about being a woman in America. It would be really cool to wake up and see a woman in the Oval Office. But on the flip side, we're still here. We still have voices. We still have the ability to fight back. So I think managing those two sides of expectation and sensationalism are what I'm interested in getting into.

So Trump isn't going to be at Politicon, but if he did walk through the door, and you had thirty seconds to say whatever you wanted to him -- no filter -- what would you say? 

Protect our immigrants. Stop referring to the undocumented class as illegals. They are people who contribute more to this country than you will ever understand -- and more specifically to your empire as a real estate "tycoon" than you have ever given acknowledgement to. And I hate that.

I probably would not say 'Fuck you' to him because in some weird way I'd rather earn a little bit of his respect. Which sounds fucking weird. I can't believe I just said that. But I would rather speak to him candidly in a way that feels productive rather than just berating him -- even if I just had 30 seconds.

But in a longer interview, I'd find ways to subversively berate him.

For more, swing by Politicon this weeked to check out Grace Parra's panel, or follow her on Twitter (@GraceParra360).


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