Unpacking The Crazy Bitch

Comedy Show Exposes the Sexism Women Face

Ellie MacDonald stars in the one woman show Crazy Bitch in this year’s Montreal Fringe Festival. Photo by Danny Belair.

Stand-up comedian Ellie MacDonald is bringing a fresh dose of brutally honest humour to this year’s Fringe Festival with her one-woman show Crazy Bitch.

Sunday night was her fourth performance of the show at The Wiggle Room. The sizeable crowd welcomed her punchlines with healthy applause and hearty laughter as MacDonald recounted various anecdotes that combined to form a story: her story.

Blending comedy, storytelling and film, Crazy Bitch reveals MacDonald’s experiences with marriage, depression, divorce and motherhood. But beyond that, the show is a commentary on the traditional path reserved for women, the “fairytale ending” with the husband and kids, and gives firsthand insight into a common phenomenon, the “crazy bitch.”

The show begins with a short film shot by Danny Belair showing MacDonald in a wedding gown, holding a bouquet of flowers. “Every little girl wants to be a princess,” she says in a voice over. “…Okay. So maybe that’s not entirely true.” After the film MacDonald enters the stage, and what ensues, with simple lighting and mise en scene and alternating between stand-up and film—plus a segment contrasting an ex-boyfriend’s tweets and biblical passages—is the story of how MacDonald became what is sometimes called a “crazy bitch.”

What is a crazy bitch? MacDonald tells us that for a woman to be called a bitch, all she really has to do is disagree with a man. To be called a crazy bitch, she just needs to disapprove or be unsatisfied with the idealistic life that society has mapped out for her: finding Prince Charming and living happily ever after. MacDonald wittily exposes social conventions and the double standards she has dealt with as a woman, explaining why some women come to be known as “crazy bitches.”

The show is an unflinching, hilarious take on what she calls “a legacy passed on through generations.” It is relatable to anyone who’s just about had it with the pressure to act a certain way, or to get married and have kids, or any woman who doesn’t consider “the dream” to be her dream. But more than that, the show highlights the everyday sexism women often deal with: how women today are told to be independent but still urged to find a husband, or how they are encouraged to be sexy but reprimanded for being sexual.

“I always think of thirteen year old me. And I wish I had these voices in my life, I wish I had this much truth in my life, I wish that I could’ve looked at somebody and be like ‘oh my god, she feels the same way that I feel.’” — Ellie MacDonald

MacDonald believes that humour can be a great tool to share that reality with people. “Comedy is a really good way of putting out information and not making people feel like shit, because nobody wants to feel like shit,” she said. “You’re never going to get through to anybody by lecturing them.”

She said that it was important for her to tell this story to help others see all the factors at play when women marry and have kids, and to show people that they are not alone if they feel like they want something different. “It took me so long to realize a lot of these things,” she said. “I always think of thirteen year old me. And I wish I had these voices in my life, I wish I had this much truth in my life, I wish that I could’ve looked at somebody and be like ‘oh my god, she feels the same way that I feel.’”

As a mother, MacDonald had her daughter in mind when she wrote Crazy Bitch. She said that it was one of the reasons she chose to share her experiences: “for her to go into the world and feel confident and feel like she is valuable and to know that it’s okay not to be perfect, because it took me forever to learn that.”

By sharing what she learned from life experiences like her divorce, being a single mother and her depression, she hopes she’ll be able help anyone who might be going through similar time. Also, helping younger people learn about those experiences was an important reason for her to write the show. “For my daughter’s generation, for them to be aware of these things, for them to not maybe have to learn, in as much of a harsh way as I learned, the lessons that I learned.”

This year’s Fringe Festival is the world premiere of Crazy Bitch, and it is the first year MacDonald participates in the festival. “It’s been a roller coaster, but overall a great experience. I think I expected a roller coaster. I think the longer you perform, the more you expect to not expect anything.”

MacDonald has five more showings of Crazy Bitch lined up, and she hopes to continue performing it after the festival is over.

Crazy Bitch is hysterical when it’s meant to be funny and tragic when it’s meant to be serious—and a must-see show about a woman learning to defy what is expected of her.

“It was something that had been beating me down for so long, my entire life I felt so beat down by it, and I cared so much what people thought, and it was exhausting. And then the moment you realize that it doesn’t matter, I think that was the moment that I embraced my inner crazy bitch.”

Crazy Bitch // St. Ambroise Fringe Festival // The Wiggle Room (3874 Boul. St Laurent) // June 2-18 // $12.50