Wild Women

By Kayla Burchuk

Forces-to-be-reckoned-with individually, when best-friends Emma Liliedahl-Allen (Bend OR, Geography), Lara Avery (Topeka, KS HMCS), and Mandy (Political Science, Strafford VT) get together the brashness of their humor, fierceness of their intellectual criticism, and sheer volume of their overlapping voices takes on a life of its own. Cracking open several beers, the three women convened to reflect on their journey as a “triad of destruction.”The Mac Weekly: Tell me the story of how you guys came together in this powerful trio of girl-friendship?

Mandy: So I had graduated early and then also taken a year off, so I had just come into this sphere that was like totally structured in a way that I could necessarily handle and I was in these orientation groups, they’re like “Let’s play name games!” You know? “What’s your favorite cereal?!” Emma’s in my group and she just walks in and she owns the place because she knows people already. [.] We ended up hanging out and Lara walked up, and I’m sorry to say, I was like “Dude, she looks like the stereotypical white person!” [all crack up].
Lara Avery: Emma and I were roommates. I looked at Emma’s Facebook profile and I thought she was serious punk and a bad ass. And she had these, like, cutoff gloves and she was putting her tongue through her fingers.

Emma Liliedahl-Allen: I was drunk at a Ben Harper concert!
LA: I had just come from going to church every single Sunday, I had come to this place, but I knew that I liked to get drunk. Once my parents left that afternoon Emma said, “Hey I wanna show you my bottom drawer.” So she opens up her bottom drawer and among all of the trendy T-shirts that she had accumulated she shoved them aside, and there was a 24-pack of Coors Light. At every orientation event that we went to we pre-gamed with three Coors Light. So Poker Night: three Coors Light. I think Emma became enthralled with me the minute I told somebody, “Yeah, we’re going to Poker Night” and then I go “stick that in your back pocket!” And Emma just cracked up. [.]The two things Mandy and I had in common were that she loved the same music that I did and that she had a general disdain for everybody. For me that resulted out of insecurity, for Mandy that resulted out of just literally disdain.

TMW: You guys had a sweet set-up in your triple, lofted room in the basement, in Wallace. Tell me about that period.

MJ: Our room was so sweet. We got like terrible cell pone service and we didn’t have like, any type of sunlight, but other than that we lived in like a pirate ship, so that was cool.

LA: It was very exciting because it encouraged a different kind of communication. Mandy lived on the highest level and Emma and I were on the bottom level and there were ladders connecting all of them, so we could yell up to each other, but we were in our own separate worlds.

MJ: What we would do the three of us is that we would start drinking, fairly early, probably unacceptably early, in our little lounge area. And we would sit, and we would drink a lot and we would talk a ton, and we would just tell each other just how much we love each other for just like ages and we just talked about the world and what was going on just for hours. Like literally. And that is what I think of, like my favorite thing about our relationship.
LA: Like about what we wanted to do with our futures! Like we would talk about what we wanted to do and there were no limits. We didn’t talk about academics, we didn’t talk about what classes would enable us to do these things, […] And we would get into these intense like sort of fantastical rants about exactly what we wanted to do if we could do anything.
MJ: We expressed this unconditional affection towards one another.

ELA: Everything was exciting and had to do with the unknown. Like we were at a moment in our lives where there was just nothing that you knew. You didn’t know what the fuck was gonna happen, you know? But you knew the people that you were gonna be with. It’s silly but we would legitimately sit in this room together and just reaffirm our own feelings about one another.

TMW: I know you guys have done some pretty epic road tripping. What are some highlights from that time?

ELA: Basically I started in Bend, Oregon and I was like “I gotta make it to Kansas and then Vermont”, because that was the plan: Kansas, Vermont and then back to school. It’s kind of silly and a little redundant, but it was really fun.
LA: Seeing Emma in my hometown was exciting because then she could understand.

ELA: I swept at her Applebee’s! I swept up at her shift at Applebee’s because I was like, I don’t wanna be here, I’ll sweep this.”

LA: She could understand that I wasn’t exaggerating about the intense boredom and depression I was experiencing as a result of Topeka, Kansas.

