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Tracey Ashley walks a fine line

By Geo Gomez

Tracey Ashley is a Georgia-born comedian who has performed at college campuses and comedy clubs across the country.

She bases her comedy on her experiences with relationships, her family and her life as a comedic performer. In a piece called “Trust is Important” Ashley talks about a time she had a man cheat on her.

The piece is a narrative—after her boyfriend at the time gave her the keys to his apartment, she walked in on her boyfriend cheating on her. As she ran to the bedroom to get her things, she finds her boyfriend doing drugs with the girl he was cheating on her with.

“They weren’t smoking a joint. They were doing crack. I was dating a crack head long-distance. How does that happen, right?” Ashley said.

Many comedians do not have such favorable material to work from—however, Ashley is fortunate in her misfortune to have stories worth telling and the ability to see the humor in those same situations.

Ashley’s humor is straightforward and relies on the stand-alone ridiculousness of the situation to convey laughs. In this method, there is something left to be desired in the structure of her jokes—a missing element that would engage the audience with her lived experiences. Her punch lines are often clear and require no extended thought on the audience’s part.

Earlier in the piece, she introduces her “crack head” drug dealer boyfriend as a man who shows her his love by thumping his chest with his fist. She claims that she should have known there was something wrong from that gesture alone.

“He’s just one open hand away from being retarded,” Ashley said.

The joke may receive a mixed reaction from Grinnellians that, thanks to a politically- and socially-aware campus, are sensitive to this type of humor. It seems like the kind of joke that could not only fall flat in getting a laugh out of the crowd, but may even offend some people.

This type of humor is reminiscent of comedian Morgan Murphy, who visited Grinnell last year. Her deadpan jokes about suicide faced a lukewarm response from the audience.

Offensive humor is something many comedians depend on, and Ashley isn’t alone for depending on humor that potentially steps on some toes. Hopefully, Ashley has more charm and goodwill than previous acts.

Ashley has other jokes that are less controversial. In one act, she recalls her husband randomly telling her that hippos are responsible for a number of deaths in Africa and warns her to stay away from hippos.

To portray how ridiculous the thought of having to be wary of hippos in modern day life, she describes a scenario in which she is at the ATM machine and spots a hippo.

“Oh sh*t! Is that a hippopotamus? Fast cash, no receipt!” Ashley said.

Along with her wide-eyed expression, Ashley pulls the good-natured joke off with her charisma. She has an inherent geniality in her stage presence that nudges the crowd to laugh with her.

The entertainment website Goldstar lauds Ashley for her “hilarious story telling and sharp topical humor.”

In addition, Ashley was a semi-finalist on the show Last Comic Standing, an elimination show featuring stand-up comedians from around the country.

Tracey Ashley will perform in Main Hall Lounge this Friday at 9 p.m.

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