Erin Gibson: Throw Shade and Resist the Patriarchy

August 27 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Throwing Shade

Have you ever hear a word or phrase but never really knew where it came from? I know the term “throwing shade,” but I’m not exactly sure about its roots. While “shade” may have meant a reprieve from the sun back in the day, it doesn’t quite have the same connotation now. This mainstream term hit the screens in a 1990 documentary about black and Latino drag queens, so work those eyelids, sip that tea and throw in a hair flip for good measure.


“Throwing shade” isn’t the first example of something that lost its proper dues once it went mainstream. While it may have been nearly three decades for “throwing shade” to gain popularity, lots of LGBT people still aren’t gaining acceptance. In fact, 42 percent of LGBT youth say their community isn’t accepting of LGBT people.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Erin Gibson, Co-host and Co-founder of Throwing Shade

Throwing shade is what our Woman to Watch, Erin Gibson, is all about, and something tells me she’d have plenty to say about the appropriation of the term. Erin’s an Emmy-nominated comedian and podcast host, and she also has a show called—you guessed it—Throwing Shade. The show premiered on TV Land (which, in case you haven’t noticed, has established itself as a channel for the modern-day woman).

Erin is known for her progressive take on what women and the gay community go through, from pop culture to politics. It isn’t the easiest thing to bring humor to what’s often considered dismal subject matter, but Erin’s fresh perspective will leave you laughing and mesmerized. She says she was attracted to dark humor from a very young age, and credits women like Dolly Parton and Carol Burnett for encouraging her to be “silly and wry.”

Erin didn’t decide she wanted to go into comedy seriously until she became acquainted with the improve-comedy program at Second City Chicago, an improve-comedy enterprise. She then went on to train at the University of California in Berkeley.

After almost seven years of climbing up the ranks to becoming a successful comedian, Erin shares the mic with her bestie, Bryan Safi, and the two of them will tour dozens of cities in the upcoming weeks. One of their TV segments, called “The Shade List,” highlights their dislikes, which includes a fair share of political leanings but also daily stuff that’ll make you go “mm hmm,” like wicker furniture.

Obviously, this girl’s got a history of finding the funny in anything, including through her work as a writer and director for the political sketches on Funny or Die. Now she’s putting her feminist pen to paper in a new collection of essays called Feminasty. One reviewer described Erin’s writing and demeanor as “loud” and “Southern” (because this LA-based girl was raised in the South!), noting that readers will be pleased she’s got a tell-it-like-it-is attitude.

We know this is just the beginning of Erin’s punch(lines) to the patriarchy. She is, as Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye would say, “Schamazing.”

Follow Erin on Twitter at @gibblertron.


The first openly gay elected official in California, Harvey Milk, said:

“If you are not personally free to be yourself in that most important of all human activities...the expression of love...then life itself loses its meaning.”

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