TMW: Lara and Emma, you are the most senior women of Bad Comedy. I loved your sketch “The Mrs.. Robinson Club”.

LA: The general experience of women in Bad Comedy has ignited the fire beneath my feminism.
ELA: The problem is that women are not represented in Bad Comedy in a powerful manner.

LA: Women used to not be represented in a powerful manner when Emma and I were inducted as freshmen. As we have grown, and as we have grown to positions of power, I’ve made sure that there are sketches about feminism, that there are sketches about women’s problems. It’s hard having a blatantly feminist sketch in comedy.

MJ: Why is that hard?
LA: It’s because comedy traditionally is about the problems of men. I you look at any sort of mainstream comedy.

MJ: But most of the population is women.
LA: Mandy, I know. That’s why I’m trying to revolutionize Bad Comedy. You weren’t here when I brought in “The Brian” and when I brought in the “Salty Mayonnaise,” which were both feminist sketches. [.] Emma and I are trying to brainwash the young women. And also to make sure that women get in the auditions, because women have been a major minority in the sketch comedy group, and in comedy in general.
ELA: I think it’s really important that we find ourselves as the main characters and not as secondary. Not in the periphery of our performance, but on the main stage. And that’s something that you don’t see often in comedy especially.
LA: I think that Macalester offers an environment where feminists can be more aggressive than they usually are, that they usually can be, and I’m extensively grateful for that. I feel like aggression, and not so much militancy, but like intense counter action can be achieved through comedy. […] It was most evident in the sketches I wrote last year. Male castration was a main theme. It was written about male anxiety, it was written about fantasy worlds where women were the normal ones and males, their anxiety about being castrated was represented in these intense exaggeration and caricatures [.] The anxiety that you see through Judd Apatow, that you see through Woody Allen.

Are you guys going to stick together next year or go your separate ways?

MJ: I’ve applied for a Fullbright. It’s related to SEWA, which is the Self Employed Women’s Association. They’re in India and they unionize and make cooperatives and do women’s empowerment in the informal sector.
LA: If I don’t get a job at Alloy, where I’ve been considered for teen fiction, or the Onion or any other publication, honestly, what I would like to do is live in Mandy’s mother’s renter’s house, and Emma has expressed interest also in living there, and so has Mandy, if she doesn’t get the Fullbright. So I think our ideal, sort of utopian situation is, not necessarily utopian because I would love for Mandy and Emma to get the jobs that they want, but to live in Strafford, Vermont, rural Vermont.
ELA: Here’s the deal: I love Lara and Mandy more than anything in the world, and ideally they would have whatever they wanted, and what they want maybe right now isn’t to live in rural Vermont and have “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” or whatever we call it. I
‘ve been applying for jobs like crazy and I don’t really know what I want to do. And I may want to go to Law School or I may want to do whatever, but right now I’m totally into living in Strafford. The thing that resonates for me is a moment to take a breath. I can take a breath with my very best friends in the world that would be ecstasy. And I don’t want to do anything else besides that.

TMW: If you guys were a Golden Girls-esque group of older women, where could you imagine yourselves across the life cycle together?

ELA: I’ll go. How I see it, and, well. I think I’m right, is that Lara will at some point call either Mandy or myself and need a place to stay. Just to hang out for a bit, she’s not gonna be a permanent resident or a staple in the community. But I grew up in a family where my uncle lived in our house for 15 years without paying rent or anything, so I understand. And he’s an artist, too, and that’s just the way that it was. I thinks it’s appropriate and fine, and I think that Mandy and I have come to terms with the fact that at some point were gonna have to deal with Lara and maybe in some sort of state.

LA: I think my best friends know me better than I know myself, at times. I am a person who works in extremes, and they both know that. And so if I don’t get the extreme positive of what I want, which is writing for people who listen to me, I am not uncomfortable with the idea of being sort of decrepit on one of their couches. They know that when I fail, my failure will not be in a suburban household, married, semi-happy, with children. My failure will be in a trash can on the street.

ELA: You’ll live with us! We’ll come find you!