‘2 Clocks’ attacks toxic masculinity with humor

Jess Conda, one-third of the Tall Order theater ensemble, said they didn’t write most of the stunt doubles who appear in “Those with 2 Clocks,” the new comedy that muddles patriarchal humor.

Instead, they found them on the Internet.

“It reminds me of talks in the locker room,” Conda said. “It makes me think about who the butt of the joke is and how sick of the company we are with the joke of the patriarchy. So part of it is literally naming things, putting these actual jokes in space, and going, “What’s so funny?”

Bullying jokes, violence against women jokes and jokes that confirm the superiority of the joke teller may not seem funny to many people who see “Those with 2 clocks” at the Wilma, which opens this weekend. -end.

Theater performers (left to right) Jenn Kidwell, Jess Conda and Mel Krodman trade bawdy jokes as three old fishermen perform in a sketch of ‘Those with Two Clocks’ at the Wilma Theatre. (Emma Lee/WHY)

But Tall Order, who is Conda (Bearded Ladies’ Late Night Snacks), Jenn Kidwell (Underground Railroad Game), and Mel Krodman (Sincerity Project), delivers these quirky jokes with clownish expertise, theatrical flair, and cheerful whimsy — they seem having such a great time on stage – there must be something funny going on.

“We take these patriarchal modalities of humor and twist them. We refine them. We queering them,” Krodman said. “I like to call it nipple twisting, because it’s a feeling that is induced and is pleasurable for some and painful for others. For some it’s somewhere in between – it’s a mix and your body gets confused.

Theater performers (left to right) Jenn Kidwell, Jess Conda and Mel Krodman perform in ‘Those With Two Clocks’ at the Wilma Theater. (Emma Lee/WHY)

An early version of “Those With Two Clocks” was presented by Pig Iron Theater in 2019 as “Hard Times” as part of the High Pressure Fire Service festival at the Fringe Arts. It is a series of short excerpts featuring comedy skits, cabaret, drag and slapstick, using humor in ways to enlighten and cause discomfort.

Spectators can purchase tickets for a limited number of seats on stage at cabaret-style tables. During the show, performers randomly choose some of these audience members for particular sketches, for example, in an interrogation scene where Kidwell plays a bullying cop who accuses, verbally abuses, and grossly flirts with the selected audience member during several minutes.

Audience members seated on the stage are expected to take part in “Those with Two Clocks.” Performer Jess Conda (left) explores boundaries with a stand-in during a rehearsal at the Wilma Theater. (Emma Lee/WHY)

It’s funny? Yes. Is it uncomfortable, especially for the viewer? True too. This advances the play’s agenda of identifying male brutality, living in it, and laughing at it.

“Haven’t We Had Enough Trauma Theater?” Conda asked. “Yet we still live with this oppressive system. So can we stage a story that laughs at it? Because laughing and crying are so close, and: haven’t we had enough trauma theatre?

Jenn Kidwell (left) and Jess Conda portray police officers in a menacing yet funny skit during a rehearsal of ‘Those with Two Clocks’ at the Wilma Theatre. (Emma Lee/WHY)

“Those with 2 Clocks” is played with the participation of community partners who share Tall Order’s goal of building relationships outside of male domination. One such partner is the Masculinity Action Project, a program of Lutheran Settlement House in Fishtown, which helps men and male-identifying people reconsider traditional male socialization and move away from toxic or violent.