I Went to a Nude Comedy Show and Learned to Accept My Body VICE MAGAZINE April 16, 2015 by Alison Stevenson
A few weeks ago, I found an email in my inbox with the subject line: “THE NAKED COMEDY SHOW RETURNS.” I opened it and learned that I was on the email list for a nudist Meetup group that I don’t remember joining. The email was an invitation to a nudist comedy show, which required everyone involved, including the audience, to be in the buff. I bought my ticket on the spot.
Even though I was a part of this Meetup group (which, again, I really don’t remember joining), I hadn’t thought much about nudism—but the movement is very important to some people. Nudist events first gained popularity in America in the 1960s, when nude beaches were popularized and Americans started to push back on Puritanical attitudes toward nudity (though there was a long history of nudism before that). Today, according to a younger nudist organization, there’s a “generational gap” in nudist circles. That is to say, millennials aren’t that into it.
I enjoy being naked in the comfort of my own home, probably more than the average person. The only time I’m not naked in my apartment is when I have company over, or when I’m frying food in the kitchen—it took an oil burn on my chest the size of a third nipple to learn this lesson. In the past, I wore underwear in my sleep due to an irrational fear of spiders crawling up my vagina, but have since overcome this fear by the possibility of a thousand spider eggs hatching inside me. I am purportedly infertile, so that could be my only real chance of motherhood.
As much as I like being naked at home, I have an entirely different attitude about being naked in public. Of course, most people do. While we are generally a nation that agrees a bare human body is inoffensive, we still prefer that bare body stay indoors or on our television and movie screens.
Advocates for social nudity are obviously aware of all this, and thus keep their public nudity within the confines of private property. This comedy show was no exception: It would take place inside a rented-out theater space in the San Fernando Valley. Cameras and recording devices were strictly forbidden, while towels were strictly required.
The day of the show, I wasn’t completely sure I could go through with attending. Hours before the event, I had stared at my naked body in front of my mirror, analyzing each and every thing I liked or disliked about it. I concluded that I disliked my nipples. If my nipples were eyes, the left one would be a lazy eye. While my right nipple can look you in the face, the left appears to wander off, giving the impression that it’s bored of your conversation or looking for someone better to network with. Then there’s my back acne. Though not as drastic as it was when I was a teen, remnants of those miserable years are still present.
Then I thought about what others might not like about my body. Surely, most would find my gut unattractive. I don’t love my gut, but I welcome it as part of the package deal that gave me my sizeable ass, breasts, and thighs. Actually, my thighs could be considered unattractive as well. They’re far too mighty to have one of those quaint little gaps thin girls hashtag about. Then there’s the stretch marks, cellulite, and thick mound of pubic hair—things that are inherently me, but I worried about them anyway.
When I arrived to the theater, I had to stand outside for a bit and give myself a final pep talk. I couldn’t quite figure out why this was so hard for me. I kept telling myself this would be a group of accepting people—it had to be—and yet, even though I knew I was to be in a room full of other naked people, I couldn’t imagine not being personally judged for my nakedness. I finally just sucked it up and powered through.
Once inside, I was taken back by the sea of naked men and women. This was a smorgasbord of dicks, butts, and breasts, all varying in shapes and sizes. There were at least 70 people present, and they stood around talking with one another real casually. They looked like parents standing around and chatting while waiting for their kids to be let out of school.
I sat near the back, next to a woman who still had her button-up shirt on. I asked her if she was going to take it off and she said she was planning to. I was still hesitant, so I asked her if we could take our clothes off together. She agreed, and on the count of three I removed my dress, ripping it off as swiftly as a BandAid. I had deliberately chosen to not wear underwear or a bra underneath, knowing that if I did, I probably wouldn’t have the courage to take them off. So once I pulled off my dress, there I was—naked.
It took a few minutes to adjust, but I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable I felt being naked in my chair (sitting on my mandatory towel, of course). I wasn’t sure if I could leave my chair though, as it became my new safety blanket. It took a lot of mental debate as to whether or not I had it in me to get up and buy a drink at the bar. Luckily, my desire for whiskey outranked my fear of awkward stares. Waiting in line completely nude became my true test of courage, and I passed.
As I stood at the bar and waited, I distracted myself by scoping the space to get a better look at everyone present. The men outnumbered the women, and most people seemed to be in their mid-40s and 50s. There were about ten or 15 men and women in their 20s and 30s. The woman I was sitting next to, Leslie, looked to be around my age. When I got back to my seat, she introduced me to her much-older boyfriend, Patrick. He told me there were people at this show he didn’t expect to come, and I got a sense of what a tight community this was. Some of these nudists drove several hours to be at this event. Patrick said he’d known some of these people for over a decade, purely through the nudist community. Outside of nudism, these were people he would probably never meet or interact with in real life.
The show finally started, and ran for about an hour and a half. The host was the only woman other than me who had a hairy bush. (Hers was neatly trimmed though. Kudos.) Some performers were trying comedy for the first time. Others were more seasoned. I wasn’t really there to see comedy. I was there for the nudist experience, and am genuinely happy to have done it. By the end of the show, I was able to get up and grab more drinks, as well as walk to the bathroom, without any hesitation about my body.
I took to public nudity a lot better than I thought possible. In fact, it felt pretty great. Not one comment was made about any of the things I obsessed over in front of my mirror. No one was offended by my lazy nipple, or disgusted by my back acne. By the end of night, I came to terms with the fact that though these things on me were definitely being looked at, they simply didn’t matter. Just like I took notice of a strange growth on one woman’s breast, and one man’s legitimate micro-penis, people were noticing what I thought of as “flaws” in my body and nobody cared. I left the show that night with Leslie and Patrick’s contact information. They urged me to join them at another nudist gathering, and I think I just might take them up on it.