Marie Cecile Anderson and Katy Frame, Reformed Whores: Feminist Musical Comics
Warning: This podcast episode has sex-positive, adult content.
If you’re a feminist like me, you’re reeling from the news of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing away on Friday. This episode with Marie Cecile Anderson and Katy Frame, Reformed Whores, will be a balm to your soul.
If Dolly Parton & Flight of the Conchords got drunk and had a baby, you'd get the hilariously irreverent musical comedy duo Reformed Whores! Their hit show “Grand Ole Cuntry" premiered in August 2017 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and Broadway Baby described them as "a magnificently bawdy celebration of female sexuality” and "genuinely endearing and unflinchingly upbeat." They’re on a mission to empower, normalize the female experience, and bust a few guts in the process!
Reformed Whores have headlined comedy clubs and toured the country, opening for the likes of "Weird Al" Yankovic and Alice Cooper. They have over a million hits on YouTube, and their sophomore record "Don't Beat Around the Bush" debuted in the top 20 iTunes comedy chart. Not only do they have beautiful harmonies and a country twang, but they also are hilarious as well as educational.
They are cohosts of the Difficult Women podcast, which is a fantastic combination of current affairs, feminism, social justice, and funny, irreverent conversation—plus a lovely blend of women’s friendship.
The first time I saw a Reformed Whores video was in 2012 (when their band was just two years old), after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute for merely advocating for contraception. Their song, “Rush Limbaugh Calls Sandra Fluke a Slut,” will have you singing along, “I’m a slut, slut, slut, I’m an S-L-U-T, S-L-U-T, slut!” I immediately became a fan and have followed their irreverent, bawdy, harmonious form of comedy and music ever since. (And of course I’m always delighted to find another fun Marie!) I was positively thrilled when they agreed to be on my podcast!
Katy Frame grew up in Maryland and moved to NYC at the age of 18 to attend Barnard College, Columbia University where she fell in love with improv and sketch. After arriving, she promptly changed her major from biology to music & dance (not telling her parents until graduation) and hasn't looked back since. An actor, writer, songwriter, and comic, Katy has performed in off-Broadway shows, movies, and TV shows such as “Men in Black 3,” “Blogger Girls,” and “My Dad is in a Boy Band.” And her song "45 Is The New 15" was featured on “The Today Show”!
Marie Cecile Anderson hails from Nashville and arrived in New York City after studying theater education at Appalachian State University, with everything she owned packed into six boxes. Like Katy, Marie has appeared live on stage and on many screens through the years, including “Flight of the Conchords,” “Commuters,” and “Dr. Oz.” She worked on the Netflix show “Maniac” and can be seen on Twitch.tv writing and performing live sketch comedy on “The John Twitcherman Sketch Program.” Marie also co-created and directed the comedy web series “Ghostedbusters.”
Fate brought Marie and Katy together when they “fell ass backwards” into forming Reformed Whores. Ten years ago they randomly met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Brooklyn when they talked the whole evening. And they started the band one week later! Working together for 10 years, they consider themselves as soulmates. That’s evident when you listen to them together in this podcast episode, onstage, in their videos, or on their podcast. They seem completely in sync, while each being their own lovely personality. Katy and Marie both knew early on they were meant to be writing and performing on stage, and they feel incredibly lucky to be living these lives. Marie said,
“I grew up in the (Presbyterian) church, and my first feeling of pushing against the patriarchy or society was in church...just saying the most shocking things I could and then getting a rise out of people...I still love to shock people, especially with the message.”
Marie was trying to prove to her overprotective father that she could be a full woman without having a boyfriend or be horny like a man, pushing against the stereotype of what a southern woman is supposed to look like. She never fit into the category of a typical southern woman, even though she didn’t realize she was actually a feminist until about 10-15 years ago. Now she’s very proud to call herself a feminist. Katy said,
“For me, personally, one of the things that motivated me the most in starting the band was pushing back against society’s messages about women and sexuality. (There was) just this concept that a woman is a whore if she sleeps around, but a man is a hero. That just drove me nuts.”
When they started a bawdy band singing about sex and body positivity, they had to adjust to upsetting their parents. It’s been hard for their parents to hear their daughters talk about sex in such a brazen, open way. When Marie’s mom first saw one of her videos, about giving hand jobs for Lent, her mom told her she was disappointed in her. However, Marie also shared a story about her parents coming to see Reformed Whores in concert. When they sang their song “Mama,” Marie’s mom proudly claimed the title of Mama.
Since two out of three of my sons are thespians, I asked Marie and Katy about the future of theater, and they had hopeful words to share:
“Oh, it’s going to be better than ever...people are very resilient,” said Katy. “Art actually thrives during limitations. It’s much easier to make really cool art when you have a lot of limits. I’m excited for the next 10 years to see what happens, and even the next 2 years.”
I asked them for their favorite songs, and Marie mentioned “Hey Dude! The Mansplaining Song,” which either completely bombs or ignites the audience. The male audience members often do not like the song or do not recognize themselves in the lyrics. Katy said she likes the song “House Husband,” which they haven’t recorded yet...and I shared my experience of being the breadwinner while my husband was the stay-at-home dad.
On one of their “Difficult Women” podcast episodes, “Sturgis 2020,” Katy and Marie reminisced about performing at Sturgis in 2016. They happened across a Trump rally, and Katy wanted to exit quietly while Marie wanted to loudly chant “Hillary!” I asked them how they straddle traditional country venues and feminist, sex-positive messaging. They talked about performing at Sturgis close to the time they also had a show for a very different audience in Charleston, South Carolina. Marie said:
“What we’re singing about, and the way we look, and how we present it, we’re really able to have people stop and listen...we are selling a message.”
