Laughing and learning with Cindy Pierce

Comic storyteller brings her new, mind-opening show to Stowe

Stowe Today — February 6, 2014

By Biddle Duke

Comedian and storyteller Cindy Pierce will perform her new one-woman comedy show, “Comfort in the Stumble,” in Stowe on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Stowetoday.com

Pierce performs variations of her original show, “Finding the Doorbell,” as well as two other shows: “The Truth About Intimacy: An Upgraded Version of ‘The Talk’ in the (Mis)Information Age” and “Comfort in the Stumble.” She is also co-author of “Finding the Doorbell: Sexual Satisfaction for the Long Haul.”

Pierce combines outrageous humor and years of research to enlighten a wide variety of audiences about healthy sexual relationships. Her material comes from experience. With three kids of her own storming into their teens, Pierce says she is a bit of a social liability for them, but her husband, Bruce, keeps the family grounded. They live in Etna, N.H., where they own and run Pierce’s Inn.

Although Pierce is primarily a comic, she speaks on college campuses to students about sex and sexuality, pornography and binge drinking, and her performances are speckled with personal lessons and advice on the subject. She cautions that the Stowe show is for adults only. It contains sexually graphic descriptions, as (word of caution) do some of her responses here.

We caught up with Pierce last week.

“Comfort in the Stumble”? That’s mysterious. Shine some light on that title.

My comfort with stumbling through life is my most defining characteristic. I can’t help myself from stepping into sketchy situations. I have a feisty combination of impulsivity, lack of self-consciousness and ability to find humor rather than shame…

Why sex? I mean, as a topic for you as a comic and an educator?

“Comfort in the Stumble” is less about sex than my other shows and presentations, but a few stories involve sex.

Sex is where most people feel the most inadequate and vulnerable. Kids think they will figure it out when they get to do it more. College kids hook up in hopes of making some sense out of it. As time goes on, they secretly realize they aren’t learning much, but they work hard to conceal what they don’t know, assuming everyone else has it figured out. Once a person is in a committed, long-term relationship, s/he is stuck with a limited toolbox. Communication around sex is limited for most couples of any age. … Comic education is a stealthy way of getting information to people who won’t admit they don’t know.

If “Stumble” is less about sex than past shows, what aspects of life do you explore this time? Give us a little teaser.

Yes, this show has only one story about sex and approximately nine other stories about my life of stumbling, because I just can’t help myself. I stumble into dress up clothes with endless incidents, use oatmeal in a diaper to soothe my undercarriage after an unidentifiable leaf encounter, middle-age libido challenges and a couple solutions.

Have your kids (how old are they?) seen your shows? What do they think?

Our kids are 12, 14 and almost 16. We’ve been very aggressive with sex education since they were young. I gave them the truth about sex in first grade. The payoff is that by the time of crushes and the need to separate from the embarrassing parents (really embarrassing parents, in our case), they had the facts and were comfortable talking and getting clarification about sex. I called it Family Science. …They continue to cringe with gratitude. And we are thrilled to be considered weird, embarrassing parents.

As far as my shows, the kids are well aware that people find me funny and learn a lot from my talks, but they have requested that I not come to their school.

Have you had pushback because you’re a woman comic? What’s the most difficult thing about being a female comic?

With a couple exceptions, I haven’t hit too many snags as a female comic. In two comedy clubs, the male comics were freaked out by my graphic, honest stories. …The perception is that my shows are for women. The men who rally out are always grateful because I am rooting for them and share their perspective when I do talk about sex.

Your husband is in many of your stories; how does he take it all?

People ask Bruce this question all the time. His first snarky response is: “Money talks. I can be bought.” On a more serious note, he thinks some mild embarrassment is worth enduring, because I am conveying an important message to the audience. He believes that my stories make people feel better about their shortcomings, particularly around sex and relationships, so he is willing to take one for the team. He is a darn good sport. …

You discuss relationships with teenagers and college kids; what are the challenges around relationships and sex facing this generation?

High school and college kids actually know less about sex, despite (or possibly because of) the Internet. The amount of information and input they are soaking in is overwhelming. … Most guys are being educated about sex through porn, Cosmo and friends who have a lot of sex. … People get the idea that you learn more if you hook up a lot. Mileage does not result in knowledge.

… Women and girls are significantly less likely to look at porn, but they are impacted by it. Porn culture infiltrates music, videos, advertisements and floats around boy banter.

There is a lot more violent and experimental sex going on with younger and younger kids because they get the idea that is what is “hot” and must be what everyone is doing. Kids are experimenting with a lot of sexual acts long before they are in touch with the nuances of what gives them pleasure, particularly girls.

… I hear a lot of talk about sexual freedom and liberation among young women. I am all for it if women first know how their own pleasure zones work and are comfortable guiding their partner before they venture out. …

Cindy Pierce
“Comfort in the Stumble”
Akeley Memorial Building, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25.
To purchase: cindy-pierce.com/tickets or at the door.
Video clip of “Comfort in the Stumble”: cindy-pierce.com.

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