Alice Moran, co-star and co-writer of Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, talks about her work on the comedic musical, women's rights, and other things.
Alice Moran has already made a name for herself as a pop-culture satirist, having parodied pop-culture franchises like Twilight in online videos for the Second City Network. She’s also a busy improviser and co-producer with Bad Dog Theatre.
When she’s not writing for (and performing on) the stage, she’s made a habit of calling out slut-shaming and other ignorant writing online, which earned her a brief and intense media spotlight earlier this year when she outed herself as one of the victims in the Christie Pits sexual assaults. Now, Moran is starring in a parody of the latest pop-culture craze, erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The play, which Moran co-wrote, is called Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody. It makes its Toronto debut tonight after successful runs in several U.S. cities, and shortly before the start of an engagement in Chicago.
We spoke to Moran earlier this week. Our interview is below.
Torontoist: For someone who hasn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, can you tell us briefly what it’s about, and how your show differs from it?
Alice Moran: Well, it’s about a young virgin who meets a billionaire, who proposes a dominant-submissive relationship. So it’s all about her navigating that. Our show is a parody, commenting on how ludicrous the situation is—but lovingly. I understand why the book is so popular, though I don’t think the book was written for someone like me, who didn’t take it very seriously.
It was really funny getting the other writers—Colin Munch, Ian Macintyre, and Jon Blair—to read the book, and getting text messages from those boys as they read through the book. I lent my copy to Colin, who couldn’t help putting notes in the margins-mostly “What!?” and “Spelling!” and underlined grammar he found questionable.
It started out as Twilight slash fiction, right?
Twilight fan fiction. Slash fiction is two dudes. That’s a very important distinction. [Laughs.] After a name change and some rewrites, it just exploded when it was published, and I doubt the author ever expected that to happen.
Is Spank! all scripted, or are there improvised parts of the show? You’ve had a lot of success with improvised parodies.
There are a few parts where there’s audience participation, but it’s a scripted show. Of course, the improv stuff, like Throne of Games, is why I was hired—that, and the parody videos I made with the Second City Network.
Yeah, we’re all thrilled about that. We have the most amazing cast of improvisers. Many of the best comedians in the country are taking part in that show. We’re very lucky.
It’s interesting the first word you use to describe your character in Spank!, Tasha, is “virgin,” since in Throne of Games you played Sansa, and every performer in that show at some point made a joke about her (lack of a) menstrual cycle.
We had a lot of fun with that. It seems like all she ever talks about in Game of Thrones, like it’s her life’s dream. Maybe it was my dream when I was 10?
Torontoist readers may also know you from your open letter to Krista Ford a few months ago, concerning the Christie Pits sexual assaults. Can you talk a bit about that?
Well, the implication she made was that the victims were attacked in part because of the way they were dressed, and as one of those victims, I took issue with that. So I wrote a quick note basically saying, “please don’t call other women sluts.” Oh, and “I like The Beachcombers.” I’d done this a couple times before—about an article insulting [fellow comic] Debra DiGiovanni, and a column by Christie Blatchford—but the response to this one was, well, unexpected.
So given your past outspokenness about women’s rights and gender issues, how does that tie into the themes in this particular show?
Ha! Well, firstly, I believe this show is very pro-feminist—and the book is, too, in a very strange way. There’s a tendency to dismiss women’s sexuality, and celebrate men’s sexuality in entertainment—in frat-type movies, for instance. And we don’t have terms like “slut” or “whore” for men. We make women’s sexuality shameful. So in this book, where the man tells the woman, “you’re perfect the way you are,” and “there’s nothing wrong with you enjoying sex,” that’s a big part of the fantasy for women—and the bondage actually enables her to explore her sexuality.
I wouldn’t say I love the book, but I do love how it encourages women to embrace their sexuality.
Can you tell us a bit about the show’s run in Vegas?
We just had a run there, yeah, and one in Massachusetts. And the run in Vegas was crazy. In previous shows, it was almost 80 per cent women in the audience, and in Vegas, it was almost 50/50. So jokes hit much, much differently. Like, “The home-improvement joke is killing tonight!”
But this is the home show for us—me, and the writers—so this is the one I’m most nervous and excited about. And those guys, the writers—Colin, Ian, and Jon—are three of the best and underrated comic talents in Toronto. They should all be writing for national TV series. And our director and creator, Jim Milan, has been so great, and put up with so much of my garbage. And Anne-Marie and Pat are a dream to work with.
So you’re going to be busy right through the next few months, aren’t you?
Yes, after this, I’ve written, with Jim and Colin, a Christmas show, also with Kyra Milan and John Alcorn, who star in it. That’s Christmas with Hi and Lo, in early December. And in January,of course, there’s the return of Throne of Games at the Next Stage Festival. So I’m home and busy for a while.
Any last words about Spank!?
Guys, bring your girlfriends, ’cause you’ll both get good ideas.
This interview has been condensed and edited.