In the dimly lit basement lounge of the West Bank Café, candles sparkle in anticipation of the arrival of comedienne Erica Watson, star of her own one-woman show, Fat Bitch!. The crowd erupted into applause when Ms. Watson emerged in a cream sleeveless dress delicately cinched around the waist with a ring of black lace. She strolls, generously voluptuous, onto the stage and says, in imitation of a voice she has heard many times, “You have such a pretty. . . face.” This oft heard compliment, which makes Watson feel her beauty is “boxed” into a small space on her body, is the launching point for an evening of comic insights, one which causes incessant, abdomen-clenching fits of laughter. Luckily, the dining set-up of the Laura Beechman Theater allows the audience members to drink and eat in order to replenish the energy expelled by the constant chuckling. Several comic turns propel Watson’s comedy - for example, the character of “super mammy” who flies from one ridiculous situation to the next - each one more extreme than the one preceding it. Inspiration for the character of “super mammy” begins when the child of Watson’s friend says she looks like Iris from the Incredibles. “Is she fat too?” Watson asks. Discovering it is her hair and eyes that the children recognized as being Iris-like, Watson then muses, if she were a superhero, who could she be? “Women who look like me only play ‘mammy’ on TV!” Watson exclaims, thus arriving at the superhero named “super mammy.” Not only does Watson have a no holds-barred sense of humor, she dissects the character of “mammy,” and what it says about stereotypes of large black women throughout the history of the entertainment industry. Watson is not overly serious, however, her humor is smart and cutting and it is aided by her expert control of voice and facial expression.
Having decided on the name for the show, Ms. Watson says she feared some people would be put off. While handing out fliers, she recalls how it was often other fat women who were most offended, screaming at her “b-tch, you’re fat too!” It is clear, though, that Ms. Watson’s size and body image is not the only theme of this show; she weaves race, self-esteem, self-fulfillment and many other themes into it as well. For example, one of the these themes is “penis envy.” She says “penises love themselves; vaginas take note.” Watson does not mince words, and while she is quick and witty, she makes every effort to bare each inch of her soul. At times, Watson reveals intimate details of her sexual life. Some are unfortunate, but others are redeeming, such as the story of her first orgasm, a double “climax” within the in the structure of her routine.
Many audience members may recognize Erica Watson from the small and big screen. She has had roles on Oxygen, BET and in the movie Precious, directed by Lee Daniels. In the movie she plays a small but important role as an abusive mother of a little girl who is seen throughout the film. Watson’s penchant for both dramatic acting and comedy, her elegance and raunchiness, and her ability to be both a fat bitch and prophet for rethinking body image makes this show worth every minute.