Marcella Arguello says she has a habit of answering rude questions about her heritage.
As she describes in ‘The Woke Bully’, her first comedy album: “The rudest thing I ever had, some guy started yelling countries in my face as soon as he met me. . .. ‘Where are you from, Argentina? are you, Afghan? What are you, from Brazil? What are you, from Costa Rica?'”
His punchline scores a direct hit. “I was like, ‘Are you going in alphabetical order? Because I’m from Zimbabwe.’
“The Woke Bully,” which premiered at number three on Billboard’s comedy album chart, reveals Arguello’s talent for slipping messages into his stand-up routines. When she makes a serious point, it’s sometimes so quick and funny that you don’t see it coming.
Arguello will headline the 2022 Detroit Women of Comedy Festival, which runs Friday and Saturday. It is described as a celebration of underrepresented voices and diverse perspectives in comedy.
The last time the event was held live and in person was in 2019. It had to skip 2020 entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then it went virtual in 2021, attracting thousands of viewers online.
After three years of waiting, “I think people are really ready to come together. People are ready to laugh too,” says festival board member Jennifer Horne.
The two-day program of performances at Planet Ant Theater and the Independent Comedy Club (Planet Ant’s stand-up venue) will feature more than 50 performers, from stand-up comedians to improv cartoonists and by podcasters.
Proceeds will benefit three nonprofit groups: First Step, which helps those impacted by domestic and sexual violence, Detroit Creativity Project, which teaches work and life skills to Detroit students through improv and Planet Ant, the heart of the city’s improv community.
Among the stars who will be there are Detroit comedian Shanell Farris, aka Simply Shanell, and Dubalicious, a sketch duo made up of Planet Ant regulars Lauren Bickers and Cara Trautman.
And then there are unexpected treats like “The Parent Trap: Lord of the Twins Trilogy,” a two-woman take on Lindsay Lohan’s classic 1998 film — with some “Lord of the Rings” influences, perhaps? — by Nicole Pascaretta and Julia Schroeder.
Arguello, will appear Friday and Saturday nights at the Independent Comedy Club. His credits include a long list of television appearances, including guest spots on Sarah Cooper’s Netflix special “Everything’s Fine” and David Spade’s former Comedy Central talk show “Lights Out.” These days, she can be seen on the Fuse TV series “We Need To Talk About America,” which muddles the latest viral videos and social media trends.
With an act that covers a range of topics from dating to race and sex, Arguello says she’s always been comfortable finding humor in meaningful topics.
According to the comic, his stand-up style was influenced by growing up in Northern California with parents who came from El Salvador to America. “That’s kind of how I was raised. My family, we have a very silly and broad sense of humor.”
Says Arguello, “I feel like I’m a product of their consumption of American humor, especially my dad.”
It took time to develop his intelligent and provocative approach on stage. “When I started doing stand-up, my comedy skills had to reach where my intelligence as a person was. And it took a second to get there. That’s why I was really happy with “The Woke Bully”, because I think it was just at that perfect moment where I was very happy to present who I really am, which is to say all these things mixed into one.
In her act, Arguello describes herself as “an alpha female, or as my mom calls her, celibate.” She pokes fun at the inspirational slogans about dating and romance used by her friends, like “Life without love is like a ship without sails.” Arguello retorts, “Girl, a boat without sails is a yacht!”
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With deft language and surprising twists, Arguello is able to take the most controversial topics and make you laugh and think simultaneously. Describing the transgender bathroom debate as silly in “The Woke Bully,” she said, “I think if we’re going to separate bathrooms, it should be between people who clean up after them and people who don’t. do not.
And while calling racism stupid, she takes a statement on equality to an unpredictable destination: “When we all cut each other’s skin, we all have one thing in common: HPV. If you haven’t laughed at this joke, get tested!”
Arguello says his fearless and sometimes NSFW routines aren’t for everyone. She describes a recent stand-up gig in Fort Collins, Colorado, which she says is usually a great place for her brand of progressive comedy.
This time, however, it was a college graduation weekend, which meant there were conservative parents and grandparents in the crowd. “It didn’t make a big following for me,” she admits.
Arguello says: “Sometimes I can turn a whole audience against me, slowly but surely, because there’s something they don’t like about what I said… I find that really fascinating. I think that it comes down to some of the issues that we have in this country you can agree with somebody on so many things and then you land on abortion or whatever and it’s, like, now we we can’t communicate at all.
Yet comedy can also be cathartic. Overall, she credits the comedy for giving people a break from the overwhelming anxiety and sadness of the pandemic, adding, “If you can’t laugh during the hard times, you’re going to have a very difficult life, unfortunately.”
Arguello says she often thinks about how reserved she was to stand on her feet the day her father died. She says she was reluctant and kept going back and forth between why she should or shouldn’t. “I told my mum about it and she was like, ‘You know, he’s gone. What are you going to do? You have to do what you have to do.’
Says Arguello, repeating her mother’s advice that eventually convinced her to take the stage and help others laugh: “You gotta do what makes you happy.”
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at [email protected]
Detroit Women’s Comedy Festival
Friday and Saturday
Planet Ant Theater and the Independent Comedy Club
2320 Caniff Street, Hamtramck.
Tickets range from $10 for a comedy block to $67 for a two-day festival pass.
For a complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit the Detroit Women of Comedy Festival website at PlanetAnt.com/dwcf.