You know when you’re nervous about public speaking and your friends advise you to “imagine the audience in their underwear?” Well, that’s exactly what I did when I performed stand-up recently at one of the most fear-inducing shows I’ve ever done … except in this scenario there was no “imagining” and there was no “underwear.” My audience was full on real and full on nude.
Yup. They were completely, totally, utterly butt naked. The dress code was semi-formal “birthday suits” and the guest list included penises, boobs, and vaginas galore. I told jokes for twenty minutes to a bunch of bare booties, although I was less focused on their bare booties and more focused on my own. See, I was equally garmentless.
Yup. I was completely, totally, utterly, bare-butt naked. At this point you’re probably wondering HOW? WHY? HUH? WHAT? WHY? WHY? WHY? Excellent questions and ones I’ve been asked by multiple people, including my mother, but her inquiries were more along the lines of “Oh my god, Jess, why?? Do you need to borrow some money?” and “Please, how much money do you need to borrow?” I explained to her that I didn’t disrobe out of a desperate need for quick cash. I said yes to the gig because I wanted to do it, because it was a unique opportunity, and because it was an experience I knew I wasn’t going to forget anytime soon.
But, wait, why did I spend an entire evening making the funnies au naturel to a bunch of folks who were only wearing a smile? Because the venue for this night of entertainment was a naturist park called Bare Oaks. A fellow comedian, Lianne Mauladin, had organized the same show the summer before to great success so she decided to bring it back for another year. When she told me she was looking for acts I didn’t immediately volunteer. Although I do discuss the inner and outer workings of my vajayjay on the regular and I’m quite open about my own sexuality, I didn’t know if I would be comfortable exposing myself to that many strangers.
It was a big decision for me, because public nudity is not my bag. I’ve always been the person at the nudist beach wearing pants, boots, and a turtleneck. When I change at the gym I do it in the bathroom. When I’m in a sauna you better believe there’s a layer of bathing suit between my butt and that steaming hot wooden bench. I didn’t grow-up seeing a lot of bare skin either. When I was a kid no one in my family trotted around my house unclad. We were an extremely private family—and by private I mean 100% covered in material at all times. Occasionally my mom would accidentally grab a tea towel when she showered and I would get a good eyeful of nipple, which was consistently traumatic, but other than that infrequent occurrence the only breasteses I was chilling with belonged to me.
Even then I didn’t truly begin exploring my own body until my early twenties and I definitely didn’t shake hands with an exorbitant amount of penises in my youth. I lost my virginity at twenty-one and before that I had only met the one-eyed trouser snake in passing, and when I say “in passing,” I mean “on the Internet.” But now I can safely say that I have encountered dozens upon dozens upon dozens of willie willie ding dongs, in a variety of shapes and sizes, and by “encountered” I mean “seen in a non-sexual way.” I’ve been known to get jiggy with a few willie willie ding dongs in my day, but the dozens I speak of were the ones cruisin’ through Bare Oaks and those willie willie ding dongs were not erect in any sense of the word.
Sexual behaviour in the common areas is actually a big no-no at the naturist park, among several other no-nos, like sitting on chairs without using a towel (leakage is a legit problem for them). That no-no often slipped my mind and resulted in my pals screaming “JESS, YOUR TOWEL. SIT ON YOUR TOWEL FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. YOUR BODY IS POTENTIALLY EXCRETING NO-NOS.” I pondered beforehand if I would be aroused being in the presence of that many dinks, but there was so much nudity that it was almost unnoticeable. Suddenly, a body in its natural state was just that. Natural. I became so accustomed to it that when I saw a person wearing a piece of clothing because they were cold I was startled. “They’re in a sweater…” I would think. “A cardigan… that’s fucking weird”
Before I arrived I deliberated over how I should groom myself for hours. I had no idea what to do with my multiple body hairs. What was going to be the norm at the park? Were bushes going to be plentiful? Was armpit hair going to be stereotypically french? Were legs going to resemble the limbs of my Italian uncle/my own legs any given day? I didn’t know. So I decided to shave my pits, shave my stems, and “trim” my pubes… and by “trim” I mean “lawnmower a football field.” Turns out the norm was there was no norm. Lots had hair and lots were bare.
There was also the matter of the stand-up itself. I pondered if I needed to tailor my jokes to a… umm… boob out crowd. I pondered this as I was performing the set which I did NOT tailor to the boob out crowd. A crowd that included multiple CHILDREN. Yes. There were families present and that actually made me more anxious than anything else. I mean, I knew these kids had grown up being naked 24/7 but that didn’t mean they were cool with hearing the amazing vibrator adventures of Jess Beaulieu. We were told that we did not need to censor ourselves and the audience was warned that the content was R-rated but I still stood there naked, worried that the other naked humans were going to be offended by my stories about being naked with naked men. At one point I launched into a bit about pockets and stopped myself half-way through to ask the audience if they remembered what pockets were.
I wondered if I would feel insecure or self-conscious about my own body during my performance. Would they be listening to my jokes or staring at what society had dubbed “my flaws”? My cellulite. My wrinkles. My zits. My flab. My moustache (which I did not include in my grooming process). But, although there was a moment of shame/embarrassment/