Vogue spoke with Leiby this week about performing the show through the breaking Roe news, the craft of joking about abortion, and the meaning behind her go-to stage outfit.
Vogue: Is there something darkly comic about having one of the most talked-about shows in New York right now and the reason it’s so relevant is because Roe v. Wade is crumbling?
Alison Leiby: It’s such a tough emotional roller coaster to be on, because I’ve been working on this show, or versions of it, for almost three years. When we got this run, I think we secured the dates knowing that the Supreme Court decision will come down in June, and this run ends June 4, for now. We were like, “Wow, wouldn’t it be crazy if that decision came down during the course of the show?” And then, all of a sudden, here’s the leak. It’s so hard because it’s making the show the most topical thing ever, and I’m on the phone with every press outlet, and people are tweeting about it and posting on Instagram, and it’s happening at the cost of the civil liberties of a huge swath people in this country, including myself, and it’s devastating.
You said “the show is exactly the same, you know, as it was before we lost all our rights,” but are there any differences—in your emotions or in how you’re approaching it?
The next night [after the leak] was incredibly charged. I got emotional, which was a surprise to me, multiple times throughout the show. Overall, the jokes are a light touch, but I think the jokes about abortion feel tougher for people and understandably so. I think that it’s important to have a range of approaches to talking about this topic, and one of them is going to continue to be realistic and make darkly funny jokes about it.
What was the impetus when you began working on this three years ago? What made you say, “I’m going to do a show about abortion?”
I was doing stand-up, and I talked about my life onstage. So I had this abortion, and I was like, Well, I have to talk about this now, mostly because I carried very little trauma or negative feelings around it. There are people for whom their abortion experience is very traumatic, and those people should not feel pressure to joke about it if they don’t want to, but I did not feel that. And so I started writing jokes, figuring it out. We so rarely see or hear the experience of a mundane, everyday, nonevent abortion. We very rarely talk about the experience I had, which is no part of me was considering motherhood. Getting my abortion was not that hard, and it’s kind of a model of what could be for lots of people that live in this country: showing up and having the procedure and going home and watching TV and carrying on with your life without having to dwell on it too much.