There is a point behind every song, and they can spread their message to different mindsets. Katy goes on,
“I’m just a very big proponent of, always in life, fully, especially right now, more than ever, getting away from this sort of masturbatory preaching to the choir nonsense...I don’t like it...I don’t like people in their own little bubbles...talking to the same people they know over and over again...liberals do it, and very conservative people do it...and I’m just a huge proponent of getting out of your bubble and having conversations with people from other bubbles.”
As Reformed Whores, they are building bridges with people who don’t often get to hear songs about sexual freedom, and sometimes they’re able to talk about politics with these people as a bonus.
Working in the male-dominated venues of comedy and country music, Katy and Marie have had to acquire thick skins and robust assertiveness skills. When the industry started getting interested in them, they received messages about what they should be doing, like reality TV. One management company billed them as “raunchy,” assigning them to open for comics who were known for being super raunchy.
“When you have a male comic talking about finger banging a prostitute for 10 minutes before we come on, we didn’t do well...it wasn’t even a good match.”
When they tried to push back on their management company, the company dropped them, saying they were “too difficult to work with.” Fortunately, Marie and Katie have always been on the same page, wanting the same goals and not wanting to sacrifice their artistic vision. So they have chosen to depart from having other people managing them and they now have full control of their artistic projects.
“The people that you trust who are higher above you do not always have your best intentions at heart.”
As Katy said,
“When you’re talking about your body and sexuality and putting yourself out there in a way that other people consider taboo or edgy, especially as a woman, there’s a fine line between feeling empowered and feeling exploited.”
We talked about “cancel culture” and the film “Cuties,” and how an amazing Senegalese writer/director, Maïmouna Doucouréis, is being dragged for creating a film with a powerful message. People who don’t even understand the content jump on something without understanding it. Katy commented,
“And if they take her down and they ruin her career, that will be one less Black woman we have, hearing her voice with us. And that to me is a tragedy.”
(In my next episode, I interview Farheen Raza, who describes herself as a “modern Muslim,” and we talk more in depth about the movie “Cuties.”)
I told Marie and Katy about another sex-positive singer I love, the Portland-based singer/songwriter Storm Large, who has a song called “Eight Miles Wide.” When she performs this audience favorite live, she rallies the men to sing along on the chorus: “My vagina is eight miles wide...absolutely everyone can come inside.” Even when we heard Storm perform with the Oregon Symphony in the fancy Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Valentine’s Day, she had the men join in on the chorus.
In fact, not all of the Reformed Whores songs are PG13 or R...many are actually educational while being funny, like “Birth Control,” “Waxing Lesson,” or “Vasectomy” (which reminds me of “Flight of the Conchords”). Their song “Girls Poop Too” has actually been used in a New York public school, learning equality at a young age!
Marie and Katy have had women of all ages come up to them after their shows, especially in towns that are more conservative, and whisper,
“You’re talking about the things that I think about all the time but I’m afraid to say. Our feeling is, if you’re uncomfortable saying it, then that’s what our job is for. We’ll say it for you. We’ll be the punching bag for it, if it makes more women feel comfortable.”
Katy and Marie’s “Difficult Women” is my favorite new podcast. They’ve tackled a wide variety of topics, in particular politics and Black Lives Matter, such as “Justice for Breonna Taylor” and “Who is Kamala Harris?” We talked about how we, as white people, are thinking so much more about how we can contribute to dismantling racism moving forward, and also how we’ve made the situation worse. They would like to do an episode soon about the Daughters of the Confederacy and southern pride. Watch for that! In their most recent episode, “Women vs. Women,” they talk more about cancel culture and how they almost got cancelled—by another woman!
Looking ahead, they are working on their third album and would love to go on global tour, possibly combining Reformed Whores with their podcast. They are looking for badass female guitar players or drummers, so if that’s you, contact them on their website or social media. They want to work with a wholly female band and crew. I told them about one of my upcoming guests, Ash Prasad, “The Inclusive Screenwriter,” who is on a mission to urge more diverse crews on all entertainment venues.
I told them about The Guilty Feminist, another one of my favorite podcasts, a variety show format with comedy, feminism, and current events. I’m looking forward to a similar Reformed Whores show!
I asked what they’d been reading or watching recently that inspired them, and they both recommended “I May Destroy You” and “Lovecraft Country” on HBO. Katy reiterated that she’s excited about what’s going to come out of the industry, opening up opportunities for more voices and new innovative ways of doing theatre and movies.
We ended the podcast by Katy and Marie sharing a story of when they performed in a huge venue, with not a very big audience, and the power went out throughout the town. They performed with car headlights shining on them and no amplification, so they had to scream the whole show because the show must go on.
Any time they’re out on the road, it’s two women traveling solo, trusting a lot of strangers. It takes true grit to do what they do. They book all their own concerts and travel. Marie drives while Katy navigates and collects the money (while Marie is the bodyguard). After male club owners have tried to stiff them for money, they’ve learned to always collect the money immediately, in front of the club owner.
Closing out our conversation, they had a final note of hope for us all. Katy said,
“I’m really hopeful that a lot of these horrible things that are happening right now are just like this moment of huge, huge change and a paradigm shift. And I’m really hopeful that there are some really amazing changes on the other side of that. So I think if everyone holds on to that hope too, we can shift the energy in the right direction.”
And as Marie noted,